The Meaning of the Bear
About: This is a somewhat long post about a dream I had that was significant to me, but after I wrote it I thought: Okay, cool. It's significant to me but what about to my readers. Why would it matter to them?
So I thought I would add a more universal message here and if you still want to read the rest, that would be awesome.
Here's the thing, in my opinion life is all about learning and growth. We fall down and we get back up, over and over until we learn to walk. This dream represented not just growth but facing a part of myself that I was incredibly ashamed of. If you read some of my posts you might notice a theme relating to courage and strength.
As a child I suffered from social anxiety disorder which developed into agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house) as an adult. I have spent the majority of my life being terrified of just about everything and breaking into tears at the smallest criticism-- the result was a constant sense of being weak and cowardly.
I have hated that part of myself-- the scared child-- for a long time. In this dream I reflect on what I need to be braver and stronger until the reoccurring problem resolves. Once I learn that I have control over my own actions and that I am ready to face them they dissolve.
We all have our difficulties-- our dark or "shadow" sides-- that we try to suppress out of shame or a sense that it is "wrong" to feel or act a certain way. Your struggles may not be fear-based or turn into a full blown disorder like mines have but they are there and that's okay. This dream was significant not only because I eventually faced and made (unexpected) peace with a side of myself that I had suppressed (aggression/ anger) to overcome my fear but because it repeated itself until I got there.
If life is all about growth and learning then it makes sense that we are not given just one opportunity to overcome something. In fact we tend to face the same (or similar) struggles again and again until we learn the lesson. Life is a good teacher in that way. We can't really move on until we learn whatever it is that the universe/ higher ups/ God is trying to teach us. Once we master it we move on to a new lesson. Our initial encounter with whatever we are trying to learn can feel overwhelming-- impossible even. It's kind of like when you go to your first class of the year and are handed a syllabus with what looks like 500 assignments culminating in a massive research project about something you know nothing about. You sit and stare at that packet with apprehension-- how the hell am I supposed to do this? You have no idea how to write this kind of paper or what this topic is. That's okay. You don't need to know it yet, but by the end of the class you will complete all of that work including the project. Then you will look back and say: "wow. I did it. I didn't think it was possible but it was."
That's life. We face things that we feel are insurmountable until we learn them. Then we can take a breath to acknowledge how far we have come before diving into the next class.
For anyone curious, here is the actual dream and my initial thoughts about it:
I had a dream a couple nights ago. It was brutal but when I woke up the symbolism in it seemed significant.
In the dream there was a waterway. It was only a few yards wide, but it separated the shore where I stood from a small island covered with pine trees and boulders.
I had two friends with me and we decided to swim across the waterway and go to explore the island. When we reached the island we crawled along the outskirts for a short while but when we finally stepped onto the land we were greeted by the roar of a gigantic grizzly bear. The first of my friends believed in peace and harmony with nature and fearlessly went up to meet the bear. She reached her hand towards its face like you would when meeting a new dog and coaxed it gently.
The bear lunged forward and caught her in his teeth and claws. Before she could scream my second friend jumped into action. She pulled out a machete-like blade and swiftly sliced at the bear, decapitating it with a few strong swipes. The bears head rolled down the shore towards the water. I stood in the background gaping uselessly and trying to make sense of what had just happened.
The dream started again. Me and two friends stood on the shore facing the island and decided to swim across the waterway. We got to the island, but this time we knew that there would be a bear waiting for us when we stepped onto the shore. We followed the same path as before, but this time the friend with the machete took the lead. As soon as the grizzly roared she leaped forward and sliced its head off. The head rolled down the shore towards the water.
I stood again on the shore but this time the peaceful friend was replaced by an acquaintance. She was adventurous and eager to get to the island and discover the monstrous bear that lived there. We crossed the waterway once more and took the same path up the shore. The bear appeared again, barely lifting its head before the acquaintance attacked. Unlike my friend who stood in front of me with her hand on the hilt of her machete, this new girl was eager for the kill and didn't wait for it to be self-defense. For her it was a game. As before I stood in the background watching. The bear looked up and caught my eye before it died this time. There was something somber in the expression-- not a monster after all.
