The Bird Dream is a dream I had about birds and stuff the other night. I tried to reproduce it here and interpret it in the clinical Freudian vein the best I could.
Dream of November 14-15, 2011Edit
I am sleeping in my sister Emily’s room with her and a strange sound wakes us. I jump out of my bed and discover her fish and green parrot on the ground. The fish is dead but the parrot seems to be reclining—only relaxing. Emily shows me the plastic egg case that the parrot had been packed in—it is empty. We realize that the parrot thawed prematurely and plucked the fish from its tank and killed it. Since the parrot is now thawed there is nothing to do but move it to the big cage in the living room with all the other birds, so I pick it up. When I do so our poodle Pokey comes over very happy and the two animals nuzzle each other affectionately. I ignore this and carry the parrot out into the living room.
We are in the old one-story we lived in when I was a child. In the living room it seems like there is a party breaking up. I don't recognize any of the guests putting on their coats but they are much older than me. They walk past me with hardly a glance. My mother is there and we have a short conversation about what happened in the bedroom. She warns me not to put my sister’s green parrot in with the others.
When I bring it near the cage the parrot balks and is frightened but I ignore it since none of the birds inside seem threatening. Despite its protests I open the little gate and start to push it in with the others. Before I can get him in completely a larger, fatter bird lashes out with its beak and grabs hold of the back of my sister’s parrot’s neck. It is savagely tearing and chewing and my sister’s parrot is screeching. The feathers are being torn away and the flesh is being eaten away. I try to pull my sister’s parrot out but it is like trying to pull a brick out of a building wall. I try to push the bigger bird away but it is hard as stone and won't budge. I finally shake Emily’s parrot viciously and wrench him away but it is too late: its neck is torn open and it is dead.
I woke up.
I undertake analysis of this dream in a way congruent with my humble knowledge of Freud; I am operating under the simple assumption that all dreams are “the fulfillment of a wish” (Freud, trans. Gay, 1989). Much of the above dream-content is obscure to me—neither my sister nor my immediate family has ever owned any birds, therefore they are a creation of my dream’s entirely—and so I am operating under a further assumption: that the “formulas” for the dream are “disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes” (Freud, ibid).
Some other important analysis rules to keep in mind are that in interpretation one must allow the mind to wander and bring up any and all possible allusions, recollections, and resonances that occur. Dream interpretation is an inexact science at best and so nothing can be ruled out as impossible. Also, in all instances where the words “either-or” would be used in rational, pragmatic thinking, they must be replaced with “and.” This is to further encourage a multi-faceted and comprehensive interpretation.
I am sleeping in my sister Emily’s room with her—It is not difficult, if we are to follow Freud’s thinking on repressed eroticism, what the beginning of the dream connotes, no matter how horrific to my conscious mind the idea may be. Though the content of the dream is not erotic, it may express my buried sexual desire for my sister (“Emily’s room” is particularly telling). We can see with certainty that this beginning sates my desire for closeness to her, as I had not seen her or spoken to her for some time before having the dream.
The whole narrative may be a justification/self-soothing for not making a greater effort to see my family (and Emily specifically) and it is a kind of cautionary tale against closeness of any sort. It is an exploration of the repressed desire to become a child again and crawl back into the family embrace.
...her fish and green parrot on the ground. The fish is dead but the parrot seems to be reclining—only relaxing—My family has owned fish in the past, but never my sister alone. She has never had a fish tank in her room or anything like that. And I have already stated we never had birds. It is useful here to consider these things as symbols (both of a personal and larger nature) and as disguised repressions. I have had some personal contact with fish and it seems to me that they are beautiful things one must care for and nurture, not for their personalities, but for the aesthetic quality they bring to a life. Fish are a symbol of Christ. Fish also signify a deep level of unconsciousness because they can dart out of the cold and back again with a “frightening” and “redeeming effect” (Jung, this website). The fish in this dream is dead and that says to me it represents some kind of failure to protect and nurture. The bird is also replacing the fish.
The bird’s presence in the dream can be traced to earlier in the day the 14th. Sally Kral and I had a short conversation about birds and how disgusting and terrible they are.
I have little personal experience when it comes to birds; they frighten me. I have an aunt who is an animal-lover and keeps an aviary of birds in her home in Arizona, and whenever I get near those birds they bite. They are like fish in that they are hard to read. They don’t wag their tails or anything they just stare with their blank, black eyes and then snap. I can’t tell if a bird likes me or hates me, they look the same no matter what. I remember my father’s ex-wife got a bird once and she and her daughters would coo and coo at it and I could never understand the appeal. The thing squawked terribly and was not friendly or soft. They are impossible to train and they shit everywhere. It seems a bit unnatural to me to cage them up, and this relates to my proposed analysis above. I am equating connecting with my sister (and family) to being a domesticated bird: it just isn’t natural and turns the animal sour. If I hadn’t left home and disconnected from my family like I did, I would perhaps turn out like a vicious parrot.
