From Patricia’s Notebooks

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Selected dream images with commentary from the hundreds
of drawings in the notebooks of Patricia Garfield, PhD.

Inappropriate Clothes Nightmare — A Bride-to-be’s Dream

Comments: Only two weeks remained before her planned wedding when a bride-to-be had the nightmare depicted in my drawing.  She was badly shaken by the dream, especially since the groom-to-be dreamt, around the same time, that he was in jail.  Sadly, the dream proved too true when the groom left town two days before the wedding, abandoning his intended.  To her, he behaved like the clown she had pictured in her nightmare.  She was not laughing.  Being dressed in the wrong clothes in a dream suggests that some social role does not “fit” the figure wearing the inappropriate outfit.

Drowning Nightmare — A Divorcing Woman’s Dream

Comments:    The woman who had this nightmare was in the process of being divorced by her husband when he left her for another woman.  In her nightmare, the dreamer was drowning without making any effort to swim, call for help, or otherwise struggle to survive.  When she awoke, she was appalled by her acceptance of drowning, in the same way that she had accepted the divorce proceedings.  She felt as if she were being abandoned and that the divorce would be the end of her life.  The nightmare my drawing portrays spurred the dreamer to get proper legal representation and also to go into therapy.  It impelled her to take action to “save herself” in waking life.

Trapped House Nightmare — A Woman Lawyer’s Dream

Comments: The woman who had this nightmare was a lawyer in a firm where the partners were all male.  In her dream, she saw a charming little house, the kind she loved, getting squeezed on all sides by concrete “high-rises.”  Awake, she wept for the small house that was being “squeezed out.”  She realized the nightmare expressed her frustration at work, where she had expected to be made a partner.  Her dream inspired her decision to leave the firm if she was not made a partner within a specific time period.  It gave her the courage to confront her colleagues about the situation in waking life.  She was, in fact, soon made a partner.


Fruitfulness — A Woman’s Dream of Joyful Pregnancy

Comments: The woman who had this happy dream woke up with the certainty that she was pregnant.  In the dream, she looked down at her belly and saw with delight that two full clusters of ripe grapes were growing.  She had been trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant for a few years.  This dream informed her she had succeeded and tests verified the fact.  Our dreams can sometimes accurately portray changes in our bodies before we notice them in the waking state.  Ripe fruit and grains are typical images during pregnancy.  These grapes are suggestive of full ovaries in the same area internally.  My drawing shows the dreamer’s surprise and pleasure at her successful pregnancy.

Fear of Attack — A Child’s Dream of the Adult She Suspects

Comments: The child who had this nightmare remembered it vividly as an adult.  In her dream, a female relative was acting kindly toward her, but the girl glimpsed “the wolf” lurking under the mask.  She was terrified.  The adult actually lived with the child and her parents.  In her nightmare, the girl sensed a threat beneath the woman’s pleasant surface; it made her leery of the woman while awake.  Any dream animal with sharp teeth suggests the possibility of anger as a cause of the nightmare.  This dreamer might have become aware that the relative felt angry toward her but was restraining it in the family setting.  My drawing portrays the dreamer’s dread that the woman might lose control and vent her anger.  The girl could have benefitted from suggestions on how to cope with dream threats.

Men and Women Dream Differently — Illustration by Patricia Garfield, PhD

Comment:  Despite many areas of overlapping interests in dreams, men and women tend to focus on different topics.  Women’s dreams are often more colorful and contain more references to clothing, jewelry, houses, flowers, faces, babies, people and enclosed objects with openings in them (Freud had a point) than men’s dreams do.  Men’s dreams tend to picture more cars and other vehicles, tools, weapons, and elongated objects than women’s dreams do.  My drawing shows some of these general trends.  Individual men and women may not dream in these average patterns, depending upon the dreamer’s personal interests.

Charming Rat -- a pen and ink drawing by Patricia Garfield



Beware the charming rat—

he comes in many a form:

he may be thin or fat,

whip-smart or just norm.


Tall or short, light or dark of hair,

of his changing shapes, take care.

He’ll use you, then lose you–

lose you, then escape, unfair.


It’d be easy to despise him,

to wrench him from your head,

if only he were not so very,

very good in bed.


(Patricia Garfield  —  February, 2005)

Commentary on “The Charming Rat”

Animals in women’s dreams often represent specific men in their waking lives.  Commonly, women symbolize a particular man by a bear, a horse, a dog, a snake, a fish, a bird or a rat (among other creatures).

The exact animal a woman dreams about depends upon:
•  her feelings about the actual man at the time of the dream and
•  her associations to the chosen animal.

Dreams about “rats behaving badly” (for example, “A rat with golden fur bit my finger painfully”) suggest that, at the time of the dream, the woman feels that an individual male in her waking life is acting “like a rat.”

The “charming rat” described in the dream poem is dangerous precisely because he doesn’t seem to be “ratty” on the surface.  Such a dream is a warning to the dreamer.