Dreams about animals are a common theme at bedtime. If you or a loved one has been covering this ground at night, you may have questions about what it all might mean. As part of a Huffington Post series on dreams and their meanings, we spoke to Shelley Smith, a behavioral therapist and the founder and director of the Yoga Health & Therapy Center, in Lexington, Ky., to get expert advice about the meanings of your or your loved one’s dreams about animals. Note: While dream analysis is highly subjective, this post might provide some insight into why this dream occurred or is recurring.
What do dreams about animals mean? "There are so many interpretations of dream animals," says Smith. "When an animal appears in a dream, it is really reminding dreamers of their instincts -- that they need to rely on their instincts."
What can I learn about myself from dreaming about animals? A dream where the animal takes on a spiritual quality often carries an important lesson with it. "When there's a repeat performance aspect," she explains, "then the repetitive nature is saying there may be some human difficulty that we need to keep on recognizing ... and a particular animal is coming to benefit you psychologically, but you need to listen, feel, and open that message in rational terms so you can hear what it's saying."
Are there any tricks to avoiding or inducing animal dreams? According to Smith, no. "Our unconscious gives us what we need -- and what we don't even know what we need -- when we need it," she says. "We just have to be open to it."
Beyond analysis, what cultural symbolism can be found in dreams about animals? "Animals are a constant throughout history," says Smith. "Jung charted so many dreams that he realized there were certain characteristics that appear repeatedly." However, according to Smith, the symbolism of the animals in our dreams is very personal, and we have to listen to, and feel, our own personal message in those images.
Who tends to have dreams about animals most frequently? "Instead of a particular demographic, this type of dream often comes with times of crises and difficulties. And what might be a crisis to you might be insignificant to someone else, so it's very personal," Smith explains. "There's that healing space the mind wants to go to, to make you feel better."
Is there any one specific thing we should try to take away from a dream about animals? According to Smith, "W. B. Yeats's advice that 'in dreams begins responsibility' ... puts us back to realizing -- even if we do need to sometimes reacquaint ourselves with the instinct that we know -- that the animals are there to lead us back through the rational and the waking ego, and to say, 'You're OK. Count on yourself.' Symbolically, the animal is there, but the meaning is your own personal waking narrative of how to take care, how to have a meaningful life, how to have a healthy, balanced life."
Shelley Smith is a behavioral therapist with over 30 years of professional experience. She has a bachelor's from Indiana University (cum laude), is a registered yoga therapist and is a certified teacher trainer. Smith developed the Yoga Health & Therapy Center's Creative Dream Work Program, which emphasizes the use of "Active Imagination" (a Jungian approach) to unlock memories, reactions and talents stored energetically in the body's tissues. She also leads workshops and sessions for groups and individuals, exploring personal narratives and potential.