Sometimes a dream will feature a very specific part of the body. As the dreamer relates the dream he or she may describe the spot very precisely. Usually there is a reason for this careful choice of location; the dreammaker is trying to call attention to something. Here’s an example. A 62-year-old woman recently told me this dream:
“Shot in the Back”
“I’m in a house with a bunch of other people. A woman is coming down the stairs, she has been shot in the back from behind a door. We all rush over. My sense is that there was some kind of conflict between this woman and a man. She left the room and the man shot her through the door. The bullet went into her back, through her body and exited on the right hand side just underneath her breast. One of the shocking things was—there was no blood, just a black hole. The feeling was shock and surprise–how could someone shoot through the door and shoot through this woman? How could they have aimed the gun through a closed door? The woman is still standing there, looking shocked, with the black hole below her breast on the right side. The rest of us don’t do anything, we just stand there watching. There was no story to the dream. Just this one image.”
The first thing I do when I hear a dream with a featured body part is run through the “3 F’s” quickly in my mind: is the reference primarily physical, functional, or figurative (I know one of them is a ‘ph’ but its easier to remember this way).
Is the woman’s back highlighted for a physical reason? Does she have back pain? An injury in this area? The beginning of a pathological process? Or is it pointing to something deeper inside her body (since the hole goes all the way through)? Is there a problem with the meridian that runs through this point on either the front or the back? An energetic ‘black hole’ on the right side?
Or perhaps it is one of the many functions of the back that the dream is trying to call attention to. Is it pointing out a postural problem? Is she having trouble supporting herself? Is there an issue with standing up?
Or is the dream using a figure of speech or play on words? Did she “turn her back on someone” provoking an injurious retaliation? Is the ‘shot in the back’ similar to ‘stabbed in the back’ Ie: betrayed by someone? To ‘shoot someone in the back’ implies a cowardly and covert act of aggression as opposed to a direct and honest confrontation, is this the key to understanding the dream message? (Remember, with figures of speech, what you are looking for is the operative metaphor of the dream that will help connect the dream image to the dreamer’s life. Don’t get too excited just because you think you have spotted the key figure of speech; if it doesn’t turn on the aha! light for the dreamer and lead to a resonant connection then it’s not the metaphor you’re looking for. Just drop it and try something else).
In this case I knew that this woman had often struggled with adrenal exhaustion and I suspected that this might be the critical aspect of the bullet wound in the dream. A bullet with that trajectory would pass through the area of the right adrenal gland. So I suggested: “Is it possibly pointing out that your adrenals are shot?” This was immediately and strongly resonant for her. She was indeed in an acute phase of adrenal exhaustion at that time, which had recently been verified by laboratory testing.
Now that the dream message was understood and connected to her life we moved on to the task of considering what her response would be. What does the shot woman need, I asked her? “Rest!” was her immediate response. “Deep restorative rest.”
On the first level of response (the imaginal level) we visualized taking the injured woman to a comfortable bed, laying her down and caring for her, as someone would be cared for in an ideal convalescent ward. The dreamer also realized that a third-level actual response (ie: a waking life change) was needed in this case. She resolved to challenge her pattern of over-committing to other people and to cut back her current work load.
So, when someone tells you a dream like this with a featured location in the body, you can be pretty sure that the location was chosen for a particular reason…but…since every part of the body performs multiple functions and it features in dozens of figures of speech, it may take you and the dreamer a while to figure out what that reason is.