Doll's House - or - Dreaming in Norway

Dreamer: Anna Single American-European female in her late teens.

I remember dreams from a very young age, about 1 1/2 years old. I remember two of them in detail. This is one I dreamed when I was little. It starts with me being chased by a fly with a long thin tail, throwing red darts at me, using its tail. This is behind the house I grew up in, and I am not much older than I can walk. I feel that the fly is really mean. I get struck to the ground and I have a blackout. When I come-to in the dream, I am surrounded by red darts in several rows of circles, almost like a dartboard. When I try to pull up one of the darts I find the plastic feathers sharp as razors. Usually the dream ends here, but the last time it continued. I pull the darts up, and hold them by the point in a way that would have hurt me in real life. I start looking for the fly and find it sleeping in a house made of glass, not larger than a doll's house. I smash the glasshouse and feel that it is all over, so I run around the corner towards the front door, and there is my mother, father, sister, brother, godmother and her son. I run happily into their arms. And so I wake up. It feels much like the happy ending in a movie.

Other than my dreams, I don't have any memories from that age really, but later on I've experienced a lot.

In another dream from that same time, we're going down to a pub, with a staircase with a middle part with big human living dolls. We pass them, but on the way up I talk to one who convinces me to become a doll like them. They put me down in a sofa and I change my mind and try to scream but it isn't possible. They throw pieces of cloth over me, and I become one. One of the big men dolls picks me up and throws me gaily in the air. My family passes up the stairs, watches and just smiles, disappearing in the bright light of the day outside and I am stuck there forever. Nice, isn't it? I usually come up with explanations about my dreams. It may take days or weeks and then I often forget about them. This one, not really. Maybe I was in a phase of discovering that not everything is what it looks like, a fly who is NOT harmless, I cut my self where I think I'll be safe, but that seems a bit far fetched.

This dream is the one that I remember the most, and it shows up in my thoughts very often. I am 4 or 5 years old. I am standing in the hall to our bedrooms with my father, my sister and my mother. My mother is holding the neighbours' golden retriever in a band. We all know that there is something or someone in the kitchen. My sister is sent to see what it is. I can see through her eyes when she enters the kitchen through one of our two entrances. By the table she finds a man standing, wearing ordinary clothes, but instead of a human head he's got a black head, rounded at the top, but with a straight flat bottom. It comes to me that it is the shape of a gravestone, and with two shiny yellow eyes staring at her (me). She screams and runs past it, through the other door and comes back to us. My father decides that we should leave, move out of the house. So we start walking out past the hallway and out through the door. First my father, then my mother, then my sister. Passing on my way out, I see the creature putting on his shoes. He puts his finger to his non-existing lips and hushes me. I nod, and leave quietly. I know that I dreamt this several times at that age. This dream makes no sense at all to me. I am fascinated by dreams like but these past nights they have been too intense. I can't get the pictures out of my head.

Mr. Hagen's Reply: A Doll's House

Your dreams have the feminine archetypal narrative structure of Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, in which the flawed herione Nora finds her primary duty is to herself. She discovers that she was merely a doll, a plaything "passed from papa's hands onto [Torvald's]" (her husmand). Ibsen's play reflects on the social lies and duties of men and women.

It is sad that a child must learn at an early age that looks can be deceiving, that humans have the capacity to deceive, lie, cheat, and betray. You've recognized the looking glass mangerie of deception in your first dream, but this theme runs through all of your dreams. It can be very hurtful and alienating. The deception seems to have come from within your family, or they acquiesce to it as all generations almost invariably do.

In the second dream, you are pressured then deceived to become something you are not. In life, some women take on the roles of dolls for the purpose of providing men pleasure. The women become playthings. You are left at the pub to fulfill a stereotypical role: housewife, mother, model or perhaps a sex toy. Whatever the role, if you have been forced into it, this constitutes a form of abuse. Freedom of choice and expression are the basis of a democratic society. In the final dream, evil is suspected to exist within your house. The children, you and your sister, are sent to investigate and experience it. This social evil is both man, and death. Its poetic presence is sufficient to drive your family from the house, but you are made a party to it by agreeing to be silent at the end.

From a popular culture perspective your dream reminds me of the work of Hans Bellmer, who created his doll project as a aesthetic form of resistance against the artistic ideals of masculinity and femininity created by Nazi Germany. Carried to the extreme, men's psychotic dreams can impose their representations on women. To learn more, see Elizabeth Cowie's Representing the Woman: Cinema and Psychoanalysis.

Hope these thoughts are of help and provide some insight,
Mark H.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.