I didn't focus on that. I focused on the friend standing in front of me, guarding me. She would die protecting me if she had to. I thought about her courage and her strength. Where did it come from? Why didn't I have any.
My friend, our acquaintance and I crossed the waterway again. Again the acquaintance was eager to kill the bear and use its head as trophy. This time I told myself I would be brave and I would be the one who protected my friend. We got to the shore and I had barely gotten out of the water when the bear cried out in pain. My friend dashed forward. I stood half in the water as the bears head rolled down the bank towards me.
I felt disappointed first that I had not had the chance to kill the bear and prove my worth. Then I felt guilty for even wanting to kill an animal when it was so far from what I believed in.
Why would I want that?
But I didn't want to kill the bear. I wanted to know that I was strong enough and brave enough that I could do it; if I had to.
I hadn't been strong or brave.
I'll be stronger I told myself. I'll do better. What do I need? What do I need to be the protector this time?
I needed a weapon. I couldn't guard anyone against a bear without some kind of protection.
I stood on the shore. My friend and our acquaintance made plans to cross the water. I turned and walked in the opposite direction. I walked back towards the city until I found a blacksmith. There was a blade waiting for me there. It was a long silver dagger, with an engraved handle and twisting metal that reminded me of a unicorn's horn making up the blade.
I returned to the shore. It was my turn. I would be the one to fight the bear this time.
We swam across the water. I held the dagger tight in my hand. I could do it. I wouldn't chicken out. I would be brave. I could do it. We walked onto the shore. My grip tightened I raised my blade--
There was no bear. There was only a clearing where the bear used to stand. My friend shrugged to me and we kept going. We walked up trails and climbed along boulders. Eventually we reached a fallen tree trunk propped up against a living tree so that it made a triangle with the live tree and the ground. We walked up the fallen trunk as though it were a ramp and then we stopped.
There it was. The grizzly bear was meandering slowly up the path toward us. I lifted my dagger again.
Here we go. As soon as it attacks.
The bear looked up as it approached us. It made eye contact with me once more and it's eyes were gently-- sad maybe-- but not dangerous.
It's a trick. It will charge soon. It knows where we are, it will attack.
It continued to walk upright towards us. It's head was just a few inches below my own.
Here we go. My mouth was dry, but I was ready.
The bear yawned and then it fell to all fours. It picked a few berries from a bush growing in the shade of our tree trunk. Then it curled up and went to sleep right under us.
What happened? I looked at my friend. She shrugged and we went on. There was a new waterway on the other side of the island, leading to a new patch of land that needed exploring.
Then I woke up.
Here is what stood out to me:
Water is associated with the subconscious and soul growth. New land= unexplored realms of inner existence.
The bear is my Native American Zodiac Sign.
It was me. I was looking at a part of myself that had split off and grown wild so that I didn't recognize it anymore-- even though it recognized me.
The dream repeated with different actions and different results until I learned the lesson.
The lesson was courage and taking control of my own destiny (taking the dagger). Once I had grown stronger internally there was no reason to fight with myself. Instead there was peace. Then a new path opened up. The next lesson lies somewhere up ahead.
I looked up the meaning of bears in dreams.
Here is what I found:
Dreaming of Bears
Bears are symbols of calm, stoic strength. Bears also indicate a time of introspection. If you are dreaming of a bear sleeping or hibernating, this is a message to do a little soul searching before you present an idea to the world. If a bear is chasing you, this means you are avoiding a big issue in your life, and it is time to deal with it. If the bear is standing up, this is a sign you need to defend your beliefs. Dreaming of bears sometimes indicates you are aware of your power, but sometimes you hide it from others. In this case, the bear in your dream might be encouraging you to recognize your power. Don't wait until you're poked one too many times to show your ferocity. Rather, express your influence and move forward through the forest that might be blocking you from living a full life.