Monday, November 17, 2008

Grief as a Vicious Dog


Head of snarling Dog by Mr. Wood in Charles Darwin,
Expression of the Emotions

A Dream:

I am in Chicago, in the long and dark hallway of an old house, trying frantically to dislodge the teeth of a small black dog which has bitten into my middle finger and refuses to let go. A few people walk through the hallway, but no one knows how to separate the dog and me. They shake their heads and mutter unintelligibly to themselves and move on.

Hours go by. In a fog of pain, I doze off, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall. At some point, half-awake and half-asleep, I realize that the dog, too, has fallen asleep and that its lower jaw has slackened, its teeth slipping out of my finger. Careful not to awaken the dog, I pry his upper teeth out and put the him gently on the floor. I look curiously at my throbbing finger, now colored a deep bluish-purple and grotesquely swollen and misshapened. There is nothing to be done about it. I get up off the floor, and walk out of the house at sunset into a vast residential neighborhood I do not recognize.

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Various pertinent scraps of information I've found:

If you see dogs as loyal companions and friends in real life, a dog biting you in a dream might symbolize a betrayal of love and loyalty. The middle finger may represent practicality, hard work, committment, or maybe potency and strength. (Think of it raised in a defiant or menacing gesture.)


I suppose it speaks for itself: a dream of almost complete desolation. Maybe a shred of consolation in the fact that I am able to walk out into unknown territory. Path and destination unclear, but walking.

**********

As it happens, this dream is a few nights old, and does not reflect my feelings today. This morning, with a wintry sun forcing its way through the clouds to light the inch or so of snow on the ground, looks to be something of an up day. But I'm posting the dream anyway. Now what intrigues me is how gently I put that dog down. And I don't think that my response has anything to do with liking dogs in real life.

Perhaps the significance lies in how we respond to pain or, rather, the memory of that which has caused us pain. Accepting, honoring, absorbing ~ not resisting ~ our experience ~ that may be what propels us through unknown neighborhoods toward uncertain destinations.

It is a sign of health, of course, to try to disengage from a potentially rabid dog. But it does not necessarily follow that one should then kick it down the hallway.

15 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

Actually I find this a very healing dream. Death is a small black dog who prevents you from cursing it when you are too deep in grief. It puts you into a new place of consciousness where there will be others to meet and new experiences to have that you weren't seeking at all on purpose. I find it healing because of your acceptance of how it has changed you and you get up and walk on.

Purple said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Purple said...

It seems to me you are not running from the aftermath of your tragic experience, but allowing it a space in which to dialogue with. Continued grace and enfolding on this journey.

Purple said...

It seems blogger double posted...of course it could not possibly be on my end...hence the deleted message.

Lisa :-] said...

I, too, was struck by your desciption of gently putting the dog down. My feeling was that it meant the pain of grief could be laid aside without anger or frustration, almost so that it could be a more amiable companion on your continuing journey...

Rev SS said...

Another profound reflection that touches my heart. You are so gifted with 'eyes to see' and 'ears to hear' and of exhortation ... thank you for the awesome gift to us, your readers.

Mary Beth said...

(o)

sunflowerkat321 said...

You absolutely amaze me sometimes.

Using the interpretive information you shared, it seems to me that your gentle treatment of the dog is symbolic of you "forgiving" the source of your pain. Walking into an unfamiliar place seems to suggest that you accept that you must walk through the uncharted territory you find yourself in.

RevDrKate said...

This dream seems to move along the path of the grief in some ways...as least as much as one observing from outside in can know. Thank you as always for what you share of this. Thanks also for your comment on my post on fear as it gave me more to think about.

Stratoz said...

the last line is resonating. gray used to be my favored color, hmmm...

Kathryn J said...

I have an intense fear of dogs so I'm not going to attempt interpretation. I am glad that it does not reflect where you are today but the title almost prevented me from reading the post.

I think the kindness is just who you are. I wish there was less pain.

Jennifer said...

I don't know how to interpret dreams, except to know that they can be powerful expresions of what we're processing.

Magdalene6127 said...

lovely and haunting...

(((GG)))

Cynthia said...

You are amazing. A black dog is an old symbol of death. (J.K. Rowling didn't just make that up.) I see such strength, acceptance and grace in the face of such pain.

Theresa Williams said...

Powerful post. I've always believed in the power of dreams to point us the way to healing. Jung believed this, too.