The egg is a fascinating symbol. When an egg appears in a dream it always catches my attention; I know that something important is being shown, something to do with a potential life which has not quite come out into the world. The dream egg may hatch. Or perhaps it may not.
Over the years I have noticed that men can have dreams of eggs but women have them far more often. Why? I suspect there is a reason rooted in biology – a woman’s body has eggs inside it. These eggs are powerful cells, they speak to her, they affect her behavior and her sexual response, and they come to her in dreams. After all they are potential lives living within her that she (and fateful circumstance) may or may not bring forward into the full manifestation of a born child. To me it is not surprising or far-fetched to consider that a woman’s eggs have an agenda–they want to be fertilized, gestated, born and raised. That’s why they’re there, and they have a lot at stake; it’s life or death for them. The stakes are greatly heightened every month after a woman ovulates. A story unfolds within her body that (if she notices) is enacted again and again in her dream life. What will happen to this egg that, after decades of patient waiting, has just been ripened and released from the ovary? Will it be fertilized and reach a safe haven in the womb? Or will it wait and wait and wait, then finally die unfulfilled? I have worked with many woman’s dreams where the feeling tone of profound grief and loss that permeated the dream was eventually connected to a dying egg and the end of another monthly window of fertility. A post-menopausal women may no longer have these same events playing out inside her but she may still have dreams that arise from her body memory of eggs and ovulation.
Any part of a person that has its own agenda and its own story can appear in a dream. Many of us are familiar with this concept of “parts” as it relates to our psyche and its sub-personalities; we speak of our inner child part, our frightened part, our self-hating part, the part that holds our sadness or our ambition, etc.; and it is indeed true that all these parts will appear in our dreams, played by actors and metaphorical stand-ins of all stripes. But we should not forget that our biological parts have much to say too. The full bladder has probably been responsible for more dream recall than any other entity in the entire universe!
Here’s an example of a dream shared with me recently by a 38-year old woman:
I’ve lost my two year old boy in a big building! I’m frantically running around screaming his name! I’m grabbing people and sending them off to different parts of the building to help search for him. I go down to the lower area of the building and start looking through all the closets. As I’m running down some stairs I pass a fetus…just lying there on the stairs. I realize that someone has given birth to it and just left it there! I look at it… it’s still alive. I get another woman and tell her to look after it. I tell her that I have to go find my son, but I will come back. I find my son, he’s just playing happily as if nothing had happened. I scoop him up and hug him. Then I go back to find the woman who is looking after the fetus. Should I help her? I see a closet on the stairs where the fetus was lying. I look inside…it’s dark but I can see deeply inside…there are about fifty fetuses inside, hanging on hooks from the ceiling as if they’ve been strung up. They look like white bats hanging upside-down in the darkness. I want to look away…”
One thing that struck me as I listened to this dream was that it seemed to consist of two very intense motifs spliced together– the lost child motif and the motif of the dead fetuses in the cave. The lost child motif is a very common one; almost every parent has had his or her version of it. It is often repetitive and tormentingly fearful, and in my experience is usually best handled as a brain field motif – a dream motif arising form a neural network in the brain that corresponds to a common primordial fear. As such it is usually not bearing an important message for the dreamer; rather it is a result of the sleeping brain revisiting an old fear fossil (if you’re in doubt ask the dreamer directly: “do you intuitively feel that this dream is trying to deliver an important message, or is it just replaying an old fear circuit in your brain?”).
But what about the fifty dead fetuses in the cave? What could be going on here? Whenever I hear a woman’s dream of multiple young beings grouped closely together I always suspect that it may be arising from her ovary/egg nature, so I asked the dreamer when the dream had occurred in relation to her menstrual cycle. She replied that it came just as her period was starting. This is the most common time for a woman to have a dying egg dream so now I was leaning even more towards the ovarian connection. I asked her: “Do you think it’s possible that this cave full of fetuses may be a representation of your ovaries and the remaining eggs inside?” This was an immediate and resonant connection for her. She told me that she was recently starting to feel perimenopausal, and with three children she was definitely not planning for any more pregnancies; yet she did have some background feeling of sadness about “the ones who would never be alive.”
Now the whole scene with the fetus on the stairs and the cave full of hanging fetuses made sense to her. As she talked about it the feeling began to shift from nightmarish horror to a calm sadness. This was not some awful emergency that required any immediate action. It was just a depiction of one dying egg outside her ovaries, and fifty more inside that would never become fully alive. She accepted this state of affairs in her mind, but I sensed that her feeling body would benefit from some further work. I suggested that she might want to think about a ritual of some kind that would honor her unborn eggs and help her say goodbye to them.
One puzzling question remained– why was the dying egg motif coupled with the lost child motif? To me this gives us a fascinating window into the workings of the human brain; the sleeping brain will often skip from one neural network to another if they are thematically connected and adjacent to one another in some way. The common element here is losing a child, it is not too surprising that these motifs might get crossed up with each other in the frantic action of a nightmare. But in terms of responding to this dream I think it is very important to separate the two motifs because they call for very different kinds of response. The lost child can be handled as a brain field (re-enter the dreamscape, catch yourself, recognize that you are caught in a repeating loop that does not contain useful or new information, and then walk out of the setting, practice this several times to establish an escape circuit from the problematic circuit). The dying egg motif meanwhile can be handled (perhaps paradoxically) as a rebirth motif; this dreamer is saying goodbye to her years of reproductive fertility and giving birth to the next phase of her life as a woman.
Dreams arising from a woman’s egg nature will use many egg-related symbols to express their powerful agenda–eggs themselves are very common, but also anything which seems very young and unformed. This would included fetuses (as in this dream), tiny babies or tiny children, and anything which is suggestive of an embryonic life form (snails, shrimp, tadpoles, seahorses, chicks, larvae, etc.). Once you have been alerted to the appearance of these biological and somatic motifs in dreams you will start noticing them again and again… I can assure you of that!