Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dream Time

Last night, I had a troubling dream. I was on some sort of driving road trip and I had some sort of problem with my car. Memories of my dreams are sometimes hazy. What I remember is that I was in some sort of minor accident and the trunk and bumper of my car were damaged. I was stranded in a little town while my car was being repaired. Before I tell you about the repair job I received, I want to say a few words about dreams in general.

There are obviously many different schools of thought on the meanings and interpretations of dreams. I have done a bit of study in this arena, because I have had vivid and often disturbing dreams throughout my life. Sometimes my dreams are so real and so upsetting that it takes me several minutes when I awaken to convince myself that it wasn't a real experience. I often have to get out of bed, walk around, look myself in the eye in the mirror and talk to myself about the fact that what I just dreamed did not happen, that I'm safe and that I don't have to deal with whatever that situation was.

What I have come to believe about dreams is that they serve two important purposes. I believe that our subconscious minds is constantly working to heal and 'work out' the things in our psyche that are problematic for us. That does not stop when we go to sleep, in fact, I believe that during sleep, this healing, purging, reconciling, cleaning up process is in full swing. In my opinion, this is true whether we remember our dreams or not. This 'processing' and 'healing' is one of the main reasons that we have dreams. I like to think that no matter what the subject matter of our dreams, or whether we remember them or not, we are doing important work to become healthier during our sleep cycle. The body is healing and restoring itself during sleep, and it makes sense to me that the same is true for our mental and emotional body.

In the past I have struggled with horrible nightmares. I'm talking really scary, violent, dreams. I can remember at one point, I was having these horrible dreams every night for over a year. I felt like I never slept because each morning I would wake up exhausted as though I had really 'lived' the dreams from that night's sleep.

I was sitting in a meeting one day, back in my software design days, and everyone was talking about their dreams from the night before. These were all super smart, high achieving people. I was amazed to hear about their wonderful dreams. They dreamed all kinds of happy, positive things. Some of them had been flying. Some of them had seen relatives that had passed on. Some of them had been to parties or really fun events. There I sat. I believe my dream the night before was about being held hostage in an old abandoned house, where I was being tortured by a faceless man. Anytime my friends or family called or came by I was threatened with a knife and I stayed silent. I was paralyzed and couldn't speak. Lovely. All my co-workers had these light, happy, wonderful dreams, and I was in hell. While I do believe there were important messages in many of these horrible dreams, it seemed to me that over the years I struggled with them that something pretty profound was getting processed and purged from my psyche. Now-a-days, I can still have disturbing dreams from time to time, but I never have them for long spells of time and usually they aren't as graphic and terrifying as those old dreams were on a regular basis.

The second purpose I believe dreams serve is to give us important messages about our lives or our inner worlds. Sometimes we can remember our dreams. Sometimes we wake up with a residual feeling or thought. It seems to me that these are worth taking a look at. Often the meanings are symbolic and metaphoric. While many schools of thought exist about dream interpretation, I like to just 'sit' with my dreams and see what message and purpose emerges for me.

In my dream the other night, it was very interesting what unfolded. My car was returned to me, 'good as new' and 'all repaired' according to the body shop that worked on it. I was shocked and upset to see that although they had repaired the trunk, they had put a new trunk cover on that had big open gaps in it. It was not a solid piece. It was rather like a picket fence, with uniform, open gaps between each slat. My jaw dropped open and I started to let the repair guy know that this wasn't acceptable. I told him I drive and travel a lot. I told him that I keep important things in the trunk all the time and that these things cannot get wet. He tried to tell me that I could buy plastic boxes to put in the trunk to protect the things I wanted to put there. I envisioned the rain destroying whatever I put in my trunk. I could already predict that the moisture would cause perpetual dampness, mold and odor in my trunk and in the car.

What was amazing, is that this guy was trying to tell me that this was an acceptable solution to my problem, and that I could and should accept this repair and find a way to live with it.

That is the point in the dream where I woke up. I was feeling upset, annoyed and like I was being taken advantage of. I 'sat' with my dream for a few minutes and asked to be shown the meaning. It was fairly obvious to me.

It was a metaphor about allowing people to treat me in ways that are really not good for me, but trying to convince me that it is acceptable. It is, just as importantly, a reminder that I sometimes do this to myself. I sometimes try to convince myself to settle for something that isn't good for me and isn't what I really need. The theme of this dream was that those around me tried to act like something was wrong with me for objecting, and in the dream, I started to doubt myself. Was I being too picky? Was it really as big a deal as I thought it was? Was I the one being unreasonable? Of course, the answer to those questions was no, but in the dream I was confused about my reaction and the reaction of those around me.

Bottom line, I believe this dream was a reminder that I need to pay close attention to what I agree to, no matter who's suggesting it: me or someone else. It is so easy to go against one's inner knowing and instincts and allow things into our lives that just aren't acceptable. Sometimes this might be the way we are treated in a business transaction or a personal relationship. Sometimes it might be a way that we are treating ourselves in response to difficult circumstances or challenges. We might settle for a suboptimal solution simply because we are tired and don't feel we can persevere to a better, more complete solution. I think this is a powerful lesson.

Next time you have a dream, look for a message. There just may be something that it is important for you to hear, and this is just the universe's way, or God's way, of getting your attention.

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