Dreamwork: The Metaphor of Mashed Potatoes

Written 27 Feb 2017

A while ago I dreamed of making mashed potatoes. In the dream, the miraculous thing was that as soon as I put the potatoes in the pot of boiling water they turned into ready-to-eat mashed potatoes. And this wasn’t a package of pre-packed food-like substance. These were real potatoes which suddenly were ready to eat.

In the interpretation, I realized this was an important metaphor and I thought about it often. At the time, my biggest association with potatoes was the famine in Ireland in the 19th century. One million people died. An estimated two million emigrated. Many reports say the British government could have done more to mitigate the effects of the famine and could have saved the lives of millions.

This was what I thought of when I first had the dream. I also thought of how a real situation can be occurring but the owners of the media can present it anyway they wish to conceal the wrong-doings of the leading powers in authority. This would have been true back then as well as today.

At the time of the dream I didn’t see the personal symbol for me in the message but this weekend when I was making mashed potatoes I had an insight. Let’s see if I can describe it.

When my someone I know was 12 her step-father killed himself. She had a major role to play in the situation because she was the one who noticed that his car was still in the garage with the engine running when the family returned from church one Sunday. She alerted her mother and the neighbour who helped them break into the garage where they found the man dead.

After that, severe grief sent my someone’s alcoholism into devastating proportions and her daughter at the young age of 12, 13 and 14 took on a lot of extra responsibility for raising her younger sister and brother. This was the story I was told since I was a child. It was presented to me in a way to think of the woman as the hero of the story. Later on, she decided not to drink and thereby broke a cycle of alcoholism in the family which is so commendable.

However, when I was growing up someone often told my sister and I the story of how one day when she was making mashed potatoes for her siblings she put too much milk in them and they turned out too watery and they were terrible. By the way she describes it, I feel as though the potatoes not turning out right was nearly traumatic for her. Now being a mother myself and knowing what it is like to prepare and cook a meal which you hope will turn out great for your loved ones, I can appreciate the level of disappointment when the meal goes wrong.

The problem was that because of crisis in the situation this person did not have a mother. She did not have a father either. She had no one to tell her that she was doing a good job, that it was okay to make mistakes, that her effort was great and next time would be even better.

She was just a child, taking care of other children. And I think the pain she suffered was far greater then what anyone in her family or school could even appreciate or understand.

So how does this story relate to my dream of mashed potatoes? In the dream I was shown I was ready to make mashed potatoes.

Looking back on the events which have occurred since that dream I say the metaphor is about my being ready to develop skills and capacities which my own mother could not do because of her own limitations in her history.

I was ready to do something which she wanted and tried for but which she couldn’t achieve because of trauma which was unhealed.

I was ready to take care of myself and my daughter and others in ways which I had always wanted to but I couldn’t because of limitations in my environment.

So the other day as I made mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted chicken and corn for my daughter I thought about how far I’ve come. How far we’ve come. And I felt grateful for the dream which signaled to me I was ready for something far before I even believed it myself.

But now, looking back, I can see the dream was right.

And I’m really grateful for that.

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