The Pitter-Patter of Little Feet…Before Something Grabbed Her

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Reader’s Question

I am very worried for my mom. She had a dream — well, she says it wasn’t a dream. I don’t know what to call it.

This is her story. She was asleep in her bed next to my dad when something suddenly woke her up. She doesn’t know what it was, only that she awoke. She walked down the hall to check on my sister who was sleeping in the living room. She then walked back up the hall and used the restroom, then lay down again next to my dad and started to get comfortable when she heard “pitter-patter” (little child footsteps) from the foot of her bed. Since her youngest is now eleven, she figured the pitter-patter was being made by our small dog, so she lifted her head to look around the side of her bed to see the dog, but she saw nothing. The pitter-patter continued, although nothing was in sight. Then all of a sudden something grabbed hold of her leg! She saw nothing but could feel pressure like someone had grabbed her thigh. Before she could cry out for my dad, who was next to her, she felt pressure on her throat as if someone was grabbing her neck! She couldn’t move her arms or legs to even nudge my dad and get his attention. She tried to cry out for him but all she could do was murmur, an “Egh! Egh!” and this actually did wake my dad up. She says that she saw my dad get up and shake her awake. And at that moment, all the pressure stopped. Whatever had been grabbing her had let go.

My dad says that he heard her making noises, and he rolled over thinking she was having a horrible dream. So he shook her, but she didn’t wake up; he says he had to shake her quite a few times before she finally woke up. She says she saw him shaking her, but how could she see him if her eyes were closed? I am so scared for her.

What could this dream mean? Was it even a dream? Is this something paranormal? I am very worried.

Psychologist’s Reply

It is very difficult to wake someone when they are deeply asleep and dreaming. Difficulty rousing your mother under such circumstances sounds normal. I see nothing here to suggest anything paranormal. There are abundant explanations in clinical literature to explain what has happened. Let’s consider those before searching outside of our knowledge base for explanations.

I do believe that dreams have meaning. It is impossible to say what it could mean for your mother without querying her directly. It could very well relate to fears or anxieties that she is carrying in her daily life and is trying to sort out in her dreams, but which she need to disguise in order to make them tolerable. That is often what dreams are: concerns from our daily life set in a metaphor that summarizes the chief emotional issue in a tolerable way.

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There is less difference between the waking state and dreaming state than most people believe. With vivid dreaming, people often feel the same level of ‘real-ness’ in the dream state as they do while awake. If a dream is vivid, then we tend to think that it is loaded with emotion and importance to the dreamer.

All of these things suggest that the dream does have meaning and that your mother does have a need to understand them and what they represent. To explore this, she could seek out a psychologist who is comfortable with dream interpretation for a series of appointments. In the privacy of that therapeutic relationship, she may find the freedom to express her concerns and understand how the pitter-patter of little feet has become something that chokes her in the night.

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