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At the Zoo

I am newly engaged to a very nice man after having been divorced for 14 years. During that time I have only dated two or three times. My fiance is quite a bit overweight, at around 375 pounds. I am of normal build with a few extra pounds. His eating habits are atrocious. Other than that we are very much alike and are the same age. He recently bought a house for us, but my name isn’t on it, and he plans to leave it to his daughters when he dies.

I dreamed we were walking outside. He was wearing nothing but his underwear, and I was wearing a T-shirt. We were both barefooted. We came to the zoo and decided that it would be fun to go in and see the animals. We were only there for a short time when his need to go to the bathroom overcame him. He actually climbed into the “white gorilla’s” environment and defecated right where anyone walking by could see him. I was aghast and mortified. I ran screaming from the zoo, and didn’t see him again until we were at home.

–valerie, age 51, female, engaged, FL

hi valerie,
Some people you just can’t take anywhere!

The setting of the zoo in this dream lets us know some “primitive” issues are being addressed … and, given the background you have provided, it’s not hard to figure them out. Your fiance’s eating habits “are atrocious.” Do you sometimes think he acts like an animal (a gorilla, to be specific)?

Dreams of defecation typically concern issues of control and shame. If we dream of searching for a bathroom but never are able to find one, we are encouraged to ask ourselves what emotional issue we are “holding on” to (control), that we need to release. If a dream bathroom is in a public space, we may feel ashamed of an emotional issue, or feel unable to release it, because we are concerned of what others may think.

Judging by your dream, neither of these scenarios applies to your fiance. To the contrary, his public defecation at the zoo most likely represents his inability to control his eating disorder — no matter who is present.

Despite your awareness of your fiance’s eating disorder (your partial attire in the dream suggests you are “exposed” and seeing each other plainly), his behavior nevertheless sometimes leaves you running for the door. Couldn’t he exercise more control? Couldn’t he show more modesty?

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Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Your wedding vows are approaching, but they don’t include becoming codependent with your fiance’s eating disorder. Have you considered educating yourself about people’s emotional relationships with food? A good place to start is ThriveOnline’s Weight area. The better you understand his emotional attachment to food, the more you will be able to help keep him “out of the zoo.”

Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.

At the Zoo

Charles McPhee

APA Reference
McPhee, C. (2020). At the Zoo. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.