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“Dear Claire,

For as long as I can remember, I have had this one bad dream. In the dream, I am with a friend or friends. Suddenly, this big dude with a wrinkly face and a gray hood attacks me and whoever is with me. He shows up in the dream by surprise, by kicking in the door and shooting or by coming around the corner with a weapon. I can be in different places in the dream, fishing, jogging, hunting, and, sometimes, just at school. And I can be with different people in the dream. But, the end is always the same. After he kills the other people around me, he comes for me. He either stabs me in the heart or shoots me in the heart. Then, I fall, I die, and I wake up. In the last dream, I was with my ex-girlfriend. She got shot, and then I got shot. The last time that I had this dream, I had it three times in one night.”

Sometimes, the meaning of a dream is not as obvious as it first appears to be. In order to unlock the significance of certain dream scenarios, one may need to first ask many questions and peel away many layers of possible and/or related meanings in order to get to the true “meat” needed for an accurate analysis. The above dream is an example of this. At first, the dream appeared to be the classic “Feeling Attacked in My Waking World” dream, where the dreamer experiences a physical attack in his/her dreams as a reflection of feeling emotionally or personally attacked in his/her waking life. However, after questioning the dreamer, it turns out that this was not the case. The dreamer indicated that he did not feel personally attacked in any way; but, he did say that he had recently been through a terrible break-up with his girlfriend – made even more traumatic by the fact that a deep betrayal was involved. This recent and traumatic emotional event became key to unlocking the reason for his recurring dreams.

Two prominent motifs are present in this particular dream, “death” and the “heart.” Death can be a symbol of change or a symbol for the ending of something – a relationship, a way of life, or a plan for the future. This symbol must reflect how the dreamer had just experienced the emotionally traumatic ending, or “death” of a close relationship.

Furthermore, what is also prominent is the heart symbol -the dreamer’s heart is what is consistently attacked, and these injuries to his heart are what consistently causing his death in the dreams. Since the heart is universally considered to be the emotional center of our being, it has become a symbol which is commonly associated with emotions. Because the dreamer and his girlfriend both die from a wound to the heart in this particular dream, it appears to be a mirroring of how the relationship, as well as the emotional “heart” connection between them, has died.

When conversing with the dreamer, he indicated that he did not like “talking about things like this – ever”, and that he was “not that type of person.” He stated that “when it would keep coming back and messing with my head, I blasted music, went running, lifted weights for hours, anything so that I wouldn’t think about it and could push it out of my mind.” After engaging in all of these diversions, he went on to have the dream recur three times in one night; probably his subconscious mind’s way of forcing him to confront the trauma and work out the feelings that he was ignoring and attempting to “stuff back inside.” By refusing to even allow these feelings into his conscious mind, and by attempting to “blast” them out with blaring music or physical exercise, he was causing the disturbing dreams to recur. The drastic and visceral attacks in his dreams were to force him to experience and work out the trauma and angst not being dealt with in his waking world – like a dream enema.

Going back to the dreamer’s statement that he has had this dream “ever since I can remember.” Why? After isolating these symbols and focusing on his feelings rather than shutting them out, the reason for these recurring dreams began to reveal itself.

The same dream occurred every time that he refused to confront any serious emotional trauma or “injury to the heart” in his waking world. When he refused to experience and release negative emotions in his waking world, his subconscious mind was going to intervene and cause him to work through these painful emotions in his dreams – repeatedly, if necessary, in an attempt to keep him healthy and happy.

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