Thursday, January 7, 2010

What's in your dream pocketbook?




Though I'm a mere man who's never even carried a "European shoulder bag", I've come to know a bit about women's pocketbooks, and especially how they feature in dreams. I've talked with hundreds of women about their dreams of handbags over the years. In leading dream theatre in my workshops I've been struck by how often a pocketbook has proven to be a key element in the drama - lost or stolen, at risk, flaunted or misused or swung as a weapon.
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The handbag in a dream may of course be just a handbag, one that needs to be checked or kept safe. Everyone knows someone who's had a handbag nabbed by a mugger, sometimes after dreaming this exact event, while failing to recognize a quite literal warning. So if you tell me a dream in which your pocketbook is lost or stolen, my first step will be to encourage you to look for clues in the dream as to when and where this could happen, so you can avoid this situation in the future. We also know people who've rushed off to the airport without a passport or driver's license. So if you tell me you dreamed something like that, my first advice to you will be to check that you have your travel documents before you leave home on your next trip.
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Now let's think about the symbolism of a pocketbook and what it contains. By my observation, a woman's handbag typically contains:
- ID
- keys
- credit cards
- cell phone
- currency
- change
- medicines
- ID
- a whole mess of personal stuff
- trinkets and lucky charms
- treats and snacks
- ID
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Did you notice any repetition? Good. Three times makes the point.
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Each of the literal items I've listed (and you can add your own) is rich in symbolism. Together, they represent power and identity, things we don't want to lose or have taken from us. One woman dreamed she was fighting off a giant panther with her pocketbook. That's power! She held up her own side so well that in a later dream the panther reappeared as her friend, purring like a kitty. Another woman dreamed she was at the office and kept leaving her pocketbook in a place where it was vulnerable. In the dream, she couldn't break this habit, even though she knew that a creepy man who might be a robber was prowling the halls and snooping around her things. When I invited her to compare the behavior of her dream self to that of her waking self, she was able to come up with an action plan that involved not giving up her power in her work situation. Another woman dreamed she had left her purse in church and needed to go back to retrieve it. She felt this reflected the fact that for part of her life, as a devout member of her congregation, she had given up her right to direct knowledge of the sacred, and was now reclaiming that.
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A woman's pocketbook can represent her sexuality. You don't have to be a Freudian to see the possible sexual associations with the way it opens and closes. I remember wildly funny dream theatre back in the (Bill) Clinton era in which we play-acted a dream in which Bill is trying to get into a woman's purse. Eons ago, at a dream conference, I couldn't miss the the sexual character of this type of dream while doing a dreamwork process with an attractive woman from Texas . In her dream, she is repeatedly and compulsively opening her purse and snapping it shut. As she recounted the dream, in front of 200 people, she couldn't stop herself vamping and gyrating.
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Again, a bag can just be a bag. I had a recurring motif in dreams over a period of 18 months - that a little grey carry-on bag I always took with me on trips was lost or stolen. The context was different in each of these dreams, but the outcome was the same. The dreams prompted me not to carry my passport or valuables in that bag, which was a good thing, because 18 months after the first lost-bag dream, that grey carry-on was stolen from a car I rented in California. There was symbolism in the literal event that followed the dream. On the day it was stolen, that grey carry-on bag contained a working draft of a book I later decided not to publish.
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Playing with our dream symbols is fun. We also need to be more literal about dreams and more symbolist about the incidents of waking life. That's my bag.
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Speaking of what's my bag: One or two members of our global dreaming family have put it to me that I should now be evolved enough not to reject out of hand what (they say) could be called a "murse" (as in man's purse) or a "clutch-bag" as well as a "European shoulder bag". This brings out the Aussie primate in me in a dangerous way, and I want to use an expression I haven't voiced much since I left my native shores, and may have long since fallen into disuse in Oz: "Don't come the raw prawn with me."

10 comments:

Patricia said...

