Insights from Ireland: Cooking Possum Stew


mother and babyAfter I wrote my associations to the symbols in my Ireland dream, I started on its message. The biggest clues to a dream’s meaning are recent waking life experiences and how you responded to them. I was aware of some issues, thoughts and feelings in the days before the dream, but which were relevant and which were not? In the month since then I’ve pursued several dead ends but feel close to the core now. Here’s how my thinking has evolved.
Act I: It’s obvious that my psyche (mansion) is undergoing some kind of alchemical transformation (golden urn). I get it that my animus envisions a nourishing (dining room) change that would unite the vessel and its contents. But what is the nature of this change? I don’t know.
Act II: I understand that my ego wants to maintain a smooth and shiny persona (pinboard). As a “J” personality type, (see this site for an explanation), I like keeping the outer aspects of my life orderly and organized. But what less-obvious parts of my persona (covered pin holes and scraps of paper) still need work? And why doesn’t X want me to expose them? Is he afraid people will see that he’s/I’m not always smart, confident, in control, or right? Could be. New situations like this do bring out this concern. Maybe he’s my overly self-conscious perfectionist who fears I’ll say or do something thoughtless or annoying?
Act III: Another aspect of my animus (my thinker/spiritual striver/writer?) thinks some valuable old (as in inherited or acquired at an early age) qualities should be openly displayed. This could refer to personality traits that have been helpful in my inner and outer work, and also to the fact that I’m comfortable with aging. But what’s this primitive instinct (possum) hidden beneath the externalities that I don’t want in the house of my psyche? Which of my five instincts—nurturance, activity, reflection, sex or creativity—does it represent?
The mention of the dining room suggests the instinct for nurturance. Physical survival has never been an issue, but what is problematic is my emotional need for approval and security and my resistance to admitting to these needs. This is a root chakra issue that would have begun in my infancy.
possummotherSomeone at the conference noted that possums play dead when they’re frightened; hence, the phrase, “playing possum.” Another said that baby possums cling to the mother’s fur when they ride on her back. These associations felt important then and still do. There’s a frightened young possum in me that didn’t get all the mothering she needed and somehow plays dead as a result. But how does this show up in waking life?
Here’s what was going on with me. We left Orlando on Thursday and arrived at the conference site on Sunday afternoon. The pre-trip packing, airport hassles, flight to Dublin and lack of sleep left me exhausted. Two days of hectic touring in a new city reduced my normally low tolerance for excessive stimulation to zero tolerance for practically everything and everyone! Then we left the Dublin hotel, took a taxi to a meeting point, had a long bus ride to Cromleach Lodge, checked in, unpacked and organized luggage. Then there were 37 new people to meet.
Maybe these things aren’t problematic for some personalities, but for people like me, they’re challenging. Why? Partly because I’m an Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging Type. Partly because I was fully conscious of my feelings and didn’t like them. Stoic as usual, I was doing a pretty good job of containing my emotions (playing dead), (Fred told me later he had no idea how stressed I was), but, perfectionist that I am, I considered them unworthy. Inwardly I was shaming myself and my self-criticism was dragging me down. I couldn’t forgive myself for being human!
Next time, the big “Aha!”
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4 Responses

  1. Very much like the possum symbolism; I didn’t realize how much I was “aping” these gentle creatures. And speaking of synchronicity, I’m currently reading Elaine N. Aron’s “The Highly Sensitive Person”, which (true to her introduction) has prompted a few sobbing sessions of the “so nice to be understood” kind… your last paragraph made me think of what she says about shy and introverted types; you’re describing it exactly as she does, right down to the self-criticism. Why are we so hard on ourselves? Because no one else will be? (Ha ha)

    1. I didn’t realize I had any possum in me either, Lorrie, until I had this dream. Even then, when the first association to enter my mind upon waking was “playing possum,” my ego automatically rejected it. My unwillingness to accept this aspect of my personality is why it’s taken me so long to understand its impact on me! Why are we so afraid of our shadows? Because admitting to them means we’re like the people we don’t like? 🙂 Thanks for writing. I enjoy hearing from you. Jeanie

  2. Dear Jeanie, it’s wonderful to see your dream unfolding. I found myself looking at the image of ‘mother’ possum carrying all her babies again and again and whatever way I look at it, I find myself drawn in. The sheer ‘strength of the mother’, the ‘vunerability of the babies’ or ‘what we carry behind’ are only a few associations a person could make. Your choice of images is adding a distinct and rich flavour to this Possum Stew! Thank you, Deborah

    1. I find this image compelling too, Deborah. Thank you for your associations. I also feel compassion for this mother. She carries such a heavy burden of responsibility…as did my mother, as did I, as do all mothers. We, too, are extremely vulnerable at this point in our lives, and more than a few of us are brought to our knees by the strain. Jeanie

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