When we have Bad Dreams about our Children

May 28, 2009

The aquariumA reader writes:  I once had a dream that I was running after my boy – he was about two at the time – and he was running away from me down the path of the childhood place I grew up in on summer vacations in the country (not always happy times).

I saw my boy jump into the water, and – horrified – I jumped after him swimming to catch up to him – in deepening horror, I swam deeper and deeper, my eyes open against the darkness of the deep – unable to see him – I desperately felt for him all around – and woke up frightened and relieved to find my boy sleeping in my arms.

Some of the most disturbing (and not uncommon) nightmares that we can have involve our children being hurt or even dying.  Given that our deep Selves are the architects of our dreams, such horrible scenarios might be understood as symbolic representations of our relationship to our own inner child.  Sometimes a death, horrifying as it is in a dream, is a symbol of a part of us that must die so that a new incarnation of the Self can be born.

While dream interpretation is more an art than a science, a good way to start with our own dreams is to ask ourselves what we associate with the various elements of a given dream.  We do this by focusing on each element, and then noting the first thing that comes into our minds.  For example with the above dream the dreamer would associate to:  her child, to being two years old herself, a path, the summer home, etc.  Out of these associations may come clues to hidden meanings, and forgotten paths in our minds and memories.

Dreams can have many, or multiple meanings, but one way to think of the above dream might be:  the dreamer is chasing after a vestige of her own two-year-old self, (innocent, but old enough to walk, to run… and thus to run away or reject).  At two and three, children are working on separation and initial strivings for autonomy, and parents must let them come and go and not take it personally or retaliate; if this did not go well for the dreamer, her child may trip bad feelings by simply passing through an age where she herself got hurt.  The boy in the dream could be running away, but he could also be seen as leading the dreamer, either back into her own childhood with its unresolved hurts, or down the path toward the water—a symbol of both the mother and the unconscious.  The dreamer “jumps” into the psychological situation, motivated by love for a child (our most powerful motivation to find courage, heal, and grow).  She is led deeper and deeper into the unconscious by the boy, and into her own dark places—perhaps into a representation (unable to understand, or get ahold of her self) of what it felt like to be her when she was two.  In a sense the dreams says that it is time to explore the dark past, and perhaps to heal, motivated by the transcendent love that all mothers (and fathers) have for their children, somewhere in their souls.  The unconscious might also be saying, that the dreamer needs to be more consciously aware of her pain.  Consciousness, even if it hurts, is an excellent way that we parents can avoid unconsciously spilling our unresolved wounds and anxieties onto our children.

Ship and LighthouseIf others care to share any dreams about their children, perhaps we will discover common themes.  Maybe our mutual quest for greater consciousness will benefit our kids and free them from any lingering pain of our own pasts.  If we pay attention to them, even our nightmares can guide us toward our collective “dream” of providing our children with a more compassionate world.

Namaste, Bruce

Please Note that I will no longer be able to personally interpret dreams as they arrive, however I have organized the many dreams below into a more searchable structure.  Please click over to this Guide to Bad Dreams About Our Children:  http://privilegeofparenting.com/2013/08/04/a-guide-to-bad-dreams-about-our-children/

from there you can search by category, and that will lead you to threads of dreams organized by age of children and hopefully you will find some similar dreams and some ways of thinking about your own dream that will be helpful to you.

All Best Wishes & Sweet Dreams