“The Straw Man”
A female client of mine shares the following dream with me. Before I tell you about the dream, let me tell you a little bit about her. “Julie” is a single, 42 year old woman with a history of physical abuse, low self esteem, and a recovered substance abuser. Needless to say, she has been surrounded by fear the majority of her life and has been working very hard on herself.
“The dream begins with me running down a long hallway. The hallway is unfamiliar and there are numerous doors on both sides of the hall. All of the doors are closed. When I reach the end of the hallway, the door opens ever so slightly and what emerges is at once terrifying and yet in a way, strangely comical. It is a large bale of hay with arms and legs. There is not face, no neck – just arms and legs sticking out of the hay. Rather than being on the verge of hysteria, I start to laugh at the hay and it becomes smaller and walks away from me rather than toward me. I wake up slightly frightened, yet realize that this is not a nightmare, but almost kind of a silly and even a little ridiculous.”
This is a very powerful and very good dream for Julie, Although at first the dream appears to be a nightmare, it ends up being rather silly and comical. Keep in mind that nightmares are the way of the unconscious to get our attention. Let me explain. Prior to this dream, Julie often had dreams involving being chased by monsters/strange looking creatures and running away from them while experiencing an enormous amount of fear. This recurring nightmare was never discussed in our sessions and it started occurring more frequently over the months that Julie was in therapy. When Julie and I started working on her dreams, her unconscious was able to let-up and no longer had to band so hard on the door to get her attention. What did the dream really say? Remember the dream is always about the dreamer and in this particular dream, Julie is dreaming of herself walking down a long hallway with many doors. The doors are representative if the many unknowns in Julie’s future. She is going through many transitions right now – new job, new status (she is recently divorced) and is also looking for a new home. When Julie gets to the end of the hallway and the door opens, instead of finding a hideous creature chasing her, she finds a “straw-man” similar to the Scarecrow in the “Wizard of Oz”, who was the epitome of kindness and loyalty. Her unconscious is telling her to stop being afraid of the unknown, to stop running away from fear, and to take time to laugh at the unexpected. The dream reinforces the positive changes that Julie is making in her life and assures her that she no linger has to feel so afraid.