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Animals in Your Dreams

The animals we dream of express the wealth of our own feelings and depth of our unconscious understanding of life.

Few of the things we do as an individual in today’s world are uniquely human. Like other animals we build dwellings, we eat, sleep and reproduce. We care for our young with the same passion and self sacrifice seen in other mammals. We follow leaders and develop hierarchy as do wolves and primates. Above all else, we share with our fellow creatures our existence in a physical body we have inherited from a long line of forebears and pre-human animals. From this long past we carry traits and urges, fears and dispositions that underpin our self aware human personality. In dreams, these largely unconscious responses to what we face in life are shown as animals.

For instance some of these traits we know as the flight, fight or freeze response; as the new born baby’s instinct to suckle and bond with its parent; as our urge to find a partner and mate; and particularly we see it in the drive to survive and thrive. But there are many more subtle aspects of the animal inheritance we carry with us. Some of these we see in our social behaviour, as when we shrewdly asses a person’s character, or discover what we call the ‘chemistry’ that exists between us and another person. Such things arise largely from our unconscious intuitions and senses. Such senses and responses were developed over millions of years by our animal forbears. In fact we are like a small face on top of a long line of beautiful animals.

This ancient heritage that dreams portray as our animal is not simply a psychological belief. It is built into our body and is very evident in the fact that we have three interwoven brains. The most ancient brain, one we share with reptiles and birds is called the R complex – R for reptilian. This part of your brain deals with deeply instinctive behaviour such as flight or fight, swallowing, automatic reflexes, inbuilt mating behaviour, territorial defence and aggression. This R complex developed about 200 million years ago and is still an underpinning part of what influences your behaviour today. Dreams often portray these urges in you as snakes or lizards.

The second part of your brain is called the Limbic System. This is wrapped around the R complex, and is something we share with other mammals such as cats, dogs and horses. It developed about 60 million years ago and deals with your emotions, feelings responses to people and events, the subtler inner life you feel in love and sex, and it provides a deep wisdom about social and individual relationships. Dreams often use mammals or apes to portray the influence in your life of this part of your unconscious drives and intuitions.

Many people are frightened or terrified of their dream animals. That is rather like being terrified of a picture on a cinema screen, for dreams are nothing more than moving images on the screen four sleeping mind. Like a computer game you can be attacked or even killed many times but you are still whole and unhurt. Face up to the animals in your dreams and make friends of them, because they are really helpful assets to have. See Inner World

Useful questions:

Is there any concern about the animal’s health?

Is there an indication the animal has been injured?
Does love, caring or affection enter into the dream?

The third part of your brain is the Cortex. This is unique to humans and takes up five sixths of the brain mass. It deals with all the things that are distinctly human, such as logical thought, writing, analysis, self awareness and conscious movements.

An American advertising company, describing these three brains in its instructions to planning advertising campaigns says, “Our Reptilian Brain is more powerful than the Limbic (emotional) Brain, which in turn is more powerful that the Cortex (thinking) Brain. It is best to take all three brains into account when planning a marketing/branding campaign.” See Animals.

Meeting your dream animals

What has been said about your three brains and what sort of dream arises from them is of course a generalisation. When you are looking at your own animal dreams you want to know specifically how they refer to you. So we will move from the general to the specific in looking at the dream meanings of animals such as a dog, cat, snake, horse, tiger and elephant. Those are mentioned because they are, in the order given, the most frequently dreamed of animals.

As explained in an earlier chapter, these are not to be thought of as symbols. They are more like computer desktop icons that if you connect with them lead you to awareness of, and ability to work with, what are usually unconscious processes in you. To gain even the beginnings of insight into your dream animals, you first need to remember that you as a person are a tiny spark of consciousness. You are a little bit of self awareness riding an incredibly ancient animal you call your body. Remember that your body has formed from cells and genetic information that has gradually developed over millions of years. It holds that information in it unconsciously. To actually make a living connection with your dream animals see Acting in your Dream


To gain an understanding of your dream animals, it is helpful to imagine that you are the keeper of a prehistoric type of human being. As such you would need to be aware what the correct diet is for this big creature; what type of dwelling it needs; what are its sexual and emotional needs; what frightens it or causes it stress; what amount of exercise keeps it healthy, what its stages of growth are and how it can best develop through those stages; and what satisfies it in relationships with others of its kind? Your animal dreams are showing you exactly those issues. They are giving you insight into how to care for the instinctive, the spontaneous and natural in you.

Therefore ask yourself the following questions about your animal dreams, and write down any responses. If the answer is no to a question, move on the next one:

Is your dream animal struggling to survive?

Survival is the most powerful and fundamental drive in your body and personality. Survival skills today are often linked with managing to remain alive in difficult terrain or harsh countryside, but we all live in the midst of challenges even in civilised surroundings. Your everyday social, work and political environments confront you with enormous difficulties. Also, every cell in your being is trying to survive. Your body and its systems are constantly involved in maintaining balance amidst powerful counter influences, or even against your own bad habits. Understanding what difficulties you face in surviving, and what resources you have to handle them is a huge step toward a better life. If you had the reptilian brain and the mammalian brains removed you would not function.

