Dreams
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Relatives

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Relatives are powerful features of both the waking and dreaming worlds. As a consequence, interpreting dreams of relatives is a complex task. There are hundreds of different possible interpretations that originate within the world of the dreamer as well as from classical psychology.

The reason dreams of family are so prevalent is that everyone has a desire to know what "normal" is, and then act that way in the world. Countless times, clients will come to therapy complaining, "I just want a normal family," or "I just want a normal marriage." The definition of this idea comes from our relatives and how well they fit into or detract from our idea of normalcy.

Dreams of family may affirm or undermine "normal" feelings about ourselves. Extended family relations are very significant in developing the family lore and ritual. As you mature and reflect critically on normalcy in your understanding of it, these rituals either affirm or work against the norms of your perspective. Who does what, why and when is often determined by influences in the extended family. The result is that we construct a family story that defines who we are in our family and what our family means in the world around us.

Relative dreams of this type lend themselves to archetypal interpretations that offer insight into how the dreamer sees him or herself in relation to the larger human community represented by the relatives. To interpret dreams of this kind, discern what relatives were in the dream and whether they are still living or dead in waking life. Many times, relatives who have passed away are alive in our dreams. Usually, one of two circumstances exist. Either the activity in the dream reminds you of a ritual aspect of the relationship with this relative, or your relationship with the relative is incomplete. Many times, dreams about relatives are recurring. These can have both prophetic or historic meaning. This is especially true in cases where the central characters are relatives with whom there is either emotional tension or uncertainty concerning their health. If there is emotional tension, the dream may be identifying the source of the tension to create an opportunity to resolve it. If there are particular relatives with precarious health, the dreams may resolve, or warn of, impending deaths in the family.

The place and occasion for the relatives' appearance in the dream are important to the interpretation of it. For example, if only the women in your family appear with you in a dream of an activity that they have historically participated in together, you may see yourself as joining with the family in new ways. There are numerous variations on this dream:

1. Not wanting to join the activity (ambivalence about traditional expectations).

2. Joining a group of exclusively opposite-gendered family members (confusion about fitting into the family on your terms).

3. Joining a group of family members with something unique in common; i.e., all bald, all with cancer, all widowed, all single, etc. (identifying with or having concern over ending up like others whom you chagrin or pity).

While family members are powerful dream icons, their meaning can be quite diverse. Often, free association is the key to discerning their impact on your dreams and the meaning of that influence.

Individual family members, especially fathers and mothers (or representations of them) are often prominent in dreams. For better or for worse, they are primary influences in the shaping of our personalities. This includes how we respond to our environmental stimuli, as well as how we value ourselves and our inner nature.

Consequently, another significant aspect of relative dreams is what these dreams show about how our individual ego development and personality strength have been influenced by individual relatives, for good or ill. Personality strengths and weaknesses often express themselves in alternating generations. For example, in one generation, the father is relentless in expressing anger. In the next generation, anger becomes taboo and inexpressible. In this way, dreams of the individual parent often have a compensatory effect.

Often you will have a dream that includes a particular family member in a very unusual situation for that person (for example: scuba diving with Grandma). Often in this type of dream there will be plenty of other symbols and images that point to the true meaning of what the dream has in store for you.

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