by Norman M. Brown Ph.D. |
Dreamer: I am in late middle age, and born as the middle of 5 children. All of my life I had a dream that I am on one side of a bridge but water is fast flooding over it. My family is on the other side and I can’t get over to them. Just this past year I have stopped having the nightmare.
Interpreter: It would help if you could point out particular times when you had that nightmare and connect them to what was happening in your life. It could also help if you could suggest a few things about your life that have changed in the last year.
Dreamer: I have had the dream on a regular basis since I was very young. I can’t say anything in particular brought it on or stopped it.
Interpreter: Okay. I’ll tell you what the symbolism of your dream might mean: If there are no details about the bridge, I’d guess that the bridge represents an unconscious separation between you and the rest of your family, with the ground of your existence or your sources of meaning and value different from those of your family. The water flowing over, it represents the emotional possibility of being swept away if you try to cross over to rejoin your family.
It’s a well-known observation of middle children that some of them don’t feel like they have a particular niche or meaningful belonging to their family. In your case you might have continued yearning for easier closeness until last year, and you might have yearned for this ever since you were a child. Middle children are often better at getting along with others, especially when they don’t feel included among their siblings in their family of origin in the same way most of the others seem to be. These others typically include first borns, last-borns, oldest girl and oldest boy, and any child in any birth order whose role is well-known—such as smart one, funny one, cute/pretty one etc.
Interpreter Question: Does some of this normal unconscious emotional meaning fit for you?
Interpreter: If so, you might instinctively expect that trying to be re-welcomed into your family of origin would set off a tremendous flood of emotional distress in you, which might be more than you could cope with. Therefore you might actually never take the risk of trying to get the respect, meaning and signs of love you want from the others in your family who all seem to have an easier time fitting in with the family than you do.
Interpreter Conclusion: Dreams come to deliver a higher wisdom perspective on your life. So reviewing your thoughts and feelings about yourself vis-a-vis the others in your family might open up new possibilities for acting differently towards the siblings and parents that you may have felt more estranged from than you’ve realized. It might also suggest that you could begin to build individual bridges to one sibling at a time, instead of imagining that your whole family is different from you and you’re the only one that doesn’t fit in as well as the others. A similar sense of alienation might be present for some of the other siblings in your family, especially if there were certain ways of thinking, feeling and acting that seemed to be favored by the dominant people and other ways were considered outliers. Those siblings with “outlier attitudes” would be the first ones who could be delighted to receive an invitation to develop an individual relationship with you.
That flooding water on the bridge between you and the other family members symbolizes a psychoactive event such as a flood of emotions that could begin to occur when you start to make a more stable connection with any of your family members. For the sense of safety and belonging, and its opposite, the alienation and longing for communal life, exist in many families to some degree. But you might be the one in your family who’s been most aware of it.
Interpreter Question: What do you think about this perspective?
Dreamer: Thank you. Your answer very much makes sense!