Lately I've been having a dream which has been causing me a lot of worries, and making me wonder what it is supposed to mean. I dream that I am in the center of a large circle of people. These people are all the people who have helped me when I have attempted suicide. The dream starts with me making them promise me that they won't move, or do anything until I've finished what I am going to do. They all agree and I sit down in the center of them. I am facing the one friend who first discovered what I was doing and always helped me through when things weren't going very well, but she recently moved away. After I sit down I get out a bottle from my purse, and while everyone is sitting there, not moving only watching me I take all the medicine in the bottle. When I'm done, only one person moves, and that is my friend who I was facing. She comes and stands over me, but she does nothing but look at me with an empty expression on her face. Soon I hear the others get up, but instead of coming over to me, they leave, as if nothing happened. I now notice that my friend is trying to reach me and help me, but for some reason she can't, and here my dream ends.
What does this mean?
You have written to a mental health professional about dreaming of suicidal ideation. As a 15 year-old young woman, you are considered to be high-risk for suicide, so my first concern is for your safety. Do you actually have a history of suicidal gestures? If so, I'd encourage you to talk with whomever you have seen (psychiatrist, therapist, medical doctor, etc.) in the past when you have attempted (or wanted to attempt) suicide. We (therapists) take suicide very seriously. Your letter refers to dream imagery rather than real life experiences, but I cannot assume that you have not attempted suicide in the past and that you are not currently suicidal. If you ARE currently suicidal, then your letter may be a cry for help, which needs immediate response. There are resources in your town for you, and I encourage you to talk with your doctor or a counselor ASAP if you are feeling self-destructive. There are also suicide hotline numbers in the front of your phone book. Call one if you need help now.
Now on to the dream...You are in the center of the circle. You tell them (exactly) what to do. You test their reactions. They pretty much do exactly what you've told them (nothing) - except for your one friend, who, apparently, is concerned but ineffective. My guess is that this shows, basically, the emotional impact your prior suicidal attempts have had on you and your relationships with others; you are (unconsciously) becoming aware of the manipulative nature of your suicidal gestures. This probably is what you have done in the past; people who love and care for you (perhaps your family and friends) have watched helplessly as you have harmed or attempted to harm yourself. (I don't mean this literally, as you did in the dream. I am referring to the way suicidal gestures can be used to control, manipulate, and keep others at a distance. Suicidal tendencies, although desperately painful, can be an unconscious way to control and dominate others).
The persons in this dream could indicate other people (such as family and friends) but they could also represent the different aspects of your own self. As a teenager, you have some (as yet) unresolved identity role confusion, and this circle could represent the many you's - daughter, adolescent, student, friend, etc. The person (in the dream) who came forward might be the aspect of yourself which feels most confused, threatened, and/or powerless by your self-destructive thoughts and/or attempts. I think your unconscious is revealing an important truth to you in this dream; this dream is revealing the importance of self responsibility to you.
Deciding to live, embrace life, and have goals and dreams will not be the job of anyone else but you. No one else can effectively MAKE you believe in and value yourself, but YOU can. It's a disturbing dream, all right, because it makes an existential statement...you must choose the responsibility to self-fulfillment, which comes with choosing life. You must make a commitment to love and care for you, because others cannot make this commitment for you. This dream relates to your development, maturation and commitment to your own happiness and wellbeing. Pay attention to this dream.
Margaret "Peg" Burr , MA, MFT
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/