A Dream about Ferrets Leads to Insight about First Post-Divorce Relationships
Yep, you read that right. What the heck could you possibly learn about your first post-divorce relationship by exploring your dream about ferrets?
It happened earlier this week, during a session with a client. I’m a depth psychology coach, which means my expertise is the language of the unconscious, the keeper of most of the knowledge about who you are and the hidden motivations behind all the choices you make.
It became clear my client and I were onto something bigger than just a personal insight two days later when on my walk to the beach, I came across a couple walking their ferret. I can’t believe this, I said aloud and then laughed at the synchronistic even as I skipped across the walkway from the beach to the parking lot.
I immediately texted the photo of the adorable creature to my client, and she gave me permission to share the magic that had happened earlier that week during our session.
The most mind-blowing insights happen when my coaching sessions start with, “I had this dream.” Honestly, dreams are a direct route to the unconscious, and when we honor, trust, and respect our dreams, we end up being led to the insight that is most useful at the time.
So, let’s start with my client’s dream as she described it (we’ll call her Amanda):
I’m outside and someone else is there, a student of mine.
I’m trying to catch a ferret and get it back into a cage.
I tell myself, “Don’t be scared, be fast.”
I keep trying and I’m still afraid it will bite me.
I can do it, but the ferret keeps getting out.
And my student can’t do it.
I felt like I had to do it, get that ferret back into the cage.
Now, this client has built her muscle for thinking metaphorically about dreams, so she knew that her student showing up in her dream had nothing to do with her student.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Tell me about this student.
Amanda: Well, she has a difficult life and acts out a lot. I had made so much progress building a relationship with her, and then suddenly, she just started acting out again.
Me: Hmm. I can see you really care about her. Something in you is acting up again maybe, a part of you that was wounded.
Amanda: Maybe this has something to do with . . . the other weekend when my boyfriend and I went to stay with friends. It just bothered me that I was the one worrying about the kids, cleaning up, and . . .
Me: Hmm. What was the emotion, what were you feeling?
Amanda: It was familiar, not in a good way, a feeling of over adapting.
Me: Did you say anything to him?
Amanda: No, but after a couple days he asked. He could tell something was bothering me. Note: This couple has an amazingly honest relationship, and they have conversations following times when they suspect something old has been triggered.
Me: Was this the first time you felt this old familiar feeling in this relationship?
Amanda: Yes. Because we had known each other for years as friends before we dated, I never cared about what he thought in the beginning. I was free to be me. Now . . . I questioned myself when I became irritated.
Me: Hmm. Why do you think you need to put the ferret back in the cage? Do you really need to get your student to put the ferret back in the cage? Maybe she’s got the right idea. It doesn’t seem that ferrets belong in a cage. The ferret maybe represents a part of you that wants to stay out of a cage. What part of you are you trying to put back into the cage?
We both laugh, which for me is a sign that Amanda had gained a new insight.
Amanda: I don’t know. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him.
Me: What were you afraid of?
Amanda: I don’t know.
Me: What happens if this relationship ends?
Amanda: Well . . . I’ll be fine.
The rest of our conversation was animated as we both explored the expectation of permanence implicit in first post-divorce relationships. We have a particular desire to make this one last, consequently, any perceived rocking the boat is avoided.
Then we realized the paradox here. The more we cling to permanence, the less honest we are, which makes it less likely the relationship will last. The more honest we are, the more authentic the relationship will be, including the growth that is supposed to happen, and the more likely the relationship will last.
This was a mind-blowing insight for Amanda.
Amanda: I knew I’d be okay before this relationship, and now I know I’ll be alright if this one ends.
Do you see yourself in this story? I remember reflecting about what my father might have been feeling during the challenging times of his third marriage. He used to say something like, "I gotta make this one work." I appreciated his commitment, and at the same time wondered how many people are afraid to leave another relationship because it means they're doomed to live like alone or they fear they're out of options.
Relationships are meant to push you to grow AND they're not always supposed to last. Navigating that is difficult for sure, but your unconscious is there to help if you're brave enough to learn its language.
Step #1 - Are you brave enough to explore your dreams? I challenge you. Resistance to the idea may reflect a fearful ego. As I’ve said many times, I love Brené Brown’s definition of courage, which is doing the things you’re afraid to do. Laughing this off is a version of fear.
Step #2 - Write down your dream as best you can remember, including details like colors, movements, smells, emotions, thoughts, characters, scenery, etc.
Step #3 - Pull out a couple images that are the most intriguing. Don’t think about it, rather feel it out.
Step #4 - For each image, write down your associations. For example, “The ferret in the dream makes me think about . . . remember . . . feel . . ." This may lead you to remember even more details about the image, which may produce more associations.
Optional Step #5 - If you really want to get advanced, do some active imagination by going back into the dream and for example allowing your imagination to interact with the image.
Optional Step #6 - If words aren’t available, try drawing the image or processing it through movement or even cooking in the kitchen. The kitchen after all, is the place of alchemy.
Ready For More?
I love doing this kind of work with my clients. If you’re ready to explore your inner world to get unstuck, leave behind toxic patterns or relationships, become more comfortable with dating, your body, and sex, or you’re ready to take bold action into an unknown future, just click this link to go to my services page and schedule a FREE 30 min. chat to see if we’re a match.
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I'm on a mission to inspire and empower people to self-reflect and find their footing in this crazy world. The fate of humanity depends upon the self-reflecting individuation, as C.G. Jung suggested. That's how important the exploration of your inner world is. Plus, you'll feel a depth of meaning and pleasure that you've never felt before, and that's pretty cool.
Photo of couple by Everton Vila on Unsplash