Anatomy of Monsters -or- The Terrible Mother Nature Archetype

Theatre of Cruelty -or- The Horrors of Life

As a child of four, I lived in rural Orillia Ontario, Canada. We had two dogs a Collie and a German Shepard. The German Shepard one day was having babies under the back porch, and when all was said and done, she had 9 babies. I watched this miracle of nature with great amazement, fascination and reverence. Soon however a problem became evident, one that I am still often reminded of especially when the dynamic forces of nature turn tragic and result in death. The dog had only 8 teats.

The gist of the story is that the dog abandoned the ninth child, most likely the weakest of the litter. As a small child, I emotionally could not understand how nature could be so cruel. It made me feel very sad. Carl Jung had envisioned the First World War as a natural disaster (read IIDR interpretation "The Waste Land of WWI"). Jung would see nature's dark side of the "Great Mother" archetype as the "terrible mother". In mythology, the terrible mother has gone by many historically different names and faces of the "monster". Hydra, Medusa, Chimera, Scylla, the "vagina dentata" are but a few feminine monsterous names that history has poetically anthropomorphized and personified the horrible forces of nature. These horrors play on our primal fears and are acted out in our dreams.

Some reading this interpretation might think that this story is a classic Freudian "screen memory", unfortunately it is not. My parents and I have recalled and discussed this traumatic episode in my life on numerous occasions. It is a real screen memory, in the sense that this earliest conscious traumatic memory associates to future traumatic nightmares. I have learned to see these nightmares in terms of human nature, as the surreal "theatre of cruelty". Part of the International Institute for Dream Research mission is to make the psychodynamics of the collective nightmare transparent and visible for all to see.

As an adult, dreams have helped me to learn to understand the psychodynamics of the dark poetic forces of nature in all it's nightmaric and cruel vicissitudes. The day that those nine puppies were born, I was given a pragmatic lesson of Darwin's "On the Origin of the Species"  and the poetic metaphor of "survival of the fittest".

Many nightmares received by the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) speak of the "monster" and the primal archetypal horrors of life and death. Below are four dreams that speak of the variety of nightmares. The first three dreams are clearly "thanatophobic" from a psychological perspective perhaps also from a physical one.

Jamie, 17 South African

I've been having the same dreams the past couple of weeks. Some of my dreams that have been repeating themselves are dreaming of dying etc. I also have a lot of nightmares and have trouble sleeping. Any theories???

Mr Hagen's Reply: Nightmares and Social Anxiety -or- Mastering Fears of Everyday Life

There are numerous theories of nightmares, the Freudian, the Jungian and many others. The fact that the nightmare is recurring, most likely means that that anxieties, and/or stressors during the day are disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. This is a common occurrence in adolescence. One of the main findings of the IIDR is that the primary social channel of anxiety found in our dreams plays out as "social anxiety". Beatrix Hughes and Rodney Boothroyd "Fight or Flight: Mastering Problems of Everyday Life" discuss the mastery of social anxieties such as the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, problems with self-image, self-esteem and self-confidence.

Jane, 23

This dream happened to me twice so far. It does not have any images (blood, gore, a killer, or anything).  The dreams only lasted a few seconds. So you might ask, what is so scary? The feeling.

I felt as that I am being caught, in a "spiral," and "abused", not by "humans," or like I was dying. I was trapped. The death was absolutely horrid, the feeling of it.

What can I do to understand it? Stop it?

Mr Hagen's Reply: Trapped Consciousness -or- What's So Scary?

Fear itself is what's "scary". Alexander Lowen "Narcissism:Denial of the True Self" makes the distinction between "horror" and "terror". For Lowen horror paralyses the mind, while terror paralyses the body. The fact that you feel trapped, points to the article by James Glass "Kafka and Laing on the Trapped Consciousness: The Family as Political Life" Many nightmares sent to the IIDR can be seen through this psychological "Kafkaesque" lens.

Teressa, 29

I have sleep apnea - Last night, while wearing the CPAP mask, I was having a nightmare which woke me. The nightmare was: I was being tickled by my husband and this was just play. Somehow during this I was being suffocated. I remember feeling like i was going to pass out and die. I was yelling for him to stop - then I woke up. Could I have really been suffocating?

Mr Hagen's Reply: Fear of Suffocation -or- Tickled to Death

The fear of suffocation in your case is very real and unfortunately paints the most innocent behaviour that your husband undertakes in tickling you, as something that could turn tragic. Instead of logically eliciting laughter in the dream, the behaviour elicits the emotion of fear of passing out and dying. 

Abbie, 55

I would often dream that I was being chased by a monster (King Kong, cyclops, devil, etc).  It would always be a whole city of people running from one end of town to the other side, trying to escape the beast.  Although the whole town would be running, it appeared that I was always the main subject. One in particular......Satan had gotten loose and was chasing after everyone in town. All of the folks were running to find a safe place and I decided to just stay where I was and hide under a desk that was covered.  My logic was that he would follow everyone else that he saw and by-pass me.  Well, the first place he went to was my hiding spot. I woke up when he raised the cover from the desk and I screamed.."He got me!". 

Mr Hagen's Reply: History of Monsters in Dreams-or-Playing Hide and Seek with the Devil

You are not the only one who has had "King Kong" in their nightmares (read IIDR dream interpretation "King Kong"). The "devil" and "evil" were personified as the Christian nemesis in the Churches battle and war of good versus evil for the possession of the "soul".

The mass panic that the city is placed in your dream as a psychological consequence of the never ending monsterous terrors, testifies to the emotional contagion of fear and hysteria  throughout history. Of interest is the method to dealing with the madness of fear, in that you say; "My logic was that he would follow everyone else that he saw and by-pass me." Who said nature always acts "logically"? That he got you proves the point.



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.