Understanding Dreams

How conflict can surface in a dream.

Posted Nov 21, 2020

Strong emotions in dreams often point toward strong emotions in waking life, but these may not be the emotions or outcome the dreamer expects. A shocking dream helped Cintia understand her deeper feelings about a family situation and consider what her options might be.

The Dream

I am at a party in a large house when Mila, a wealthy and successful woman I know, says to me: "I think you didn't know that I did it. You may be impressed." Then she starts using cocaine in front of me. I'm so shocked I can't say a word. 

The Discussion

Cintia had this dream after arguing with her husband about money, so she thought that might be the source. Exploring her feelings, I asked, “You said you were so shocked that you couldn’t say a word. Did you feel that way in the argument with your husband?”

Cintia responded, “No, not really. We go back and forth about money issues, so it wasn’t so far out of the ordinary.” 

I turned to the wealthy woman in the dream. “Tell me about Mila.”

Cintia said, “She is a friend. We don't see each other very often these days because we live far apart, but we used to meet much more.”

Looking at the plot, I observed, “You were so surprised by her taking out the cocaine. Is she someone you would expect does drugs? What type of person is she?”

Cintia declared, “Mila doing drugs is completely out of character. That’s why I was so shocked in the dream. She is extremely confident; a strong person, open and talkative. Mila became much more prosperous than her family of origin, which I find very cool. She is a lawyer.”

I asked about the main symbol, “What comes to your mind about cocaine?”

“Even though I've never tried it, I don't like cocaine. I consider it to be a bad drug, something to avoid completely. Cocaine makes people impatient, more aggressive and intolerant.”

Still looking for the mirror I continued, “Who in your life this week surprised you by behaving completely out of character?”

Suddenly Cintia clicked. “I've just realized this is not exactly about my husband. It is about our 4-year-old son. He’s the one who has been behaving completely out of character like he's under an evil force these last few days. He starts crying and speaks things a kid wouldn't say, like, ‘We won't have any food. I won't have a bed. I won't have a house. I won't have anything.’ He very often refuses to speak to me, and my husband says it is my fault.

“I feel like my friend Mila is more likely to represent my son. I didn't think this dream was telling me something about how I’m feeling about my son. Really... it’s a bit scary.”

I inquired, “Are you a person who speaks up easily when you feel annoyed or upset?”

Cintia responded, “No... I don't easily speak up when annoyed. Even when I can, I don't usually do very well.”

I saw a back and forth between Cintia’s argument with her husband, where she said she had no trouble expressing herself, and her self-characterization as someone who “doesn’t easily speak up when annoyed.” Sometimes when trying to dig deeper into a dream it can help a dreamer to hear someone else’s interpretation. Either that interpretation resonates with them, or the dreamer pushes back and becomes more aware of what the dream means for them. 

So I offered, “Your dream has a wealthy, confident, strong person who is unafraid to speak. Added to that, she is on cocaine. If this were my dream, I would approach this confident, lawyerly aspect of myself. I may have added cocaine to give myself the 'push' to become more aggressive. I don’t mean to suggest you approach your situation as if you’re on cocaine, but perhaps there is a part of you that thinks the situation requires a bigger assertion than usual.”

Cintia thought about my idea. “In that case, with my husband anyway, if I’m upfront again on this subject, we'll have to divorce. In this situation with our son, he doesn't accept or admit that he plays a part. That's what I was trying to explain, but he disagrees completely. My husband reacted differently this time when we argued. Similar to the way our son has been behaving, his reaction is also something I wasn't expecting.”

I suggested, “If it’s hard to come to an agreement with your husband right now, perhaps you might consider family counseling. If all else fails, you can always consider speaking privately with a good friend or family member you trust.”

What We Can Learn

Dreams can help you work through difficulties by unveiling your own deeper perceptions of a situation. When a conflict cannot be resolved by speaking directly with someone, you can respect where you are instead of pushing out a response that’s too uncomfortable. 

Cintia’s dream suggests a belief that being more persistent or aggressive with her husband could cause a divorce. However, Mila’s appearance may point Cintia to the part of herself that is confident and self-assured when talking to her husband. Even though it might be hard to find this balance, her dream has given her a deeper view of this dynamic and led her to consider some different options for communicating in a difficult situation.