Emily shows me the plastic egg case that the parrot had been packed in—it is empty. We realize that the parrot thawed prematurely and plucked the fish from its tank and killed it—The egg case is like something out of science fiction. It is like a plastic case that a child’s toy might come in. This parrot is some kind of manufactured anomaly: it was vacuum-packed and frozen and after killing a fish and not eating it it laid on the ground supine like a cat or something. I wager that Freud may be correct in thinking that birds represent the phallus. This parrot may be myself breaking out of puberty and finding myself being a stranger in a strange world and being lazy about coming to terms with it. “I’ll kill the fish but I won’t eat it just yet.” The bird is in self-denial of his own phallic potential and power. The bird is also playing dead, which was a favorite game of mine as a child and is a reoccurring element of my other dreams in which an enemy is approaching me and my reaction is to pretend I am dead or sleeping in the hopes that they will ignore me. It seems I am identifying with this green parrot; I am not leery of it at all and I have to remorse for the fish it murdered. It is a kind of blanket forgiveness of myself for any phallic wrongdoing I may have done to past lovers. Just like the parrot, I had just come out of my shell. Can I really be blamed for unknowingly causing destruction?
…our poodle Pokey comes over very happy and the two animals nuzzle each other affectionately—Pokey was the second dog my family owned, and we sold her and another dog a long time ago. My family has since purchased two new dogs. Before Pokey we had a dog named Kizzy who had some kind of hyperactivity/aggression problem and had to be put down. I did not know this at the time and believed that we had sold him. It was my younger sister Emily who in fact told me that Kizzy had been euthanized and I remember feeling very upset and betrayed for not being told the truth. Because of this I speculate that Pokey and the other dog were not sold but put down. Pokey’s behavior here reminds me of when we first got her as a puppy. As she grew up she became less happy and more irritable.
My family’s dog history has always troubled me. For a long time I refused to acknowledge the existence of the dog we got after giving up Pokey because I did not want to be complicit in what I felt was heartlessness. I also did not want to get close to a new dog, only to be separated from it some day. It does not make sense to me how we can have a dog, get very close to it, and then give it up. Sometimes killing it, in fact. Pokey’s presence is a kind of forgiveness of my family: since we never really gave her up, I was never wronged. I am also the overseer of the closeness between the two animals, so I am the one with the power instead of the child being deceived.
We are in the old one-story we lived in when I was a child. In the living room it seems like there is a party breaking up. I don't recognize any of the guests putting on their coats but they are much older than me. They walk past me with hardly a glance—That old one-story in Champlain Park has an interesting history: when my parents were still married we moved into the house and Emily was born. When my parents divorced my mother moved out with Emily and I and my father stayed. After a little while my father started dating another woman and my mother a man (who eventually became my step-father). My mother won the Champlain Park house in court and we moved back in and my father moved out. We lived there for years, did all sorts of renovations, put in a pool, and then one day moved out into a larger house. There is a reoccurring theme here with things from the past that I was attached to and forced to separate from for reasons I didn’t understand. In the dream, I have them all back.
Though I am not a child in the dream, I am in the old house, and I am being treated like one. I was put to bed early with my little sister so that the grownups could have their potentially erotic fun alone. The earlier scene in my sister’s bedroom was small potatoes compared to the goings-on in the living room. And the power and control I just felt was turned on its head. This is an acknowledgement that I do not feel like an adult yet and that I am still dependent on them. I used to hide just around the corner when my parents were still awake and make small noises until they noticed me and forced me back to bed.
It is almost as if the green parrot and I are the cause for the party’s end. As if there was no chance for integration into the adult world at all because we are denied it. There are two simultaneous and opposite desires being fulfilled in the dream: one to resist adulthood and one to break free of childhood. In the dream world it is possible to appease both.
When my mother warns me not to bring the parrot into the cage she may actually be my aunt (the animal-lover with the birds mentioned above) who is an expert on such things and gets along famously with her vicious pets. I both welcome and feel suffocated by such expertise because I must follow the advice. In this instance, I ignore my elders and meet tragedy.
When I bring it near the cage the parrot balks and is frightened but I ignore it since none of the birds inside seem threatening. Despite its protests I open the little gate and start to push it in with the others—Here my identification with the bird is of the utmost importance, but I also identify with the outside forces that drive me, whether they are my parents, teachers or whatever. I acknowledge that they were doing what they thought was best and couldn’t understand my fears and the eventual damage they caused me. No one can imagine the effect they have on another person.
Perhaps the bird does not want to enter the cage because he has become close to me and cannot stand the separation, and when I ignore his desires and force him in with the others it has disastrous consequences. This seems in opposition to my previous theory that the dream is a cautionary tale against closeness. The fact is I desire both: closeness and separation.
Before I can get him in completely a larger, fatter bird lashes out with its beak and grabs hold of the back of my sister’s parrot’s neck—The horror I felt dreaming this is was drove me to write this analysis. How sudden and unexpected it was that the parrot should be attacked by one of his own and I was the cause. The parrot was safe in Emily’s room and I made the decision to bring it with the other birds and it was attacked.
Paired with this guilt is the common reoccurring dream element of powerlessness and paralysis: the birds, though much smaller than myself, are rock hard and immobile.
ConclusionEditThe moral of the dream seems to be that it is a fallacy to believe that close personal relationships will protect a person from danger and also that destroying those relationships and secluding oneself also does not protect a person from danger. It is a constant kind of yo-yoing interplay in which one horror drives you into loved ones’ arms and another horror drives you away. Needless to say, human emotion is unpredictable and inconstant. Even love.
Perhaps it is the fear of harm itself that causes the harm. And if one could only ignore the fear then one would never be harmed.
More likely is there are many more interpretations of this dream that are true, and that Freud would snort one million lines of coke and then stab me in the neck for putting his name here with my own thoughts.