I’ve always been a prolific and detailed dreamer. Luckily, the more bizarre the dream, the deeper the meaning that comes out of the images and metaphors my sleeping brain dreams up for me. So when an alligator opened its fearsome jaws hoping to bite off my flip-flop-clad feet, which were stuck in the horizontal slats of a fence, I wasn’t surprised, but I was curious to know how the dream might be helpful.
The Back Story
The dream came to me just after my return from Hawaii. I’ve noticed (with help from my Chief Noticing Officer and BFF Julie) that whenever I come back from extended restful playtime, my Inner Lizard* GI Jane begins barking orders. “Better get marching, little lady, or you’ll be so far behind, the dust you’ve been left in will have already settled! Move out, move out! Make something happen! NOW, SOLDIER!”
Of course, my reaction to Jane’s startling appearance last week was to halt completely, my feet frozen on the spot. I wish I could do something more distinctive, like those clever fainting goats that actually keel over.
Instead, I pretended not to hear her, for days, because Everyone knows that Life Coaches aren’t supposed to Get Scared. And when a Certain Life Coach’s camouflage-wearing lizard does appear, she’s supposed to give it a Triscuit and send it back to the barracks, while she carries out her Life Coachy missions without pause.
The Dream Interpretation
I interpreted the dream with the help of some friends during a dinner conversation, where someone brought up the subject of what dreams mean. I hadn’t yet worked on it, so with their encouragement, I went through the dream fragment symbol by symbol until I pieced it together.
The dream helped me understand that I was feeling stuck (feet stuck in a fence), overwhelmed by obstacles, kept out, or somehow fenced in. I wasn’t able to get anywhere because my fear (giant lizardy alligator) was stopping me from taking the next step.
The alligator did not succeed in biting my feet off, but only chewed them in a slobbery, gummy mess, the rubber flip-flops acting as a cushion. Since flip-flops are one of my preferred footwear options, I take this to mean that as long as I allow myself to be my most comfortable, true self, I will be safe. Scary things will appear, but won’t do permanent damage, and I will get my feet back under me. Being myself will ‘cushion’ me from disaster.
It’s also interesting that the fence in the dream wasn’t especially big, and the slats in which my feet were ‘stuck’ were plenty wide. This tells me that the obstacles I’m currently facing are manageable. And since the fence was horizontal, I’ll give my unconscious extra points for calling my attention to what lies on the horizon for me: more obstacles, of the surmountable kind.
It’s clearer to me now that I’m at a point in my practice where I need to stretch a bit, and take some risks. So I’ll be taking small steps toward the bigger, scarier things I want to accomplish—I’ve taken one small step already today, and am plotting two small steps for tomorrow. And THREE for Friday.
Then I’ll take some extended restful playtime, but this time I’ll be prepared for Jane’s appearance with a fresh box of Triscuits when I return.
*”Inner Lizard” is a concept I learned from Martha Beck. It refers to the way our reptilian brains, which cue us to fight, flee or freeze, can disrupt our lives. Giving my Inner Lizard a name and a personality helps me identify and endure the moments of fear that threaten to stop me from living my fullest life.