Animals as Dream Figures
Like any other animal, human beings have developed certain physical and behavioural traits. Some of these traits, such as a new born baby attempting to suckle the breast, and attempting to bond with its mother, are rooted in millions of years of past experience and can be thought of as instinctive. To be abandoned by ones mother, even for a short time, was a life threatening danger in the past, and is still felt as such today by an infant because of the millions of years of imprinted experience.
We can observe such instinctive traits in a dog in such behaviour as cocking of the leg in male dogs. We can see some of our own traits in such things as the human desire to elect leaders. Many of these habits are psycho-biological or social. In our dreams we represent these drives or habits in the form of various animals. Our restrained sex drive or aggression may be shown in our dream as a dog on a lead. The power of drives such as the urge to parenthood via sex might be shown as a horse which we are trying to control. More than anything else though, our dream animal represents our powerful feeling reactions to situations – reactions developed through centuries of human experience in frequently terrible situations. This aspect of ourselves is rooted in the older portions of the brain. The feeling reactions indicated are those such as the fight or flight reaction; the drive to protect property or territory even to the point of killing another human being; the urge, often not accepted in its naked power, to find a mate and to have sex in order to procreate; the desire to have standing and recognition in ones social group; the drive for dominance – or the resulting depression or sickness if no recognition or place in the group is found. See: animals in our brain.
Because dreams exhibit a powerfully precise way of using symbols, there is a difference in meaning between the wild animals and the domesticated animals we dream of. In general the domesticated animal such as a cat or horse represent urges we have more conscious control over and are therefore less threatening to our conscious desire to be in charge. The wild animals in our dreams often pose a much greater threat to our ego, but nevertheless offer rich rewards if we can develop a working relationship with them. After all they are aspects of ourselves, so the relationship can release more of our usable potential.
Example: I am sitting in the hotel staff room eating lunch at a large dining table. One by one I am joined by perhaps a dozen women. The atmosphere is pleasant, easy and light hearted. I enjoy the feeling of being the only male among a dozen attractive women. Then I notice a strange thing. One by one all the girls around me turn into cats, but carry on laughing and talking as if nothing is happening. I find this interesting and not alarming. I am aware each girl turns into the sort of cat that is right for her – a vivacious redhead becomes a purring orange tabby; an aloof, slightly superior lady becomes a Siamese; the only ex-girlfriend of mine present becomes a black witches familiar.
I remember turning to my left and asking: ‘Tell me Rebecca, how did you do this?’ The Rebecca cat giggles with a human voice and says: ‘He doesn’t have a clue, does he?’ As I look at the Rebecca cat I realise she still has her human eyes. This I realise is true of all the cats, they have human eyes in feline faces. As I realise this one says: ‘I think he’s beginning to understand now’ and laughs. Paul C. Teletext.
This graphic dream so well illustrates how our human personality exists within our animal drives and urges.
The animal in our dreams has commonly been seen only as the sex drive. A careful examination of animal dreams shows this to be untrue. The animal represents all aspects of sexuality and relationship. If this wider sexuality in an individual is damaged or traumatised, the person might become a parent who has lost the natural bonding and care for their child; an individual who has no sense of social status or responsibility; criminally violent; someone with disturbed and misplaced sexuality, a person unable to love or care for someone else. See: what does the animal in my dream mean.
Dominating or attempting to kill the animal in us can cause tension, depression and illness. The escape into dry intellectualism that might occur if the ‘animal’ aspect of oneself is denied, can be a cause of internal conflict. Complete permissiveness is no answer either. Our higher brain functions need expression also. So one of the challenges of maturing is how to meet and relate to our ‘animals’, and perhaps bring them into expression in a satisfying way. Such drives are fundamentally a push toward LIFE. Our dreams are selective in what animal is used to portray our situation. For instance a dog or horse are creatures that have been socialised for thousands of years, whereas a dinosaur has no history of socialisation. These different animals – domesticated or wild – can therefore be used to represent the socialised or untrained elements of ourselves.
In considering what our dream animal communicates to us, consider how you feel about that animal, what view you have of it, whether it excites, disgusts or frightens you. Is it funny because it exhibits some aspect of human nature so openly, like monkeys making love in public? Is it to be envied because it is so honest, like the dog growling at someone it doesn’t like or is frightened of, and giving obvious affection to someone it has a link with? With such straightforward questions we can arrive at what our dream animals represents to us personally.