Snakes are one of the most common creatures in the dream space, and they almost always signify some kind of lesson about our relationship to fear. Like love, fear is a tricky word, because it has such drastically different meanings to different people. When I think about the kind of fear snakes seem to engender, I relate it to what I call primal fear, or the visceral sensation in your body that you are about to die. So, if a snake is present in your dream, you can frame your understanding of the dream as, how could the way I relate to the snake in my dream reflect my own relationship to my primal fear?
When beginning your journey with your primal fear, remember that this sensation is completely natural and essential to your being. I would contend that like love, it is always present in our bodies to some extent, the part of our soul that is aware that we are alive. To be alive, in a sense, is to know this fear, to know that our existence precious and particular and inextricably linked to the current space and time we find ourselves in. All living things are equipped with the capacity to feel this depth and intensity of feeling. This fear, in many ways, is what keeps us alive.
Even though primal fear is quite natural, it is very difficult to experience, because it is intense, energetic, and completely engulfing. Not to mention, it can be linked to traumatic experiences where death truly was imminent. When you are having and intense experience of primal fear, there is basically nothing else that you can experience except it. Often, it is totally overwhelming, and a common response of the mind is to do something to numb, distract, or deny the sensation. While in these moments we may feel like we have ‘conquered’ our fear and are thus in control of it, quite the opposite is happening. Instead of allowing our primal fear its rightful place as one of our most powerful teachers and guides, we live our lives in constant management mode, doing whatever we can to avoid this most primary sensation, and as such, being completely dominated by it.
When faced with a sensation of primal fear, the first step is to make as objective an assessment of your external situation as you can. Are you in a situation that is objectively life threatening? Are there steps you need to take to preserve your life? If so, of course, take them.
But there are probably many other times where this kind of fear arises in your body that have nothing to do with an actual life or death situation. It is in these moments that the real work begins, because it is in these moments that our primal fear connects us not only to the desire of our bodies to continue existing, but also to the desire of our souls to live out the lives we were meant to live.
So if you are faced with a snake inside of your dream, pay attention to the way you react to it. Do you feel fear in the presence of the snake, or something else? If you feel fear—an intense form, one that is not so common in your daily life, the invitation of the dream is to begin to expand your capacity to sit with and embrace that feeling as an important part of who you are. I often compare this process to strengthening a muscle—begin wherever you are, and then push yourself just a little bit more. Can you allow yourself to feel this fear for one minute a day? How about 5 minutes a day? How about a full 10? As you strengthen your capacity to feel this fear, you are making it possible for your experience of this sensation to transform—you may even find that there’s something you like about it!
On the other hand, if you don’t feel fear in the presence of the snake, notice what you do feel or how you behave/react towards the snake. Are these feelings or reactions familiar to you in your daily life? Try to make a point of noticing when you are in situations where you feel similar to how you felt in the snake dream. Once you begin to be aware of these situations, ask yourself, what if there is a deeper fear here that I am avoiding? Is there a way to take a step closer to my fear rather than away from it?
In some sense, many of our day-to-day anxieties and worries can be traced back to our avoidance of our primal fear. If we are courageous enough to stay with the energy our primal fear presents when it arises, there are many benefits. Connecting to our primal fear and allowing it to be present in our bodies creates the possibility for us to know our most fundamental and true desires, since in the light of our own death, the path of our hearts becomes illuminated. Eventually, through practice, you can even come to experience your primal fear not as fear at all, but rather as the sensation of your own heart yearning, lighting a fire inside of your belly and pushing you towards the path you were intended to walk.
How do you experience snakes in your dreams? What’s the most powerful snake dream you’ve ever had? I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts..and as always…keep dreaming!