By Katie Ammon
In our dream class we were discussing the fact that many of us have dreams in which we are exploring a house. According to therapists who analyze our dreams, a house symbolizes the home of the dreamer’s psyche. It is where our minds, thoughts, and ideas live and the point from which we interact with the outside world. This discussion reminded me of the story of the three little pigs and how, like us, they each chose a different material with which to build their place of shelter. The first pig made a fragile straw house. This is similar to those of us who are childlike, inexperienced, or open; they would use this to house their psyche. The second little pig chose to build his house of wood, this is like the home of our teenage psyche when we have more life experience and skills and have a stronger psyche. Finally, some of us live in the home of the adult. Those of us who have weathered the storms of life, survived life’s difficult lessons and understand when to take refuge, are like the third little pig who built his house of the strongest material available. Since any of us may live in one or a combination of these houses at any stage of life, it is interesting to examine these ideas more deeply.
First, some of us have frail psyches and are childlike, open and trusting. We may look to the world expecting our needs to be met without having to put in much effort. If our expectations are not met, we will likely find ourselves bewildered, disillusioned and wounded. If our psyche lives in a fragile home, like the straw house, it may get blown down easily, at the first sign of trouble. If we don’t have any challenges in our life we may try to stay in this home as long as possible. But if problems arise and the house is blown away, we may not be strong enough to put the pieces back together. At that time, our psyches can either break down or become stronger. We might withdraw from life but hopefully will soon reemerge with renewed strength, remodeling our homes with sturdier walls.
The second house in the story was made of wood, the teenage home we create that may resist getting blown down. In this home, we might be open enough to search, grow, explore and experiment with life, but lack confidence to make decisions or stand-alone if necessary. Even though we are stronger, we are still vulnerable to the uncertainties of life. We can learn much in this house, by assuming responsibilities, growing out of childhood and becoming more social. Since our teen house is a bit sturdier, we can withstand some of the winds of change. Unless it is a severe, life-changing loss. Such as death of a family member or breakup of our family. This may feel like the big bad wolf blowing our house down. If life doesn’t change much, we might want to stay in this house for a long time, liking the atmosphere of this stage and avoiding adult responsibilities as long as possible. This can lead to a pattern of dead-ends, until we are ready to grow again. Then we can take the next step and enter the house of the adult, so we can become a more fully developed person.
Finally, as adults, we put a more stable home around our psyche. Like the third little pig we have become wiser, having learned life’s lesson through many hardships and often feeling stalked by misfortune or, as the story calls it, the big bad wolf. As adults we imagine a stone or brick house, a protective place where the affronts, insults, or life’s dilemmas cannot easily access and disturb our peaceful haven. In other words, we are not blown away by the big bad wolf when trouble arises but manage to keep grounded and think of ways to resolve our problems. We have learned that difficulties and crises in life are experiences to foster spiritual growth and realize these are the lessons we came here to learn. So this is a place where we can either be alone, appreciating the solitude, but also seek out the company of others to have meaningful conversations. Having become older and wiser, we have learned to be “in the world” and not get caught up in the chaotic energy here. So the home of the adult psyche is built with strong material.
The houses of the little pigs are pretty simple examples of how we build homes for our psyches. Since there are really no rules about how we house our mind we can let our imagination run wild. We are not limited to the three types in the story. We can imagine a castle, a glass house, a hobbit house, a shoe or a mountain cabin to house our psyche. Since we each have different challenges as we mature the homes our psyches live in will reflect the life we live.