I asked her to describe a hermit crab to me. “Talk to me as if I have just arrived from a distant galaxy and have never heard of such a thing.”
“Well,” she responded, “a hermit crab is a sea creature. It’s different from other crabs because it doesn’t grow a shell of its own. It borrows the shell of other critters. It moves from house to house.”
“If these were my dreams,” I said gently, “I would think about the ways in which I may resemble a hermit crab. I don’t go around wearing armor. I need shelter, but I also need room to grow. I can’t just stay in borrowed premises indefinitely.”
Her eyes widened. “I know what these dreams are telling me,” she announced. “My marriage was okay for a time, but I’ve outgrown it. I can’t go on living in a borrowed house that no longer fits me.”
She spoke of how she had long felt trapped in a hollow marriage. Following the lead of the hermit crab, she proceeded to make some courageous choices, easing herself out of the old confining shell. She took on a job her husband had told her she would never be able to fill, thereby asserting her independence. She gave herself permission to enter a romantic relationship with a man who was able to satisfy needs that had gone unfulfilled for many years, and decided that she would either change the structure of her marriage or leave it altogether. She started spending more time at the sea, which she had always felt was her natural habitat, and this inspired her to embark on a new creative phase in her painting.
Sometimes the dream messenger, in itself, is the message.