Dear Claire,

I had this dream—more than once—where this big, black bird, with this long, sharp, black beak, kept following me around and pecking at me. It really hurt, and the pecks drew blood. The bird didn’t fly; it hopped around, and I could not get the bird to stop following me. I tried to get away, but, for some reason, I did not fight with the bird. I just kept hunching and moving around to avoid it, but I did not fight back. I know that this dream will come back, and I would like to know what it means.

Any time you have a recurring dream, that dream should be closely examined—and, unless you have had some close encounter with attacking birds in your waking life, or watched any old Alfred Hitchcock films (The Birds) recently, a dream where some being/person/thing is following you around and attacking you, or is in some sort of aggressive, negative pursuit of you, indicates that the dreamer is feeling attacked, wounded, or negatively pursued in his/her waking life. So, if you didn’t encounter an angry bird in your waking life, or see it on TV or in a movie, then you need to ask yourself, “Who or what in my life do I feel attacked by—literally or metaphorically?”, and “Who or what in my life is ‘taking pieces out of me’ or digs and picks at me?”

After communicating with the dreamer and asking her whether she felt personally attacked by anyone in particular—not necessarily attacked in a dramatic fashion, but, perhaps, just in the fashion of little “pecks” and digs—she said that she did, indeed, feel constantly attacked and “pecked at” by her boyfriend’s mother. When the boyfriend was gone, or not within earshot, the mother would make little, insulting remarks, criticisms, and other intentionally hurtful comments. When I asked her to describe the boyfriend’s mother? Surprise, surprise!! Her hair was dyed “jet-black”! Furthermore, because it was her boyfriend’s mother, the dreamer did not feel like she could “fight back” or defend herself; so she would just attempt to walk away in order to avoid any further, negative interactions with the mother. Obviously, the big, black bird was a symbol for the mother, and the bloody and painful pecks were a symbol for how wounded she felt by the mother’s intentionally hurtful remarks. While these pecks might have been painful and drew blood, they were not life-threatening—just as the mother’s comments were hurtful but not dramatically so. However, the dreamer’s distress at the constant attacks—and her refusal to confront this issue and defend herself in her conscious/waking world—drove her subconscious mind to attempt to work through the angst in her dreams. I am pretty certain that if she confronts this issue in her conscious world, and if she stands up to the mother (even if it is only in her dreams) and refuses to tolerate any more abuse—or absents herself from the mother completely—that these dreams will become less and less frequent and/or cease altogether.

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