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Symbol Tip: The Wolf

by Gillian Holloway, Ph.D. (Dream Discoveries Newsletter, Fall 1995)
(Excerpted from the upcoming book: The Dream You Can't Forget, by Gillian Holloway, Ph.D.)

Wolves in dreams are usually either feared or admired. When feared, they may represent any predatory element in life, when admired they often reflect unfettered power in the dreamer that is being acknowledged for the first time. Just as the attitudes towards wolves tend to be polarized in waking life, our associations to dream wolves tend to fall into one of two categories:

  • The first category is fear of the wolf's outlaw and predatory qualities. In many cases, the wolf is associated with predatory danger, something wild that could destroy vulnerable farm animals and home life; such as exploitative predatory energy, or sexual energy gone awry. Remember the days when a sexually dangerous man was referred to as a "wolf"? Think of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, who disguised himself in order to pursue the innocent. If you enter this experience of the wolf, it is indeed an unfairly powerful creature that preys on the weak, the innocent, and those without adequate defenses.

    There is also the suggestion that somehow the domestication and containment of animals makes them easy prey for the wolf. (Thus, what we do to be civilized or "contained" in life, may make us easier prey for those who walk on the wild side, or to be savaged by our own inner wolves.) This association to the wolf is appears more common to men who feel the anguish of wanting to protect their families against the myriad hazards of life; which, ultimately, cannot be adequately anticipated. In this sense many men try to keep vigil against the "wolf" energy in the world; anything that might threaten those they would love and protect. The wolf in these dreams may also refer to the wolf or wild energy within the dreamer, which may feel as if it could pose a threat to the security of domestic life, unless he "guards against it."

    In some instances women dream of fearful wolves that seem intent on destroying them. In most cases these monstrous wolves have been associated with fears of falling prey to "wild" energy in some way. These dreams can be related to traumatic events in the past; or they may arise when a disturbing element is sensed in a co-worker or acquaintance. Because our survival instincts are easily aroused and often weave strong themes into our dreams, even a minor quality of unwholesomeness in waking life can be illustrated by the pursuing wolf in our dreams.

  • The second category of wolf dream is quite different. In these dreams the wolf is the symbol of noble wildness, freedom from societal restraints, and elemental reliance on instincts and nature. This is the women-who-run-with-the-wolves image, and it appears in the dreams of anyone who is beginning to acknowledge the powerful and natural side of themselves. This wolf often recalls a sense of power, wisdom and life-in-the-moment. There is an almost elemental freedom that temporarily is lost to us during the socialization process; but our vivid aliveness is never truly gone. Typically when an individual begins to feel stirrings of their "natural" self, or a power based on aliveness rather than external achievement they may dream of a wolf that is both awesomely powerful yet strangely welcoming to them.

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