The reason dreams about jails are such powerful metaphors is because “prison” is such a perfect metaphor of the way all human beings can potentially become trapped inside our egos. When we have fear, anger, jealousy, disappointment, sadness, etc these negative emotions become like walls, bars and fences keeping us contained within a small area where growth & progress is nearly impossible.
The old way of looking at things is to avoid feeling the fear or other negative emotions but when we do that it’s like we are caging ourselves in and we can never experience true freedom. Instead, when we use FEAR as the KEY to unlock the DOOR then we move through the fear and discover limitless potential for our Selves!
Fear often shows up in dreams when we are running away from something, maybe a vicious animal or maybe a threatening person with a weapon. When we are running away in a dream it means we are trying to run away from something in real life. So when we understand what we are afraid of and face it then we can use Courage to do things which the fear had been stopping us from doing.
A dream comes to mind as I write this, one that I had years ago, when I was just beginning a journey of empowerment through dreamwork transformation. In the dream, I was being chased by a bear and at first I started running but then I got to a cliff and instead of jumping off which was what I wanted to do (anything to escape the thing I feared, right?) then I just turned around and faced the bear. It stopped running. Sniffed around and turned around and left me alone. A tremendous feeling of Strength filled me in that dream and when I worked through it the next day I recalled that bears in dreams are about Empowerment & Strength and the dream was telling me to have a lot of Strength when dealing with these HUGE challenges in front of me. I filled myself with the feeling of Strength and Courage and tackled the tasks with success. It was a great feeling! Before the dream, I was sort of feeling like giving up. The image of facing the bear helped me discover what I needed to do to face my fears.
This is an example of where I had been caged within my own Self, my ego, my own inner jail, thinking I couldn’t succeed and wanting to give up. The fear was a clue to me that I needed Courage and Strength so when I used Fear to give me a clue as to what I needed to do, then I found the positive qualities I needed in order to finish what I had started.
This is one of the reasons I really like listening to dreams from inmates. They have the real life experience of living in jail … but sometimes their inner states are far more FREE than many people who live on the outside. We can learn a lot from the dreams & stories of people who are in jail or who have been there. The main thing is to drop the judgement and just listen. After that, some really amazing things open up.