For “Barb Sanders” Dream Elements Often Differed Greatly From Waking Life

Often dreams don’t match reality in any way shape or form.

In the famous short story and movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber, hapless main character Mitty has one daydream after another triggered by mundane events. In one, he’s a surgeon saving lives. In another, a fighter pilot. And in another an assassin testifying in court.

Psudenomyous dream journaler “Barb Sanders” also had dreams where parts of her dreams sharply departed from the realities of her waking life.

Many dreams don’t. However, the ones that do get talked about, especially in online forums.

Sometimes dreams help people work out their emotions. Other times they seem to fortify memories. A wide variety of scenarios could contribute to the differences between dream and waking life.

Cats and kittens

Sanders recorded several dreams about cats and kittens. Often the kittens were neglected, deformed, or starving.

While she was interested in felines in waking life, she didn’t worry about them in particular. The cats and kittens likely represented another concern of hers.

Researcher Calvin Hall believed that it represented men who seemed to her to be “lost souls” because she used the word “stray” in conjunction with both “kittens” and “men.”

In one dream, Sanders wrote:

The stray kittens plead for food. They are very hungry. I feel badly for them. I look in the refrigerator. I find some sugar cakes and some cheese.

I am dressing up to go out on a date. It’s a conservative outfit, but as soon as I’m out the door, I’ll readjust the front and it will be very sexy…

Sanders kept dream journals for years. “Stray” was applied only to these concepts. Was that enough for Hall to reliably determine the meaning for kitten?


In 24 dreams, Sanders is riding a horse. She’s an excellent rider in her dreams. In one, she rides “like the wind.” In another, she learns to ride quickly and is excellent. In still another, she’s praised for her riding skills.

When Hall interviewed Sanders about her experience with horses, Sanders said she didn’t have much of it, apart from riding a little when she was a child.

(Horses) scared me; they were awfully big and they had a tendency to bite. But…it was fun. I do remember a couple of incidences where we were galloping away, and it was such, out of control, but fun kind of, you know, I was just hanging on for dear life, hoping I don’t fall. (But) I was not a good rider.

Also, when she was a child, her father became part owner of a racehorse. She used to like to watch it run.


Sometimes Sanders was like Lara Croft in her dreams.



Another element that’s different from her waking life were guns and rifles. These weapons appear in 33 of her dreams.

In dreams, she fixes and reloads them, kills dangerous animals, and fights off attackers. Once, in a dream, she captured seven men and held them at gunpoint. In another, she wrestles a gun away from another woman and kills her.

That was far from the reality of her life.

I don’t like guns… I did some target work when Howard (her ex-husband) and I were first starting because he was interested in guns. He had guns all the time and loved hunting. He took me out target shooting, but I balked at actually shooting animals. I have the Bambi syndrome.

Guns, horses, and cats were all symbols of something else in her dreams.


Other posts in the series:

Do You Need To Study Your Dreams Like A Scientist?

Dreams of Ex-Husband Had a Pattern: “Barb Sanders”

A Pattern With Men Repeats Itself: “Barb Sanders”

“Barb Sanders” and the Theater

Character Transformations and Composite Characters: the “Barb Sanders” Dreams

“Barb Sanders” Opportunities Missed


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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