Therefore define if you can what your dream animal is struggling with or against in its efforts to survive. Look for connections with your everyday life. In doing so remember that the dream is putting into graphic form, perhaps like a mime, something that needs to be lifted into everyday words and perceptions.

We all have so many aspects to what we need in life to survive as a whole person. We might be doing very well in work or social recognition, but our need for warmth and love might be struggling. So it is helpful to list the facets of your own life, such as physical health, mental health and vitality, emotional needs, finance, acclaim, and so on, and asses their survival rating.

Is the animal domesticated or wild?

This illustrates the difference between urges within yourself that you have completely socialised or learned to cooperate with, and those that are in conflict with your conscious actions or what other people expect of you. An example of this can be seen in youthful rebellion, and in the difference between what is instinctive and spontaneous in a young person, such as aggression or fear, and what is expected of them by others. The rebellious youth might allow their unsocialised urges to express as criminal acts, or disruptive social behaviour. On the other hand they might express it in the form of music or art that, while it is still anti establishment, is rewarded, as with the Rolling Stones.

So the need here is to recognise what of your feelings or urges are involved, and ask yourself if the wild is healthy as it is, or does it need a better relationship with your social or work activities? On the other hand, sometimes social restraints or needs deaden the spontaneous and natural in oneself, and so need to be reduced for greater personal harmony.

  • Is there any concern about the animal’s health?
  • Is there an indication the animal has been injured?
  • Does love, caring or affection enter into the dream?

We have inherited and enlarged the great tenderness and care seen in other mammals.

  • Are sexual feelings involved?
  • Does the animal show unusual intelligence or ability to speak?
  • Is the animal giving advice or showing you something?
  • Are baby animals involved?
  • Is the animal attacking or being attacked?
  • Is there a herd or group of these animals?
  • Has the animal been neglected or mutilated?
  • Are you trapped by or running away from an animal?
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Comments

-Emma 2016-04-21 8:31:19

Last night I had a dream about being in a hotel room (dingy room) with the huge cages, wall to wall used to store animals ready for meat produce. I was outside the cages. Close to the only door of the room. There were one cage of sheep/lamb, one of cows. They were crowded, very dirty and badly treated. They screamed. A lot. I managed to free some of the smaller animals. I am a meat eater. However it’s majorly put me off meat. I feel like this has another meaning… Any thoughts?

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    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-04-25 11:34:19

    Dear Emma – Your dingy hotel room may reflect a feeling state that you have to pass through on your way to take better care of the needs of your inner animals; http://dreamhawk.com/dream-dictionary/animal-being-neglected-or-killed/
    To understand your dream animals, it is helpful to imagine that you are the keeper of a prehistoric type of human animal. As such you would need to be aware what the correct diet is for this big creature; what type of dwelling it needs; what are its sexual and emotional needs; what frightens it or causes it stress; what amount of exercise keeps it healthy, what its stages of growth are and how it can best develop through those stages; and what satisfies it in relationships with others of its kind? Your animal dreams are showing you exactly those issues. They are giving you insight into how to care for the instinctive, the spontaneous and natural in you.
    Mammals – and so sheep and cows – have markedly developed ways of working as groups, special cooperation in mating, social awareness and a hierarchy of roles. In particular they have an expanded range of what we call emotions. The word emotion comes from the Latin ‘e movere’ meaning to move, and in the case of emotions means to be moved, to have our feelings, and therefore our responses changed. Such ‘moving’ experiences are very important in connecting us with another person, such as our mate or children. Without emotions life may feel empty or meaningless.
    To eat is to continue involvement in the fundamental processes of life, a celebration of interdependence. It is an expression of the desire to take in nourishment, whether physical, emotional or nourishment of the mind. Experience itself is a form of food because we take it in and digest it.
    Eating is also taking something in you that need to be digested. This is mostly about our life experiences; http://dreamhawk.com/dream-dictionary/digest/
    In opening to life and allowing it to express through us – as happens in using LifeStream – it expresses as various sounds; “They screamed. A lot.”
    Sometimes this is a way that Life exercises us and leads us to be more mobile in vocal expression. But sometimes it is a way of healing old difficulties from childhood, where certain sounds or words were difficult.
    See http://dreamhawk.com/approaches-to-being/opening-to-life/
    Anna :-)

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-Holly Nordeck 2016-05-10 0:46:37

Hi my name is Holly a and I am art student making work about roadkill. I have always loved animals since I was kid, and have found myself fascinated and upset about phenomenon of roadkill. I have taken photos of many roadkill and view it as sympathy and tribute towards the lost

Recently though, for the past months a raccoon has appeared in my dream. Everytime in the dream I am taking care of the raccoon. It is my pet, but I am still sort of hesitant and a little scared, but I still love and care for it.
I know this has something to do with the artwork I have been making but what does it mean?
why am i see a raccoon vs. a bunny or squirrel?
is taking photos of roadkill manifesting some spirit in my dreams?

