I caution everyone to walk around the dead lion on the floor. It is wrapped in an old wool blanket, dream-similar to the one mom had on her childhood bed and which we now have in storage. The lion seems dead, but you never really know with predators. When it leaps at me, I am alarmed but only dreamly so; surely this will be the end. I am wondering if I will be swallowed whole or slashed into bloody ribbons. I look out from inside the lion’s mouth — I am well down his throat by now. So. The end will come this way — I shall be engulfed soon.
I have a moment before the full swallow to reach toward the lion’s arm. I scratch it firmly but tenderly, like you would scratch a friendly cat that walks toward you as you stroll by its yard. You’re affectionate, but you want to be clear about who’s the dominant species. The lion calms, purrs, lets me go, lets me go on scratching. It begins to talk to me, dream talk from one mind to another.
Is this good? I ask.
Yes, the lion says quietly. There is both peace and sadness. This is how my mother used to scratch me.
I take one of its forearms in my hands and lick the fur. From elbow to paw, I am lapping the lion’s fur gently.
Yes, the lion says. That’s how she would calm me.
What the heck was that about?
I seem dead, but I am fierce, and I can eat you alive. I can eat you alive! I CAN EAT YOU ALIVE! I CAN EAT YOU ALIVE!
That’s how gestalt therapists work with dreams. You identify with some element in the dream, and then speak as if you were that element. I’m a sidewalk. I’m made of concrete and nothing can hurt me. or I’m a sidewalk, and I have flecks of mica in me. I reflect light. or I’m a sidewalk. No one notices me. Whatever the identification, the idea is that if you stay with it, bring it into the present tense, make it big, find it in your body, change everything to being about you, you’ll complete something within you that is incomplete. No one notices me. Where is that feeling in your body? Here, in my belly. Make that feeling stronger. Soon you’ll come to: Notice me! Who are you talking to? My dad. Say that to your dad. Louder!
You know. All in a day’s work.
I’ve been having trouble identifying with this sweet dream lion, though. I am eating myself alive? I suppose there are days when that’s true. But that path of association seems like a false lead.
I don’t feel like I could eat someone else alive. I hardly ever get to feel fierce. I HARDLY EVER GET TO FEEL FIERCE! I HARDLY EVER..hmmm. Let me just scratch a little note-to-self about that one.
I work my way to this:
Something fierce and powerful has me in its jaws. It is afraid. I am afraid. I am reaching to touch that thing, to comfort it. I scratch it firmly. I am in charge. I scratch tenderly enough, too, to convey love. The powerful, frightened thing can rest. I can rest. I am strong enough. I am tender enough. I am strong enough. I am tender enough.
Hmm? Where do I feel that? I feel that in my chest.