Hi Robert,
The first thing that came into my mind when I saw the 'handbag' was that famous line from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of being Ernest. The shock of learning that the baby was 'in a handbag' and the handbag was stolen. Thus all the confusion of his identity later on. I fully get the message about protecting our ID and the power that sits in the handbag. Mine also carrys my diary and that would be a big loss.
The other day I was in a supermarket and there was a shopping trolley with a handbag in it with no one close enough to protect it. I stood there and said is a very loud voice. 'Who owns this trolley?' A couple responded and then they heard a mini lecture about leaving their handbag unattended. I should have asked them if they had dreamed about having it stolen. Anything to promote the power of the dream.
Regards
Patricia from Oz

Robert Moss said...

Good on you for speaking up in the supermarket, Patricia!

Funny you mention "The Importance of Being Earnest." It was my school play two years running, and both the years I was made to play Ernest and announce that I was found in a handbag at Victoria Station. What's funny now, but was painful for an awkward teen, was that since I was at a boys' school my Gwendolyn played by a boy...

Nancy said...

Robert,
Wow, of course now I'm thinking of dreams where I lost my wallet (unlike most women I don't carry a purse), and how that was mirrored in my waking life by not attending carefully enough to who was using my resources.

I can also see a Common Dream Symbols book (or series?) perhaps with a chapter on purses or one on keys (I've had many dreams of having extra keys, or finding a key in an unlikely place). Of course there's no one meaning for any symbol, even if it's in dreams by the same dreamer. I do love the individual stories on a common theme, reminding me how much we all have in common, while our differences make us all fascinating.

Just trying to help you chip away at that published book count target, while still educating and entertaining myself. Be well.
Nancy

Carol said...

Hi Robert, Would you feel better ir we asked, "Where is your briefcase?" Packaging is important, but the concept seems to be androgenous to me. I haven't been on your blog for a few days. You have been prolific. Now, where is your backpack? Book bag? Carry on? Dope kit? ( that is an old male term for cosmetic bag, I believe). We all have to have a place to keep our personal stuff. Carol

Robert Moss said...

Hey Carol - The only thing remotely comparable that I carry is my drum bag, with the drum I use to power our shamanic journeys in the workshops and some other good stuff. Hopefully it won't be confused with a dop kit :-) Of course, men do tend to have more pockets...

Robert Moss said...

Nancy - Thanks for goading me to fulfill that version of my life contract in which I agreed (before coming here this time) to publish no fewer than 64 books. There's a ways to go, and that clock is ticking.

But lately I've been having a wonderful creative time NOT thinking about quotas, deadlines and agendas, just "letting the dreams have their way with me" (to borrow something Borges said to a college audience in the US).

Yes, there is something attractive to me in the idea of a NON-dictionary of dreams, very unlike those dream dictionaries that encourage people to give their power away by leaving it to a book to tell them what things mean. A new kind of book that would provide clues for the clueless, and thus a starting point - from which they can be inspired to go off in quest of their personal dream messages, and how best to honor them.

Nancy said...

Robert,
Thanks for the reply. Yes, as a dream teacher and student, my favorite exchanges about dreams include "What you said reminded me of...", always keeping the power of the dream firmly in the dreamer's lap. Clues for the clueless is a perfect way to put it -- it doesn't help anything (but maybe my ego!) to do it FOR them.

About "Don't come the raw prawn with me." -- I've heard you say this before and thought it was "comb". I pictured combing the tentacles of a small shrimp-like creature, ritual-like, and wondered about the origin. Sea-worship? Would you shed some light on this colorful expression? Thanks.
Nancy

Robert Moss said...

Hey Nancy - You'll want to use your imagination on "raw prawn". Something limp, moist and slippery - and unappetizing to most? It's more or less synonymous with "Don't treat me like a fool" or "Don't try to put one over on me." I probably first heard it from my father, who was a commando officer in WW2; certainly the phrase is of that era.

Nancy said...

Robert,
Thanks, got it. See me blush!
Nancy

Epona said...

I am not sure if this falls into the same category, but I often dream of people taking my stuff, like clothes, books, and other things that seem so incredibly important to me in the dream. Often it is my sister or lately, my ex-husband doing the taking or moving my stuff and taking over my space. I wake up filled with rage at this.

On another note, a friend of mine once said her car was just a bigger purse. I wonder if anybody else feels that way and if dreams of getting your car stolen or lost would be similar to having your wallet or purse stolen?