Friday, June 8, 2012

The Lovers, The Dreamers and Me

I’m a dreamer. I'm talking dreams at night, every night when I sleep. Big dreams, colorful dreams, dreams full of action and suspense and love and fear. I fly in my dreams, flap my “wings,” land in tree tops, soar over oceans, the whole nine yards. In one of last night’s dreams—the inspiration for this post—I found a crystal sword. The handle was wood and it joined the to the base of the crystal, which was incased in steel burnished a warm copper color. I inspected the metal and found a subtle embossing to it. There were faces of many humans there, not people I knew, but kind, friendly faces. The crystal was emerald and I laid the side of my head on it, squinted one eye closed and peered from handle to tip with the other eye. The “blade” was true. That’s it, the whole dream. And I knew, even when I was sleeping, exactly what it meant. In fact, in the next dream I was actually telling one of my dearest friends about the emerald sword.

Dreams used to have me searching endlessly for understanding, trying to interpret the complicated landscape. Nearly twenty years ago when I was going to a really wonderful psychotherapist it started to make sense. She was trained predominantly in the style of Carl Jung and a style I adapted in my own work. Jung took a stance on dreams that relates what is happening in the dream with the persons or situations in the dreamer’s real life. Unlike his mentor Sigmund Freud, who believed that dreams only related to our past, Jung saw dreams as indicators of changes in the individual and signposts to the future. He saw them as part of the process of the dreamer learning to have a more healthy relationship with his ego, one that allows for growth and evolution. 

Once I started paying attention, the relationship with my “dream self” naturally grew. I learned how my unconscious would cycle into deeper and deeper conversation with my conscious brain. There would be dark phases of my dreaming where I would not be able to remember what I was dreaming, just that I had dreamed. Then would come the phase where I could feel the emotion of the dreams, the raw feelings without much relation to anything, and no understanding at all of what it meant.  I started to recognize recurring symbols, like the ocean, which mirrored my inner emotional landscape, or certain people which stood as icons for certain eras in my life, like high school. 

All along I believed in the power of positive thinking. I would daydream, too, about what my perfect world would look like. I would set my mind to thinking about what I wanted as if I already had it and do all the Law of Attraction stuff. I would think and pray and meditate and speak only “positive” thoughts. Thoughts that coincided with the life I daydreamed about, the life I wanted as my future. I chose more carefully who I surrounded myself with, what music and news (none!) I listened to and kept my sights set on my own north star.

And I ended up exactly where and how I didn’t want to be. What the fuck?! I was angry, frustrated and unhappy. I felt trapped in a life I thought I wasn’t creating. I thought I was doing all the right things. I ate well, practiced yoga, got outside in nature, even went to therapy, but my body would ache and I felt very sad. On the outside, things looked pretty damn good, the car was clean and shiny, but under the hood, the engine was about to explode! I talked and prayed and was selective and focused on the positive ‘til the cows came home but nothing changed. So what went wrong? 

My conscious mind knew what it wanted, but my unconscious was programmed with conflicting information. And the result was stress! Stress, we all know (even the Lululemon bag says it, so it must be true!) is the cause of 99% of all illness. So what happens if on the outside we try to create the life of our dreams, but on the inside we are programmed to believe we are not worthy of it? Stress! Stress, in short, is the fight or flight mechanism activated. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenals engage and send the majority of the blood supply to the limbs to either fight or run. Meanwhile, the viscera get shunted and are strained. If we have chronic stress our organs are taxed and eventually we get sick. If we are living from this reactionary place, the place of survival, it is impossible to expand and grow no matter how bad we want to.

So, what to do? How do we get out of this strange loop? I use multiple tools. Of course, I use my dreams to uncover what is stirring in my unconscious mind. I compare that to what my conscious mind wants and see where the misalignment is. I notice who is showing up in my dreams which tells me from what era the unconscious programming originates. I also pay attention to signals from my body. When I feel stressed, run down, achey or if I have pangs in certain areas (like around my liver or low back) I know something in the present has triggered programming from my past. The stress is showing me the disagreement between what my conscious brain wants now (where I think I should be or where I want to be) and what is holding me back from it (unconscious programming that I have outgrown or doesn’t fit with my new/desired vision).

The unconscious mind is the hindbrain, the part of us that is related to survival, to reflex and instinct. It is trained through our experiences (I burned myself on that hot stove last time) and learned from our environment and parents (you are too emotional, stop crying.) Imagine driving down the freeway at 70 mph hour with one of your friends in the car. Your unconscious mind is the one that is driving the car, moving through repetition and instinct withut really having to pay that close of attention, while your conscious brain is the one having the conversation with your friend. The forebrain or conscious brain, which is the part associated with reason, choice, preference, self-awareness, etc. can direct the hindbrain to stop reacting to things unnecessarily and can reprogram it completely. Thus, the two working in tandem can relieve you of unwarranted stress and open the doorway to a life in which you want to live.

When we bring those triggers and old programs to light, when we have the courage to look at them, then we have the chance to rewrite our inner computer. I love using my dreams for this. I love being familiar with what the symbolism. I love having the free will to choose where I want to be, to live the life I dream of, not a life of survival and fear. I feel empowered to be able to reprogram the owner’s manual my family gave me and make it match my life now, not their life then. I love carrying an emerald sword, green for the color of the heart chakra, for love, abundance and growth. I love seeing all the other amazing beings—the lovers, the dreamers and me—do the same. It inspires me to no end! I love bringing light to the shadow and being blessed with the opportunity to grow and evolve, not to stay trapped in the past but to courageously make dramatic life changes and go forward, leading the way with crystal sword in hand. Has anyone seen my cape?

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