House as a Metaphor

I dream often of houses, sometimes houses I recognize from waking life, sometimes ones created fully from my imagination, and often a hybrid of the two. When I dream of my childhood home I always look to see if the dream is speaking to some belief or issue I’ve held since those very young days. I’ve dreamed a lot lately of the first house my husband and I bought together, where we lived when we were first married. I wonder if it’s showing up so frequently now because our oldest daughter is leaving for college and so our role as parents is shifting. We’ll have to adjust our own relationship in response, just as we adjusted to living together when we were newlyweds.

Often I dream a variation on the theme of discovering rooms in my house that I never knew existed. I know many people share these dreams, though the specifics vary greatly. One of my friends reported that the rooms she discovers are full of art supplies and she realizes she can participate in her artistic endeavors there. When I discover unknown spaces, they are usually large empty rooms and my thought is “I could store so much stuff here!” I know this resonates with my waking life experience of having boxes and boxes of family archives that I don’t really have room for, and my longing for a space to store them that wouldn’t impinge on my family’s spaces. But since it’s a dream symbol, I would be stopping short of potential understanding if I stopped at the obvious meaning.

Unexpected, unknown rooms in houses tend to be about the dreamer’s untapped potential. In the case of my friend, the dreams come with the reminder that there is the potential for creativity and artistic expression even amid the important daily duties that absorb time. In my dreams, I think the dreams come to remind me that there’s enough room in the world for my work. I make the association between “storage” and “stories,” so I think I’m not always recognizing the potential of the stories I have to tell.

Houses can also represent our bodies. I’ve seen amazing work in dream circles when someone draws the floor plan of the house in his or her dream and we read the drawing as a human body. Often the main action of the dream shows where in the body there’s a problem. The action in the dream often sheds light on the underlying nature of the problem.

The other night I dreamed of going up into an upper floor bedroom and the upper part of the doorway was shrouded in old cobwebs. My first reading on it is that there’s some place in my head that’s feeling cobwebby and unattended. I’m sure other dreamers would project other layers of meaning on the cobwebs in that space. Even as I write this, another meaning occurs to me. Since spiders are often associated with the Great Mother, and so by extension mothers in general, maybe these cobwebs, old and tattered, represent the grieving process I’ve had since my mother died. The cobwebs in the dream don’t bother me, they’re just something I notice as I go through the doorway. That’s how my grief feels now—familiar but not encumbering.

Individual rooms in houses also carry a lot of meaning, but I’ll leave those for another time, in the interest of keeping this fairly short.

6 comments to House as a Metaphor

  • kim

    Thank you for the association of storage with stories. We are storage units full of valuable stories.

  • Karen Robinson

    I also have frequent dreams of finding empty rooms and being delighted with the idea that I can store stuff there.

    The most powerful ‘house as body’ dream I ever had was the night after my hysterectomy. I dreamed about a house where the floor had been torn out and the basement gutted and the staircase torn out. There were dead cats in the basement. Then, a few weeks later when I had done a lot of healing, I dreamed about the same house with the floor replaced and the basement refinished with new carpeting, new carpeted stairs, and purring cats living there.

  • Karen Robinson

    I got a real “aha!” reading your interpretation of your cobweb dream. I don’t know if that means anything, when it’s not my dream. But if it *were* my dream, I’d say you were exactly right. Wow.

    • Laura Deal

      Of course it means something even if it weren’t your dream to begin with. It’s your imagined version of it, which is a great way to get insight. I’m glad it resonated with you!

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