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Can you imagine eating your breakfast porridge and finding something black bobbing about in it? Then discovering with horror it is a cockroach. You flick it out with dour spoon onto the kitchen floor, where it clatters on the tiles. You feel nauseous and then notice there are now two cockroaches. They are copulating, and you begin to vomit.
Maybe you feel easier if I tell you I have just described a dream. With those cockroaches copulating, it is difficult not to recognise it as a nightmare about sex. It is fairly obvious too, that the woman is ’sick’ of sex.
Some people believe a dream is just a dream – a meaningless fantasy of the night. They see dreams as akin to a kaleidoscope of images, random and without relevance. Having heard thousands of dreams from people throughout the UK, we feel differently. Again and again, the outer situation and personality are directly reflected in tile drama of the dream.
For instance, one woman says, “This dream has been recurring for years. In it a man is trying. to make love to me. At the last moment I repel him, as I know it will cause a pregnancy.”
The woman, who is a mature spinster, and who wishes to remain anonymous, goes on to say, “When I was about ten, I was raped. As a result I have had a horror and fear of men for years. It has spoilt my life from the sexual angle as I hate to be touched.”
The dream is recurring, which shows that Ann (short for anonymous), has an unchanging habit in her life. In Ann’s case this can be confirmed by her actual experience of avoiding sex. Her dream and her waking life are the same. So while the dream recurs, we can feel reasonably sure that she still remains stuck in her same reaction to sex because of her anxiety.
However, dreams have many functions. They do not simply reflect our everyday situation or express hidden wishes. They also explore the new, state what we are unwilling to look at consciously, and consider most likely outcomes of our present activities and attitudes.
In her book Dream Power, Dr. Ann Faraday mentions a dream which sums up these various facets. Sally dreams she is presented to a Persian King in the garden of his palace. As she talks with him, a group of laughing girls arrive with a sad looking middle aged woman. Sally felt the woman was in charge of the harem, and was sad because the King no longer wanted her sexually. Then one of the girls approached Sally and said, “Don’t you recognise me? We were together in a previous incarnation.”
Sally woke feeling depressed. She had been reading The Perfumed Garden, an Eastern book on sex, and she felt the dream was in some way about her own life. Because she and her husband had grown apart sexually, she saw the older woman as herself. What she gave of herself to the relationship now, was to devote more of her time and energy to the house and family. This helped her to understand that the young woman’s reference to a previous incarnation was about her own ‘past life’, or earlier years spent in greater sexual involvement with her husband.
Although her husband worked in the film industry and had contact with many young women, she could not understand the last part of the dream. “He’s too inhibited”, she said. Some months later, however, her husband brought a young woman home, explaining she needed temporary lodging. There followed a number of affairs with girls he brought home, while Sally acted as housekeeper.
If we can accept that dreams reflect a summary of our present situation; show us what we might riot otherwise see; and look at future outcomes – what do they reveal about the sexual life of women and their dream lovers?
So far, the dreams have said that a woman can be ’sick of sex’, and that anxiety about sex can rob her of that pleasure for a lifetime. Also, in middle age a woman may- lose her man sexually. But there are also less obvious issues here which need to be brought out. For instance, even though Ann remained a virgin in her waking life, why did she refuse her dream lover year after year?
The next dream gives us insight into this. Jane dreams she meets a younger woman in a street. They hug each other warmly. Together with many other women, they queue to enter a building where a creative expression activity is to be held. The women were happy. Then somebody grabbed Jane playfully from behind and said “Guess who?” It was a man, who crouched to child’s height as Jane turned, eyes closed, to guess. She felt his head, then opened her eyes to see it was Tim, husband of a friend. They walked away together, still playful. Then Jane began to feel anxious and guilty in case her husband found out and saw the pleasure she had. It begins to snow, and the dream ends in a tortuously complicated plot to meet Tim without her husband finding out.
In waking life, Jane had met Tim while on holiday visiting relatives. He was separated from his wife – her doing – and when Jane needed somewhere to stay, offered to share his flat. Jane refused. So much for her waking life, but remember, she is dreaming. Why does she need to deny harmless pleasure while she is asleep?
It’s called ‘introversion’. Most of us take in, or introvert, into our dream and fantasy life, things that may be vital or useful in our outer life, but have no satisfying place in our dreams. While asleep, Jane is not actually in a street; she is not in reality hugging a woman; she is not physically flirting with a man. The street, the man, are her own feelings and urges given form. The plot of the dream is an expression of her creative femininity and values, So, enjoying the dream lover is, in the end, only an enjoyment of her own feelings. Part of the function of dreaming is, for our psychological self, what sweating and shivering is for our body – a means of self regulation. Sweating and shivering regulates our temperature – dreaming balances our urges by expressing in sleep what we refuse to express in waking. So if Jane denied herself the enjoyment of Tim’s company during the day, to deny it at night too, is unhealthy. When this was pointed out to Jane, she said “I see now what a tight spot I got myself into over being with men other than my husband. Also I feel my full creativity will not be available to me until I sort this out.” Because of her awareness of this introverted tension, Jane later began to have directly sexual dreams for the first time in her life. Her realisation that her sexuality and creativity are closely linked, is an expression on her part, of a statement which appears repeatedly in sex dreams.
