Q: I once dreamed about, umm, “doing it” with a dog. Am I depraved? What does the dream mean? - Annie Anonymous, Montana
A: Dear Annie,
For an answer to your question about the meaning of the dream, let’s consult the professional literature, shall we? The good folks at Dream Central, a website devoted to dream analysis, tell us that a happy, friendly dog in a dream means you have many good friends. You didn’t specify, but let’s assume the dog was happy.
Dream Central doesn’t endorse an opinion on “doing it” but another website, DreamMoods.com, tells us that dreaming of sex means that you either A) haven’t “done it” in far too long, or B) need to incorporate more of the dream sex-partner’s traits into your own character.
So. Your dream clearly means that you want to enjoy carnal relations with your many good friends. Or it means that you need to get out more. Or maybe it means that you need to incorporate more barking and sniffing into your daily routine.
Do you see a problem here? There is no shortage of people who are willing to tell you what your dreams symbolize without ever having met you. If that’s useful for you, knock yourself out. Books and websites may in fact trigger a meaningful insight, and that’s great. The problem with this approach is that the people who assign meanings to dream content, such as the dog in your dream, never stopped to ask you, Annie, how dogs fit into your life or what was happening in your world when you had the dream. As one of my brightest professors said, context matters.
Artistry or a shameless racket?
The Iron Shrink has never put much stock in searching for Profound Hidden Meaning in dreams such as the one you described, but that doesn’t make it a useless pursuit. Dream analysis is a very old trade in psychology and many still consider it an art form that can help clients better understand the patterns and problems of their lives. Talking to a psychologist about your dreams might be especially useful if you are troubled by them, as was Mary Fields in 1927.
Ms. Fields had experienced a dream in which she stabbed herself after learning that her love-interest, who was in real-life disliked by her parents, had eloped with a mystery woman. She found herself obsessing over the dream to the point that it began interfering with her personal and professional life. (That is always a good point at which to seek help.) Not a shy girl, she wrote a fairly detailed letter to none other than Sigmund Freud, who was world-famous at the time. She asked him to help her understand the meaning of the dream. In typical, gracious style, Freud wrote back:
“Besides the love you feel for [your love interest] there is a trend of perhaps distrust, perhaps remorse. This antagonistic feeling is covered up during your wake life by the love-attraction you undergo and by another motive, your resistance against your parents. Perhaps if your parents did not dislike the boy, it would be much easier for you to become aware of the splitting in your feelings. So you are in a conflict about him and the dream is a way out of the maze. To be sure, you will not leave him and fulfill your parents’ request. But if he drops you this is a solution. I guess that is the meaning of the dream…” (excerpt from Freud’s letter as reprinted in Benjamin & Dixon, 1996).
Did Mary’s dream really represent conflicting allegiances that she felt toward her parents and her suitor? Since she didn’t write back, we don’t know. Even Freud expressed hesitance to make such an interpretation without the opportunity to meet with her personally. Still, it represents an example of a potentially useful dream interpretation – useful because its meaning was derived from the context of Ms. Fields’ life, not a website.
A mind never asks permission
Now let’s discuss what I gather is your most pressing concern: Are you depraved? You might be; I’ve never met you. But judging by your dream alone I’d say you’re fine.
The problem with owning a human mind is that it never asks permission to have a thought, no matter how strange or disconcerting. Perhaps your dream was just a product of the mind doing some of the things it does: remembering and combining experiences. Or, maybe your dream represents some longing that you feel, such as the need for companionship. If that’s the case, you’re probably already aware of the situation.
On the other hand, maybe the dream is telling you to lay off the pizza and soda pop before beddy-bye time. Whatever the case, one strange dream probably isn’t worth losing sleep over.
Benjamin, L.T. & Dixon, D.N. (1996). Dream Analysis by Mail: An American Woman Seeks Freud’s Advice. American Psychologist, 51(5), 461-468.
Dream Central’s Website: www.sleeps.com/dreams.html
Dream Moods’ Website: www.dreammoods.com