Exploring the Sleeping Mind

Don’t Make Me Say It Twice: About Recurring Dreams

When I was 9 years old, I had a dream something was after me. I was in an old house and the wind was howling outside so strongly the house shook. I didn’t know what I was running from but as I turned a corner into a screen door leading outside, I saw it right in front of my face: a lion. A huge lion, taller than me, inches from my face, separated only by a flimsy screen, staring down at me. I felt his breath hit me and with it a burning rush of adrenaline surging through my body. To this day, I remember how much that adrenaline burned my muscles. The only other in my life I have felt such a physical response of fear was when I was awake—when my house was being broken into one night at age 20 while I was at home and lived alone.

Over the course of the next fifteen years or so, I continued to dream about lions. They would chase me up trees, corner me in my bedroom, jump right on me and go for my throat. I would never be able to get more than one step ahead of these lions. If there was a door to protect me, it would be a weak or broken door. If the lion was on a chain, it could reach just far enough to gut me with its claws. If I held him back with my bare arms, my arms would be just short enough that the lion’s huge teeth could still reach my face. I would always wake up stressed and tired the next morning.

Then something changed. A lion was once again after me, but this time, it couldn’t get past the zipper of the tent I was hiding in. In another dream, I was terrified as I was clawed by lions, but then confused to realize the lions were merely cute kittens. In yet another dream, I was easily able to jump on the lion’s back and control him as if he were a horse. I was able to hold a lion back with one arm, looking around incredulously at my own strength. Not only did my own strength grow, my attitude towards the lions changed too—they went from being a threat to being something possibly even beautiful in their strength.

As I look back now, I realize the dreams changed predictably along with my own emotional health. The strength of the lions in my dreams was inversely correlated with my own self confidence. The fears I had growing up were powerful—I was debilitatingly shy to the point it ruined everything that should have been enjoyable to me. As I learned more about my own strengths and what made me unique as a person, and learned how to communicate and love others while retaining my sense of self, I slowly realized that the vague fears I had in life, represented in my sleep as lions, turned out to be not so scary after all.

This lesson was so important, my brain used the same images in my dreams for twenty years while I processed it. If your mind thinks something is worth saying twice in your dreams, it’s probably worth listening to.

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