8) “When I was a kid, we had lots of hamsters. And one of them suddenly gave birth; we didn’t even know she was pregnant. We phoned the pet shop and they said, “Take the babies away — hamsters get very frightened after they’ve given birth and you don’t want her to eat the babies.” We didn’t listen and that’s exactly what happened: the babies just disappeared. This obviously affected me badly as I had a recurring dream about hamsters gobbling up babies until I was about 15. And that’s the reason I why I will never again be able to keep a pet hamster, gerbil or mouse!”
Although they were probably never diagnosed as such, these dreams fit the bill of post-traumatic nightmares. Studies of PTSD suggest that people who have suffered traumas in the past are more vulnerable when new traumas occur, so perhaps this person has higher risk factors in that regard.
The specific image is both mundane and mythic. Many people in modern society have grown up with pet rodents as an ordinary part of childhood life. But the horrifying act of a mother devouring her young is a primordial theme of mythology echoed in frightening stories about the Hindu goddess Kali and the witch in Hansel and Gretel. No wonder the hamster carnage was so disturbing!
Depending on the dreamer’s relationship to her own mother, the recurrence of these dreams might reflect personal fears about her mother’s potentially devouring role in her life.
It is interesting that the dreams ended at 15, with the onset of adolescence and reproductive maturity. Perhaps the emergence of the dreamer’s own maternal power and generative potential gave her the strength to break the nightmare spell of the evil mother.
9) “I had a dream that was so dramatic. I’m in a hotel room with a very close girlfriend of mine, except now she is a famous actress and has all these people around her. We’re arguing about things, how close we used to be, then she starts crying and I take her in my arms. I say, “Don’t be sad – we had an amazing time.” Then, suddenly, we’re in bed together, but we’ve turned into men. I’m Thomas Magnum and she’s Mike Hammer, but we’re really fat and hairy and have moustaches. And then we’re running through a jungle, jump off a cliff and get freeze-framed in the air, as a title card in big red letters flashes up. I woke up and couldn’t stop laughing. Then I told my friend. She said, ‘I’d like to be in your head…’”
This dream is very bizarre and ridiculous, yet it has interesting patterns, too. We would really need her personal associations about these famous fictional detectives, even though their general personalities are clear: tough private eyes, very masculine, very aggressive. Neither of them, however, seems much of a threat in their chubby, over-the-hill dream versions.
At a minimum these strange metamorphoses suggest new stages and unexpected developments in her relationship with this friend. The dream ends with the old movie cliché of a non-ending—a dramatic, attention-grabbing “to be continued…” Maybe this is a new way for the dreamer to think about the friendship, as a story still unfolding.
It’s good to hear someone willing to share such a dream with the friend who was in it. Although this might seem odd in modern society, most cultures around the world consider dreams a valuable part of daily conversations among friends and family.
10) “I once had a dream that happened quite a few times, where my dog fell apart like a hot dog and I had to put him back together with toothpicks. I don’t know what it means.”
Perhaps this person has experienced similar dreams or nightmares when suffering losses later in life. The mourning process might bring back some of these childhood feelings of vulnerability.
11) “All my dreams are anxiety ones. I remember when we were shooting Kafka I had one in which I’d cast Paul Hogan as Kafka. I turned up on set, remembered what I’d done and realised it was going to be a problem. I was going to take some critical lumps for this. This was back during the whole Crocodile Dundee thing, when he was a huge star. I was standing there looking at him going, “He’s blond, he’s tanned… how am I going to convince people that this is a viable creative decision on my part?” That was a tough shoot – I was so stressed I had a portion of my beard go white overnight. Maybe that was the night I had that dream. As it turned out, commercially it probably would have been a better idea to have put Hogan in it.”
This is a perfect example of a work-related nightmare. Most professions have their own distinct version—TV newscasters losing their voices, doctors botching surgery, lawyers blowing cases—and so it makes sense that film directors would have their own appropriate form of nightmare as well.
