I'll never forget dreaming about the snake in the science room, how it slithered across the teacher's lab table during an A&P experiment. I'll never forget how that serpent upset my classmates and me.
I had this dream in December 1990.
I remember this so vividly because of what happened the next day.
My friend Kristin and I had made it a habit to ditch study hall during our junior year in high school. We'd escape to the locker room, eat crackers and chat throughout the period. (Yeah, I was a goody-two-shoes.)
On that cold December day, another friend came down to tell us the entire school was assembling in the gymnasium, and the principal was about to make an important announcement.
On the outside, I remained calm, but on the inside, I panicked. I knew something had gone horribly wrong, and we were about to receive bad news.
Once all of the students had gathered, our parish priest and the principal announced that a former schoolmate of ours had shot and killed himself in the driveway of his ex-girlfriend's home. The high school I attended was very small -- about 160 students, so everyone pretty much knew everyone else. The boy who had committed suicide was very good looking, very popular and seemed to have everything going for him.
The last time I had seen this boy was about a week earlier. He had stopped by during the last 15 minutes of my A&P class and had leaned across our teacher's lab table while he visited with a couple of his friends.
I didn't know this boy very well, but I believe now that the snake in my dream that night was the metaphor for the warning signs my subconscious had picked up on in my brief interaction with him the last time I saw him.
Perhaps if I'd have known this boy a little better, I'd have put two and two together. Perhaps I could have realized the danger he posed to himself.
Of course, I realize I cannot change the past. I still become sad when I think about how desperate he must have felt, how shattered his family was and how he wasted all had going for him.
Since that incident, I have always make it a point to evaluate closely the people and situations around me when I dream about snakes. Is there a threat or a warning that my subconscious picked up but my waking eyes ignored?
In essence, evaluation is the key to dream interpretation.
It's my belief that some dreams tell us things about our lives that we don't want to recognize or are too (proud, scared, ashamed) to acknowledge in our waking lives. Self-evaluation leads to self-knowledge. (Why does that sound dirty?)
Take, for instance, dreams about demons and tornadoes.
These two elements make frequent appearances in my dreams.
Their meanings are much easier to explain than snakes.
Demons are generally metaphors for helplessness against addictions or things we may covet. When my husband was struggling to give up alcohol, I constantly dreamt that I was vanquishing demons with prayer. Oddly enough, without faith in our marriage and faith in God, I'm not sure we would have made it through that struggle.
And tornadoes...ugh. I hate these dreams because they generally occur when I've forgotten to write down a mortgage payment and my checkbook gets all out of whack. Whenever I dream of tornadoes or storms, I know it's time to step back and deal with the issues that are causing turmoil in my life, and there's nothing quite like financial instability to get my worry warts sprouting. (No, I don't really have warts.)
Even the smallest detail can have some sort of significance in a dream, and the mood of the dream plays a huge role in what it means.
There have been numerous books about dream interpretation, including dream dictionaries. Check them out at your local library or book store and enjoy what you learn about yourself!
Coming tomorrow: Deja vu . . . what it could mean for you.
Later on this week: Learn about a type of sleep therapy that may help reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress.