Fear Factor

Dreamer: Cathy American female in her late twenties

I dreamt that I washed my hair in a bathtub and everything was quite normal. It was nothing special, just washing the hair. Then I had finished and wanted to get out of the tub. At this time I suddenly realized that the bathtub was full of water and tons of spiders. I'm in between them. It was disgusting to me and I jumped out but still some of the spiders stuck to my body. They didn't hurt me but it was disgusting. I was running and jumping and finally got rid of them all. Afterwards I recognized that they were exotic creatures with only three legs and different colors. I'd never seen this type of animal before. And I was wondering and searching my bathtub to see where they'd come from, the shower or the sink? I found no solution.

A little background: I dream a lot and very fantastically. The only nightmare dream I sometimes have always deals with escaping from something. At the moment I have lots of work. I am surprised at how much work I have because it began with just a little task at first. I am concerned how I shall manage it all. Additionally I have to make a decision about writing a Ph.D. or not. These are the most emotional factors of my present life.

Mr. Hagen's Reply: Fear Factor or Arachnophobia

Here are a couple of observations.

Your dreams seem to deal with escape. This seems to indicate behavioral escape conditioning (learning), which is quite normal and frequent in people's dreams. A problem arises when escape in the dream becomes impossible for the individual. These are then signs of Martin Seligman's learned helplessness model of depression. Do you follow this train of thought? Is what you are trying to escape your being/feeling overwhelmed/overworked/stressed?

The other idea is about your body. The bathtub is often a feminine symbol and metaphor for the uterus. Hair can have a spiritual and intellectual significance, since it is on the top of your head. Can you see how body, spirit and mind interact in a dream?! Spiders are usually looked at as more feminine symbols than masculine, but that is not always true.

From a behavioral viewpoint they may denote a phobic response. Spider phobias are very prevalent and it may be only be just that. Using a Freudian psychoanalytic interpretation the spiders would represent your mother (Carl Jung would say the Terrible Mother) and therefore could also represent you. A number of more personal questions arise. The prevalent feeling in the dream seems to be disgust. You deal with the situation by escape. What in your life are you trying to escape from? What disgusts you? Regarding femininity fears, what sort of feelings do you have towards your mother and about having children yourself?

When you search for where the spiders (and your disgust) come from, you seem to be searching for answers to your problems, but you find no answers. The most likely reason you find no answers is that you are looking in the wrong place. Your dream might then read this way: If the cause of your fears and disgust cannot be found in your conscious social space, mind, body and feelings, then you need to begin to search deeper in your subconscious thoughts and feelings. Detective work is necessary, which may be frightening initself, because you never know what information you will find.

A couple of good books to read are;

  • Women's Bodies, Women's Dreams by Patricia Garfield
  • Nancy Friday's My Mother My Self.

For a book that addresses the escape issues, see:

  • Beatrix Hughes' "Fight or Flight: Mastering the problems of everyday life."

Hope these thoughts are of help and provide some insight,
Mark H.

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