The pattern in this case is classic: a single bizarre intrusion into the work place becomes the cause for an extended and futile series of attempts to deal with the problems it causes. It’s remarkable in such dreams how much the mind is working in the same ways it does while awake in terms of planning, thinking, analyzing—yet not asking the “meta-question” about how the single bizarre thing happened in the first place.
(In this way the dream parallels “The Metamorphosis,” Kafka’s famous short story about a man who wakes up to find he’s turned into a giant insect. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not.)
Dreams like this are common during times of stress, the inevitable product of extreme waking life pressures and overwhelming challenges at work. Sometimes the dreams can be a source of creative problem solving, too. If dreaming does nothing else for the human mind, it forces us to think outside the box, consider unorthodox possibilities, and explore alternative paths of thinking and feeling. The director seems to admit as much at the end.
12) “Everything’s white and blurry, with a shrill, high-pitch noise. Then slowly things come into focus and I see there’s a wee ballet dancer standing there. The noise gets louder, the whiteness gets more intense and the ballet dancer keeps getting bigger and bigger. Then she goes, “POP!” and becomes a pair of shoes!”
This is more of a visionary type of dream. The dreamer is an observer rather than participant, and there’s not much action, just a brief image. Such dreams have the character of witnessing a basic life truth, something the dreamer needs to pay attention to in the waking world.
The primary theme seems to be growth and transformation. It sounds like a scary dream, though maybe it wasn’t for the dreamer. The Alice-in-Wonderland surge of sound, light, and size produces a surprisingly mundane result: shoes. Shoes are our point of physical contact with the earth, with gravity. If the “wee ballet dancer” at the beginning of the dream represents the artistry of freedom from gravity, the shoes might symbolize the possibility of bringing the dancer’s strange energy into the pedestrian reality of the dreamer’s waking life.
13) “One night, years ago, I dreamed a entire storyline for a sequel to Meet The Feebles. It was based on the idea that in New Zealand there’s no law saying you have to be human to stand for parliament. So someone comes up with the idea of the Feebles running in the election. And because in my dream their TV show was very successful, suddenly everyone votes for the puppets. Heidi the Hippo becomes Prime Minister and they all become the government of New Zealand. Then the dream continued with everyone realising that the puppets haven’t actually been voted in — what’s been voted in are the puppeteers, these terribly difficult, precious prima donnas who now have control over the country. And it got kind of complicated with allt he hijinks the puppeteers got into as all the power went to their heads. I work up thinking, “Wow, that would be a really cool movie!” Ever since I’ve wished I’d dream another movie plot, but it’s never happened.”
Even though this is obviously a very weird dream, it does include a great deal of complicated mental activity directly related to the kind of mental activity used by this individual in waking life. If nothing else, it suggests the person is a passionate worker who never stops thinking, planning, and creating.
Depending on the dreamer’s political views, there may be a parable here about the farcical behavior of modern politicians and the foolish voters who give them power.
Several major directors have drawn film-making inspiration from their dreams, including James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurusawa. The powers of dreaming do not easily yield to human control, but the most effective practice seems to be a simple attitude of openness and patience. Lynch has written well about this in his book Catching the Big Fish.
14) “I’ve had a lot of incredibly vivid aircraft-out-of-control-about-to-crash dreams. You know, when you wake up and it feels like it happened. A lot of airplanes narrowly avoiding things, coming down fast. I’m never flying the plane – I’m always freaking out in the back.”
Nightmares like this plague many people in modern society. Most of us feel some degree of anxiety about air travel, however successful we are at masking it. Terrifying plane-crashing dreams seem to be Nature’s way of protesting against our jet-setting lifestyles.
Plane crash dreams can be rather obvious symbols of a fear of “falling,” whether in one’s career, relationships, or personal behavior (perhaps in reference to sobriety?). The dreams don’t necessarily mean the person actually has fallen in waking life, just that the danger of falling is something the person worries about a great deal.
These dreams might be a good opportunity to practice what Jung called “active imagination.” It involves closing one’s eyes and reentering the dream—but instead of staying in the back, the person could try going up to the cockpit and taking control of the plane. The results of this imaginal experiment might be surprising!