Rev. Nancy's Blog

Is Your Dream Secretly a Forgotten Memory?

Dreams come in many forms – archetypal, daily processing, or symbols for us to decipher. Sometimes, though, they may be actual memories that have been forgotten or repressed. I once had a dream that was a combination, with symbolic elements and a story line that was familiar, and yet not familiar. In the dream,

I’m in a one-level house that is familiar and not familiar, with bedrooms off a long hallway. My sister had moved away and yet still lived there, and while she was gone our mother had moved her things from the room we shared into another room, disposing of many things. When my sister, Linda, came back from a trip she was upset about it, and I didn’t understand why since she seemed to have moved away.

Having my own room for the first time, I created a sanctuary, with many things that were sacred to me. Then I went away on a brief trip, and when I came back, wheeling my suitcase into my room, I found that it wasn’t my room any more. I stood in the doorway and saw several people who were vaguely familiar installing a home-built large round conference table in the middle, and a bank of desks or work stations along the walls. As I tried to get a grip on this scene, someone indicated one of the work stations and said, “that’s the pet desk.” Pet desk? If this was for my work for animals, no one had mentioned it to me. No one had told me anything about these changes. And, WHERE WAS MY STUFF? My mother was completely surprised that I would object to her rearranging things in her own home, and was upset that I didn’t appreciate her hard work. I was very upset and felt helpless.

In the wee hours of the morning I woke with the question, where is my stuff? I felt very upset, wanting the dream to be over. I couldn’t shake it, though, so took out my dream journal and wrote down as much of the detail as I could remember. I felt powerless and betrayed. After journaling the dream, and making myself focus on breathing, I finally went back to sleep. The feelings, though, continued with me the next day. Since my sister and my late mother had figured so prominently in the dream, I called my sister to tell her about it. When I told her the gist of my dream, her immediate response was, “That was no dream. That really happened!” She explained:

When I was a child, our family lived in an oil camp in South America. The camp school only went up to the 8th grade. After that, we were sent to a boarding school. My sister, two years older, went first. Linda told me that while she was gone, our mother moved all of her things from the room she and I had shared into what had been the guest room, and redecorated it. Thrown out were many of my sister’s things that our mother felt she had outgrown or would not fit with the décor. I then had my own room for the first time, and nearly two years to make it really mine. Linda said I was very good at art, and had taped my art projects and paintings to the walls. My room was filled with collections of treasures I found. It was, indeed, my sanctuary.

Then I went off to school with my sister. When we returned that summer, I walked into what had been my room and found it completely changed. Gone were the artwork and the collections. It was now decorated with the frills my mother felt a teenage girl’s room should have. Linda said I just stood in the doorway and cried out, “Where’s my stuff?” – the same words I had cried out in my dream, but had not included in the retelling to my sister.

This, then, was a dream of a recovered memory. Something so traumatic for me that I had no recollection of it. My sister and I knew that our mother was doing as she felt best, the great gap being that we were surprised and not included in the process. We were then able to joke about how both of us hold our children’s rooms sacrosanct, never throwing out anything that belonged to them without their participation. There were symbolic elements in the dream as well, although those are topics for another article.

In contemplating this dream I realized that I’ve felt I was not good at art, and don’t use it as a means of expression. The dream showed how things we might not remember can affect our decisions and self-concepts for many years. It also showed me how the roots of my love for the natural world are connected to my work now, through the “pet desk.”

This dream/memory demonstrated to me one way the Universe answers our requests. I had been asking my guides for help in releasing old thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and programs that no longer serve me, to create space for new growth. This dream brought up an old set of feelings that I can now acknowledge, bless, and release.

It is worth considering, when a dream contains elements that seem real or familiar, whether they are in fact memories rather than symbols.


Article published by The Dream Tribe (June 2010) [group no longer active]

Nancy is an animal intuitive and interfaith minister who specializes in helping people understand and communicate with their animal companions.