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-Anji 2016-06-17 12:42:41

Dear Tony,

I have been having a hard time zeroing in on a recurring dream that I’ve had on an off since I was a child. It always involves large animals such as tigers and lions around that house that no one can see except for me. I’m usually frightened that they are dangerous but confused why no one else gets it. Recently I’ve begun to have variations in these dreams, For example in one dream I was no longer at home but around a college campus where the animals were out in the open. People noticed them and slowly began to walk up to them. I thought how can they do that, aren’t they dangerous? Then I saw a girl petting a polar bear and thought wow! That’s interesting. I called my mother to see if there was any news to explain it and she said that the electrical circuits in the zoo shorted out and the animals escaped.

Then last night I had a dream where we had arrived at home and realized the animals that were normally locked away had gotten out. There were kids around so we nkmew we had to find and kill them. My mother and I got knives from the kitchen and began walking around. We couldn’t find the lion downstairs so we went upstairs to what appeared to be the childhood bedroom that I shared with her. We tried to turn on the lights but they wouldn’t come on. We heard to police officers downstairs and at first thought ah, it’s over. They taken care of it. Then for some reason I didn’t trust that they had. So I closed the door since the downstairs lion could still be roaming. Then we noticed a black panther under the bed. He was very beautiful butt we very steadily went in to stab it. My mom was on the ground and I was on top of the bed. Her stab was not very effective then I went straight for the top of the skull in between the eyes. I felt bad about it but knew it had to be done. I remember telling the animal I’m sorry and petting it to ease its pain. I then sat on the floor and held it caressing it with affection until it suddenly turned into a small brown furry thing rather than a big bold black panther. It wa cute and I had compassion for it. When I woke I felt concerned about the violent nature of stabbing the thing, yet I don’t think it was as violent as it was focused. The animal didn’t fight back.

Any feedback you can offer would be greatly appreciated as this dream has puzzled me for a quite a while.

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    -Anna - Tony's Assistant 2016-06-23 10:15:32

    Dear Anji – The variations in your recurring dreams show that things are changing in your mind.
    Did you do any inner work that might have caused this change in perception?
    Did you leave home recently to study at university and so are you becoming more independent?
    See also http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/individuation/
    A first change in perception is seen in the dream where you are in a college campus and where you have moved from being frightened for your inner animals towards curiosity; “Then I saw a girl petting a polar bear and thought wow! That’s interesting.”
    You then ask your Inner Mother for an explanation; http://dreamhawk.com/dream-dictionary/mother-mum-ma/#InnerMother
    To get a deeper understanding of the influence your mother has on your life, you can read http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/the-conjuring-trick/ and please also read the comments at the end of the page.
    Now back to your dream:
    How does your dream figure in your dream respond to the message of your mother?
    What arises when you explore “Being the polar bear”?
    Please use; http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/acting-on-your-dream/#BeingPerson
    The way I see this “short out” or “short circuit” that your mother is talking about is reflected in the Concise Oxford English dictionary; short circuit:
    ▶noun an electrical circuit of lower than usual resistance, especially one formed unintentionally.
    In other words this means that something that was repressed before, was now able to arise in your dream because there was less inner resistance; http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/defence-mechanisms/
    Your last dream gives you an idea why you must have decided to kill your inner animals – to stop expressing them – in the past.
    Your dream suggests that as far as the animals in your inner world are concerned, that you were influenced by your mother; “we went upstairs to what appeared to be the childhood bedroom that I shared with her.”
    To understand your dream or inner animals, it is helpful to imagine that you are the keeper of a prehistoric type of human animal.
    As such you would need to be aware what the correct diet is for this big creature; what type of dwelling it needs; what are its sexual and emotional needs; what frightens it or causes it stress; what amount of exercise keeps it healthy, what its stages of growth are and how it can best develop through those stages; and what satisfies it in relationships with others of its kind? Your animal dreams are showing you exactly those issues. They are giving you insight into how to care for the instinctive, the spontaneous and natural in you.
    In the last part of your last dream you manage to bring about an inner transformation by caressing the black panther with affection.
    Perhaps you can relate to this inner change already as far as your waking life is concerned?
    It may help you to use “Being the person or thing” to switch back and forth between the black panther and “a small, brown furry thing” and explore the differences in thoughts, feelings and anything else that may arise.
    I feel the brown, furry things shows that you are in touch with your animal side!
    Another wonderful step!
    See also http://dreamhawk.com/news/becoming-one-with-the-animals/ and http://dreamhawk.com/dream-encyclopedia/energy-sex-and-dreams/
    Anna :-)

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