Desert Wilderness

Loneliness – literally being deserted. It can also point to feelings you have of that you lack emotion or satisfaction, that there is no creativity or growth in your life; or you are a dry intellectual. Dry intellectualism; social isolation or sexual barrenness.

In some dreams it shows you feeling social isolation. In some women’s dreams it indicates whether the fear or reality of sexual barrenness. But the desert can be a warm and quiet place for a retreat from the ‘noise’ of work and society.

Occasionally, as the image in the bible of wandering in the wilderness suggests, it depicts both the sense of having no real meaning or direction and of being a wanderer in the infinity of time and decision. It shows the difficulty of being self responsible and making decisions in the infinity of choices, and of honouring your core feelings in such decisions.

Example: One day I was investigating a troublesome anxiety. As I followed it, the emotion grew and intensified until it finally became almost intolerable. Suddenly I found myself standing on a desert of white sand and ashen rocks. The sky was burned to a metallic gray by the, blinding sun. The dusty cactus, the lifeless sage, the very air seemed to wither at its touch. The stillness itself was a horror. No leaf would ever stir; no rain would fall; no scream of anguish would change that pitiless silence of heat and shimmering light. I seemed to face a doom of slow attrition, of agonized waiting for something that would never occur. I realized then that the much-touted eternity of the experience is a dubious blessing.

The dreamer, W. V. Caldwell, on exploring his dream eventually saw that all his life he had been taught not to complain, not to indulge in self-pity and not to cry out in pain. With wonderful feelings he saw that his desert was the death of his feeling in non-expression. A passage from the Bible came to him, “I will make a loud noise unto my Maker.” Then, as if a dam had broken, he was crying, not as loudly and vociferously as he felt, but loudly and vociferously enough for a male of twentieth-century America. There was joy in the wash of bitter hot tears, joy in the voice raised in outrage and anguish at the pain of life, joy in announcing to my fellow men, whether they liked it or not, that he hurt.

Now there appeared before me a baby. Face and eyes red, his cheeks stained with tears, his little mouth contorted in sublime release, he bellowed and howled. Instead of the distress and anger I usually felt when my own children did this, I looked at him with sympathy and enthusiasm “Yell, you little beggar,” I howled.  And yell he did! He screamed and bellowed. He would not stop. Gradually my exultation subsided to annoyance and then distress as his angry screams sank into sobs and then into silent heaves and snuffies. Finally, anguished silence reigned and the anxiety I thought I had conquered returned again, more intense than before.

The child stood in the timeless desert of anxiety—about him the white sands and burning rocks, above him the blinding sun. Nothing stirred. It would go on that way forever.

Slowly, like the imperceptible movement of stifling desert air, the anxiety enclosed and smothered me also. I could not speak, I could not scream; I was paralyzed by it. Just as slowly, like the subtle dissolution of forms in a shimmering mirage, the child and I fused into one being; and the giant cactus before us, stretching its long arms upward, melted and reformed into the slats of a baby bed. Only the sun remained, casting its merciless light on my face. I was standing in a crib, waiting in helpless anxiety for a bottle that might never come.  Here was the core of the trauma. As understanding dawned and the ghostly anxiety gradually vanished I realized I had carried this painful memory from my childhood wherever I went. Moments of peak anxiety triggered not only the anguish associated with the trauma but the infantile orientation which had made it so terrifying. As a baby l had not yet developed a sense of time. I had not learned  to break into days, hours, and minutes the unqualified eternity of my infant mind. “Now” for me was “forever,” and I could conceive of no end to my agony until mother ended it. Whatever the reason for the delay in feeding, I had no idea why or how long I would wait. If my mother had notions of schedules and four-hour periods, I had none.


Useful Questions and Hints:

Was the desert a friendly place or a place of loneliness and desertion?

Were there any emotions in the dream – if so what?

Have you live in or near a desert – what do you feel about it?

Do I feel there is nothing alive and growing in my life?

Have I been wandering in uncertainty and lack of direction?

Have I a real or felt situation of being infertile?

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