Seeing symbols

By Maggie Peter

The symbolic language of dreams is very subtle, carrying much more than is immediately apparent to us as we awaken. We need to be equally subtle in our approach, resisting the more fixed path of intellectual interpretation, which can be reductive and relatively shallow. If you have a dream dictionary, throw it away, or at least lose it for the time being! 

Having someone else tell you what your dream symbol means will close you down, tempting you to accept this as the only authentic explanation and then causing you to tailor your dream to fit this apparent meaning. It is better to stay open and enquiring around your symbol. 


Approach it from all angels, looking, learning, and questioning. Move and flow with its energies, sifting through layers until you arrive, by degrees and all manner of means, at your own unique place of knowing. In this way you become less passive, enjoying the delight of discovering your own insights. Here are a few examples:


The lone wolf – a wolf is roaming the streets and I watch him, holding out my hand.’ From Little Red Riding Hood to the book Women Who Run With The Wolves, the possible interpretations of wolf as symbol are great and varied. But by staying with the dream, we learn that this is a lone wolf, a sorry state for a pack animal. 

It is also distanced from its natural environment or home. Working with this, the dreamer immediately saw its relevance to her feelings of estrangement from her family, who live in another land, close to a forest. She has become the outcast and at times feels a keen sense of rejection and loneliness.


Animals in dreams also represent out instinctual wild nature. The dreamer went on to work at this deeper level, examining her lack of trust and estrangement from such an important part of herself. The hopeful sign is that she is holding out her hand, unafraid of the wolf instinct.


The clam shell – ‘ I am walking along the seashore, with a small girl of about two years old beside me. I find a clam, tightly closed. I wonder if there will be a pearl inside it, but I don’t know how to get it open. The little girl shows me how, using another shell to prise the clam open. Inside is not just one pearl but lots, about a dozen, I am astonished.’ The clam is closed, suggesting that the dreamer is clammed up. 

The shell is hard and protective of the soft interior. The dreamer was interested in the treasure that the clam, once opened, may yield, In working with the dream, the pearls became…’pearls of wisdom, from deep within/’ It was the tiny child who know how to open the shell. Here is a child who can access her inner wisdom, leading the way for the adult who may have built such a hard shell around herself that she has lost touch with her own inner wisdom.


This is an extract from Maggie Peter’s book titled Dreamwork using your dreams as the way to self-discovery and personal development. Published Gaia Books and ISBN 1-85675-1-7-4

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