Many women’s dreams show great reticence in allowing enjoyable sex. This also means that they are inwardly holding back their own full expression and creativity as a person. It is also a reverse of the situation in which a young wife dreamt her husband made passionate love to a blonde. The wife was furious, and on waking, confronted the husband with what he had done. When reminded that it was only a dream she said, “Yes, but if you do that sort of thing in my dreams, what do you do in your own”
Because marriage is such an important event, dreams constantly analyse one’s chances of success. As our dreams tend to consider the needs of all aspects of our nature, they give a balanced view of whether we could relate well to the man we consider marrying. Many women have told us dreams they had prior to marriage which pointed out the problems they encountered once married. Sarah, who had a strong sexual attraction for her fiancé, dreamt he was ignoring her. She then went off with a man she was sexually attracted to, but not in love with. Feeling this as unsatisfactory, she tries masturbation, but even in the dream, feels it is a poor substitute. She then decides that if she can’t marry the man she loves, she will be his mistress. On waking, however, she realises that part of her need is for security, family life and children. So although the dream has said that her fiancé does not care for her sufficiently, and has tried various solutions, it has not yet solved the problem. However, a later dream revealed how much anger Sarah had about her fiancé’s lack of real care. She realised that she had been trying to make the best of a poor situation, and left him.
Although Sarah’s dream is openly sexual, she realises there is a need for mutual caring and the satisfaction of the desire to have children. Dreams see sex as an energetic flow, which if denied, builds up like water behind a dam. If not expressed it flows sideways into tension and irritable or depressed emotions. As energy, it can emerge not only as the sex act, but as warm feelings, caring for others, and creative activities generally. But in relationships, it exists as the subtle emotions which flow between a couple.
Brenda’s dream shows this. She says, “Ted and I are in bed together. I am feeling hurt as he has his back to me and is masturbating. I thought to myself ‘why turn your back?’ He then turns and faces me, his legs and thighs close to me. With legs apart, he openly starts to masturbate again. This time I do not feel he is cutting me off, so I share the feeling of quiet peace and pleasure.”
This is a good example of how direct and honest sex dreams can be about a couple’s intimate feelings. The dream indicates that Brenda’s reaction to how Tim relates to her is that he wishes to feel his sexuality is not possessed by anyone else. She discovers that when she allows him this he is willing to share his pleasure with her. Tim and Brenda both felt this was an accurate and helpful summary of their situation. Brenda said she had often woke to find Tim gently giving himself pleasure while he slept. This upset her as she felt left out. For Tim, Brenda’s attitude reminded him of his mother, who seemed to want to possess his sexual pleasure by trying to stop him masturbating as a youth. He felt he needed to own his own pleasure before he could snare it. Sorting out these subtle reactions to each other led to a more relaxed relationship.
Like Jane, Brenda never allowed herself sexual pleasure in her dreams. some time after the above dream though, Tim was aware that Brenda was, as she put it, “comforting herself” while she slept. As soon as he moved softly to turn in bed, she withdrew her hand. He therefore took hold of her hand and replaced it on her vagina, and told her he felt okay about it. It was her vagina and she could pleasure it when she wanted to. Then she fell asleep and dreamt – “I was with a dark curly haired man. He was very brown, perhaps a native, but he didn’t feel a stranger to me. We began to make love, and I became aware of the pleasure in my lower body. It was very slippy, slidy and wet. There was enjoyment for us both, with very intense body feelings and a child-like quality, not passion, but pleasure and joy in my vagina.”
The dream is an obvious expression of how Brenda has relaxed her usual inhibiting of her inner sexual pleasure. The man is an embodiment of her own natural desires.
Sympathetically sharing of our sex dreams with our partner can lead to the growth of mutual caring and understanding. Sylvia dreamt she was in bed with her husband Dave. She felt close and warm, and Dave began to become more intimate, but a woman came in and wanted to ask something. Dave got up and dealt with the woman. Sylvia saw he had got dressed, and felt he had given up trying to get close, and felt alone and withdrawn. But suddenly Dave was in bed again with her, but she was still hurt and cut off from him.
At that point she woke to feel in the same situation with Dave. He got out of bed and Sylvia told him her dream. He immediately responded by saying it was almost an exact replica of the day before. He had wanted to make love to Sylvia, but friends or family had kept arriving. Then when they did go to bed she had seemed distant and unattractive. But Sylvia had been withdrawn because she believed Dave was disinterested. Realising how they had misunderstood each other, Dave got back into bed and completed Sylvia’s dream.
These dreams show how much need there is for women in general to be more honest and direct sexually. Although they may choose a particular man to share their body with, in their dreams they need to let themselves loose. They need to sizzle and writhe with their own pleasure while they sleep. Pleasure is a healing force in us. Women need to bathe in it often, not only for the sake of health, but also to discover their own creativity.
Perhaps Pat’s experience sums it up. After not making love for a month, her husband Ed came home from work one afternoon and spent a long time touching, playing with, and being with Pat sexually. The next morning Pat was cleaning the house and started singing as she arranged a vase of flowers. Suddenly, she remembered a dream. In it, Ed and she were going in the same direction and she started to sing because of their happy feelings. Then she felt she ought to stop singing because Ed would say she was happy because they had enjoyed sex. But she realised Ed knew what she was thinking. As she walked quietly, Ed himself began to sing, and Sylvia walked with him, smiling to herself.