Some three horses are eating the carcass of a recently dead horse. The owner and I are looking at them. The owner ignores the riding gear still on the dead horses, equipment that looks worth saving to me. He takes off one piece, but also leaves the rest. I take the riding gear off, intending to keep it. A third guy there may want it too. I end up taking the gear off and returning it to the stable of the owner. The owner is making me study something very hard.
Associations: This dream raises a lot of interesting questions: What am I doing dreaming about horses eating a horse? I have nothing to do with horses in my waking life. I have ridden on them in the past, am not afraid of them, and have a healthy respect for their power and strong will. Clearly, the dead horse or horses were domesticated and meant to be ridden, yet now they are dead and being cannibalized. Why? What does that have to do with my life? While I am attempting to do something responsible regarding the riding gear – at least salvaging it, since the horses are dead, it seems to me this is very secondary to the loss of the horses themselves. What is the owner making me study and why? Who is this third guy that may want the riding gear?
All of these questions are about a type of dream that most people forget or pay no attention to because it is neither an obvious revelation or prophesy, nor does it seem to have any personal associations. It was remembered for its nightmarish quality, which implies it is an unrecognized, unappreciated wake-up call. Is it? Here is the Dream Sociomatrix and the Commentary:
DS is at -5
3 Horses at 3
Dead Horse at -5
Owner at -1
Riding Gear -5
Third Guy 1
Dream Self That owner shouldn’t let those horses eat their own kind. He doesn’t care.
3 Horses: We horses like to be left alone. We don’t like being ridden or controlled. We have no ethics. We eat what we can get.
Horse Carcass: I would like to be left to decompose with dignity. I died of neglect.
Owner: (I take only what I need. I discard the rest. The horse is dead. Let them do with it as they will.)
Riding Gear: He wants to save me from destruction. I like that. It’s just not right to allow those horses to eat one of their own kind. My owner is careless and selfish. I’m proud of myself and how I look, even if I am discounted by my owner. I work and serve well. I’m very pleased that Dream Self wants me and values me.
Comments: Possibly the growth of my work at Steppingstone, the adolescent residential psychiatric program where I was a house parent with my wife Bonnie, at the cost of my pain treatment efforts (I was developing a pain treatment program in Little Rock at the time, after running two in north-central Arkansas, in Searcy and Batesville). Feeding my present interests at the expense of a previous, now dead one. This ties in with “vicious horses:” overwhelming pressures of present work responsibilities. I am discarding useful tools and equipment gained – not salvaging what remains useful, unlike what I do in the dream. I know the horse can be replaced.
But what is vicious about my present responsibilities? They sap the life from my other interests – dream work, psychotherapy.
In what ways am I uncaring and wasteful? In what ways am I viciously critical of myself and others? What part of my life dies due to my neglect? These questions and others could be asked of the dream group members, or they may be answered by dream groups to come.
Comments: (2/13/85) Sounds like Dream Sociometry. The owner is making Dream Self study something very hard. I am studying Dream Sociometry pretty hard these days. The horses are dead. The dreams are dead by the time I get to them. In my writings I have compared them to corpses being dissected. But when I am dreaming the horses are not dead. An interesting co-mingling in which my living inner world cannibalizes my dreamwork of the day on their brothers. My desire is to salvage what remains valuable from the dreams – I am unable to salvage the life force of the dream, but perhaps it is being used to nurture the dream process itself. But my dreams hardly die of neglect. Could it be some aspect of my life energy, manifesting in my dreams, that I am neglecting?
If you could change this dream in any way that you wanted, as long as it respected the rights of all fellow dream group members, how would you change it?
3 Horses: We would prefer good food. We’re vegetarians and not normally cannibalistic. Do you have some apples?
Horse Carcass: If you’ll feed them, they won’t eat me. If you won’t neglect me, I won’t die. Then you will avoid this problem.
Owner: Maybe I could take better care of them and feed them more.
Riding Gear: I will remain useful and used if my horse stays healthy.
Third Guy: Take better care of all horses and supplies. Don’t be so negligent. Feed and respect them and they’ll serve you well.
Dream Self: OK.
I am watching four beautiful horses eating hay on a farm. I go up and offer them apples. They let me pat them. I notice that their riding gear is in excellent shape. Their owner and another man are with me. We talk about the horses, and I complement the owner on how well he takes care of them. (2/13/85)
Waking Commentary (2/13/85)
If you were this dreamer and were dealing with his waking issues – money, relationships, fears, career choices, physical health, and spiritual development – would you do anything differently? If so, what?
3 Horses: These dreamages are like eating our own. Can’t you do anything else to liven them up?
Horse Carcass: I’m a dead dream. I died of neglect. If you will respect me more while I am alive, all this will be unnecessary.
Owner Really, I won’t care unless you do. You are aware of this as a possible problem. I’m not. A little more awareness in your sleep wouldn’t hurt anything.
Riding Gear: What you salvage from your dreams is not as important as appreciating and using the life force itself. Do not miss the meat of your dreams by focusing on the dead remnants.
Third Guy: Look for horses when you dream. When you see them, treat them as enlightened beings. They will put you in touch with your life force.
Dream Self: I am hardly neglecting my dreams! I would be glad to feed you all something more lively than a dreamage if you will tell me what you want! I take it you guys want me to focus on pre-sleep suggestions that increase my respect for the life force of my dreams while it is still alive – while I am still dreaming. But, judging by other dream groups, they probably want me to meditate to feed them life force itself.
Comments: I feel as if I had this dream to be understood now, as if it was not to be understood when I had it. While I understand the projection involved, I am still fascinated by the incredible relevance and teaching capacity of this dream three years after I had it. It is much more important and relevant than it was at that time.
