A Dream Recollection About a Familial Process
I would like to report a dream of my own which appears to have occurred, at least in part, as a result of a very intense conversation. I had called my younger brother and told him I was angry and hurt that he no longer wanted to name me as the guardian for his daughter. The next night I dreamt.
/ was floating in a lagoon. The water was clear and warm, and I felt peaceful, content, and safe. There were other people swimming in the lagoon. Their voices were muffled. I felt as if I had my own space and was in my own world.
Then I was standing in the water. Many large sea animals were swimming beneath the surface. I couldn’t identify them although they resembled familiar creatures such as walruses, polar bears, and sea lions. They all had black and white coloring.
I called out to the people nearest me to find out what kind of animals they were. I had to know if they were dangerous. I wanted to swim past them but didn’t know if it would be safe. Several people told me they thought the animals wouldn ‘t harm me, but they weren ‘t sure.
As I cautiously walked around the lagoon, I noticed a small, brown, furry animal that looked like a baby monkey. One of the sea animals was snapping at its feet so I pulled the baby out of the water and held it. It clung to me. I liked
The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of 39
holding and protecting it. I didn ‘t understand why it was being attacked. It told me that adults were safe from the sea animals, but babies couldn ‘t protect themselves.
Suddenly the baby was gone from my arms. I stood in the lagoon, alone. The adults had taken the baby. My wish to hold and protect it hadn’t been strong enough or loud enough to be heard above the other voices.
I awoke the following morning feeling sad and regressed. I was no longer harboring the anger I had felt toward my brother after our conversation.
During the following week the meaning of the dream became clearer to me. My first association was to the conversation I had with my brother. The baby monkey (my niece) had been taken away from me because someone else had a louder voice (another adult in the family was to become her guardian). I very much wanted to be named my niece’s guardian. The change in my brother’s decision seemed without consideration of my feelings. Like in the dream, she was taken from my hands without asking.
The lagoon was my mother’s womb in which I felt safe and protected from the rest of the world. I was aware upon awakening that I missed my mother who died twenty-six years ago. When I began to outline my thoughts for this paper, I realized her birthday had fallen on the day between the phone conversation and the dream. After my mother’s death I was left with adults who did not understand me. The little monkey also was my baby brother who was only nine years old when our mother died. I was his oldest sister and I felt responsible for him. I tried to take care of him.
The monochrome sea animals were my family members and other significant adults in my childhood. Likely they may have felt threatening or dangerous to me as a child. I was unsure about whether I could trust them to know how to take care of me.
Through analysis of the dream in therapy, I became aware that the black and white coloring of the sea animals stemmed from the experience of my family as concrete and lacking emotional coloring. This was clearest to me in my hunger to have my feelings understood.The phone conversation with my brother left very little room for curiosity about his change of mind and heart. There was even less room for my feelings. This familial process existed then and continues.