Wolves at  the Door

Wolves at the Door

Dream may be metaphors for how you really feel about your life

By Patti Carmalt-Vener 07/10/2014

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Dear Patti,

I’m 32, going through a divorce and am actually in a better place than I’ve been in quite a long time. Six months ago I finally left a 10-year abusive relationship; I’m proud of myself and very relieved. 


My husband James would rage, break things and often punch and hit me. He would also trap me in a room for hours and proceed to insult me and tear me down. Now that I’m away, I don’t know why I didn’t leave him long before this except that when we were younger I really loved him. He was beautiful to me back then and our love was so natural and innocent that I guess I was always waiting for us to get back to that loving place again. 


I’m writing you because I’m confused. I’ve been in a pretty good mood lately, but three days ago I had a disturbing dream and have been edgy, touchy and close to tears ever since. I don’t understand why this dream affected me so deeply and was wondering if you could shed any clarity on the situation.


When I was married we lived in the San Gabriel Mountains in a very isolated area (which is why James could loudly act out without anyone hearing him and calling the police). We had several pear trees in our backyard and coyotes would frequently get through our fence and leap and jump to bite the pears off the trees. In my dream, I was upstairs in the home we lived in (even though in reality it was only a one-story house) and was looking out the window at a group of adolescent coyotes amongst the tress leaping for pears. They were thin and almost starving. I could see clearly see their mouths reaching for food and the innocent pleasure on their faces as the pear nectar dripped from their lips. I then realized I didn’t know where my toddler was (I don’t really have any children) and was horrified that my baby wasn’t safe and might get out in the backyard where the hungry coyotes were. 

I woke up terrified and my mood has been affected ever since. What did this dream mean? 


Dear Bethany,

Rather than a dream therapist interpreting a dream passively presented in written form by the dreamer, the best dream work is usually done collaboratively with both the analyst and the dreamer. Aspects of the dream are discussed so as to bring up other associations which are discussed as well. Most importantly, feelings are explored and processed which allow the dreamer to integrate and to grow. There’s a good possibility you’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it’s typical for repressed feelings to come up, often through dreams. I highly recommend you see a trained professional experienced with PTSD and able to go over this dream.  


Having said that, here are a few ideas you might want to contemplate.


When dreams mirror reality except one or two things are different, those changes are important. In your dream you were in your old house but up in a second story, which might symbolize elevation or enlightenment; symbolizing whatever you might be viewing was of particular “higher” knowledge or importance. The toddler in the dream, which you do not have in real life, might represent your own lost inner child which you did not protect or take care of (but now are learning to do so).


In reviewing what you have shared, this would be how I would summarize it:


When you were in an elevated state (the second floor of the house), you understood the beauty of the young coyotes simply trying to survive and enjoy a sweet meal, just as you saw the innocence and beauty of your young husband when you first met and fell in love. You were also able to confront your terror when you faced the true danger you were in by remaining in an abusive relationship. The inner child in you was lost, unprotected and could be ripped apart at any time by the savagery of the coyotes (and your husband). There’s no question that dreams — especially nightmares — can be painful and often bring up painful feelings. I don’t see that as a bad thing but, rather, as an opportunity to heal traumatic wounds so that you can move on once and for all. 


Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her Web site, patticarmalt-vener.com.

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