I will look for horses in my dreams. If I see them, I will offer them food. I will do my best to show them respect and kindness
Most Accepting Character: Third Guy
Least Accepting Character: Riding Gear
Most Preferred Character: Riding Gear
Most Rejected Character: Owner
Most Preferred Action: rakes off rest
Most Rejected Action: eating it
Most Preferred Feeling: none
Most Rejected Feeling: ignores
On the acceptance axis, there is strong and balanced conflict. This is a nightmare pattern, in that nurturing forces are forced into a critical, non-accepting position. Dream Self, who is preferring, is certainly not aligned with them. The conflict appears to be between perspectives which think I deserve to be criticized, persecuted, and those that feel victimized by me or don’t like the victimization taking place.
On the form axis, several items have been left off. The Riding Gear should be at -4, the Owner at -3, and the Horses and Carcass at – 1, underlined to represent considerable internal ambiguity. The riding gear is most rejected, which is very strange, since most characters express favorable attitudes toward it in the commentaries and it is valued by the dream itself by Dream Self, the owner and probably the Third Guy. The owner is also rejected, presumably because he has responsibility for the horses and their actions, and he is viewed as neglectful and uncaring. Three Horses and Dead Horse are rejected similarly, but for different reasons. Three Horses are rejected because they are vicious; Dead Horse is rejected because either it is of no use (Owner, Third Guy) or repulsive (Dream Self). The basic conflict is between Riding Gear and Owner, on the one hand, and Dream Self on the other. This implies a conflict between nurturance and responsibility, on the one hand, and well-meaning obliviousness on the other. I don’t think my intentions are being criticized – I am well meaning in the dream – as much as my lack of awareness that leads to thoughtlessness and neglect. But when a person is self-critical, as I was, it is difficult to hear such a message as anything other than self-criticism.
On the process axis the opposing elements are “looks good,” on the one hand, and “eating it,” on the other. The metaphor here seems to be salvaging or making use of what is useful, vs. cruelly devouring oneself. We have constructive behaviors conflicting with destructive, vicious ones.
On the affect axis there is no conflict because there are no positive emotions recorded in this dream narrative. We can imagine that, as usual, there are several unexpressed emotions. The action “ignoring” could also be an emotion: “not caring.” Dream self may be angry at Owner for not caring; he may be pleased that he has rescued the equipment. Owner may be irritated at the nuisance of a dead horse, and so forth.
This is an antithetical nightmare sociogram. The preference energy is moderate. Many “no” preferences; most stronger preferences are made by only one character, Riding Gear. The Dead Horse and the Riding Gear are victimized. Dream Self puts himself in the role of rescuer. The group clearly looks to him to take action and make changes.
Further comments: Dream Self is critical toward the owner as not being a responsible horse owner. Then I am criticizing myself for not being responsible. These horses are not altruistic or empathetic. They are selfish and greedy. I have starved some part of myself due to neglect. The horse owner is not altruistic or empathetic either. He doesn’t care about anything except the riding gear. Dream Self appears to be in agreement, or supportive of him, in that he gives the riding gear back to the owner. Remember, these horses don’t like to be ridden or controlled. We do not know if the dead horse(s) feel the same.
This dream, its preferences and commentaries answer more questions than it answers. I still don’t get the vicious horses are. Candidates are the adolescents in treatment center where I worked, who could be highly selfish and vicious. The another possibility are perspectives that view Dream Sociometry as “cannibalizing” my dreams, a possibility that gains some support from another dream, An Eggcellent Chicken Operation. This is certainly substantiated by this remark by the 3 Horses: “These dreamages are like eating our own. Can’t you do anything else to liven them up?” The Horse Carcass agrees: “I’m a dead dream. I died of neglect. If you will respect me more while I am alive, all this will be unnecessary.”
This raises interesting thoughts about being more respectful while dreaming. This is another way of looking at dream lucidity. Knowing you are asleep and dreaming is one form of lucidity, but it does not mean that you will be any more respectful or empathetic in a dream. On the contrary, you could become more selfish, controlling and insistent of your own agenda. So the question becomes, “How do I become more respectful in my dreams? One way is to ask questions of various characters rather than jump to conclusions. Another is to empathize with characters, to actively take their roles while in the dream. The riding gear seems to sum it up well: “What you salvage from your dreams is not as important as appreciating and using the life force itself. Do not miss the meat of your dreams by focusing on the dead remnants.”
If this is the case, the only reason why this criticism is known is because of the use of a methodology these perspectives are complaining about! It reminds me of parts of the body that scream in pain at healing procedures, like surgeries or bone setting. There are always constituencies that are going to be inconvenienced and want to let you know it.
Both dead and living horses are in agreement that they are neglected. Generally, my view of adolescent dysfunction is that most acting out is due to crappy scripting and socialization – they were not listened to, respected, or “fed” adequately as children. So essentially this would be pointing toward a theme of failure of self-nurturance, with improved “self-feeding” as the recommended solution: “If you’ll feed them, they won’t eat me. If you won’t neglect me, I won’t die. Then you will avoid this problem.” The Owner is waking up to his neglect and his responsibility. But notice that it is not in a critical or judgmental way. He is simply understanding, or waking up, or becoming lucid, because he is hearing the horses’ perspective.
The third guy appears to be an objective supporter of nurturance. He reframes horses as enlightened beings that put me in touch with my life force. This is an example of an interpretation of a dream “symbol” from a character in the dream itself. Notice that this was not an association of mine to horses at the outset of the interview.