POISON: Toxic or Transformative?

May 26, 2022

A cobra is ready to strike against a desert background, illustrating the theme of poison.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Pharmakon, the ancient Greek word for drug, can mean both “remedy” and “poison.” There is a close connection between poison and cure. Poison is stealthy, and takes us by surprise, whether through an unseen snake’s venomous bite or a ripe apple’s alluring disguise. Psychological poison glides past our defenses, pervades our being, and wounds us where we are most vulnerable. We participate in our poisoning through our own unknowing, from toxic cognitions and rigid fixations to self-doubt and self-sabotage. Poison can transform us by stinging us into building the immunity of increased consciousness and insight. Reason and objectivity can act as antidotes, allowing old attitudes to dissolve and new awareness to arise. Whether a poison is injected or ingested, we can use it for cure.

Here’s The Dream We Analyze:

“I am “cooking up” a batch of Xenomorphs (from the movie Alien) for a “client” in an underground lab. I’m mixing chemicals in a vat, and realize I missed a step…I call the client and am reassured it will still work, it will just take some extra time. The chemicals coagulate into a pink goo. The next day, I return to the lab and see swimming in a pool of water four adolescent xenomorphs. A male lab assistant tells me “This shouldn’t have worked. They mutated and can only breath flesh.” I see the adolescent aliens all have a caul of pink ectoplasm over their faces. The next day, I return to the lab and there is only one xenomorph, an adult, chained as if crucified to the back wall of a cell, wreathed in shadow. I peer at it from across the cell, and a white dove appears and flies across it. The alien’s claw shoots out and snatches the dove from the air and crams it into its mouth. There is a great sucking sound, and I realize the alien is breathing the dove’s flesh. My vision zooms in to the alien’s face. It regurgitates the dove’s carcass, which inverts into a black cage of bone, and the alien screams. I am shocked awake.”


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  1. Ryan Huguelet

    His psyche was vulnerable because he still had hidden shame (in his back) that needed attention. He will always be vulnerable to poison until he addresses the issue of his shadow. At least, this happens to be the case for me in my life proven over and over again.

  2. Judy G.

    “Insidious about poison is that it works on us from within. … There’s something really horrifying about this invisible thing working on us in invisible ways, somehow corroding our very being. … attacks our sense of self” – Deb

    The quoted bit above reminds me of a Chinese drama Nirvana in Fire. The main character, Lin Shu, after being poisoned undergoes a transformation. We don’t see this with him, but he is covered in fur and is tongue is sort of frozen so he can’t speak. The cure he chose makes him look human again but he’s unrecognizable as his earlier self. It completely changes his features. And he changes his name to Mei Changsu. He becomes another man with a different history that he presents to the world.

    The point about not seeing poison coming (vs man with club) is also relevant. Nirvana in Fireis something of a Count of Monte Cristo story. Mei Changus works not for vengeance but to restore justice and good rule to the kingdom, to right a great wrong. There are two princes vying for the throne and Mei Changsu is presented as a strategist who can guarantee the throne.. He’s actually there to take them down and establish a third prince as the next ruler, but those two brothers welcome him and each try to bring him in on their side. In fact, he publicly works for one of those princes while behind the scenes supporting the third brother.

  3. Heloisa Aguiar

    I think this episode has been one of the best you guys have done. But then again, I have several favorites.
    The theme of toxic has many cultural meanings, well explored.

  4. Todd

    Hormesis is the biological practice of micro-dosing poisons to develop immunity and resilience.


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