What a difference a dream makes
More precisely, what a difference a dream makes when you remember it, interpret it, and take action on what you learn.
Joe sleeps through his dreams, wakes with his alarm, scrolls social media, hurriedly showers and dresses, grabs a piece of toast and runs to catch the train. Work is stressful and overwhelming, much the same as any other day, leaving him exhausted and feeling that he’s not making any progress.
In a parallel life, Joe sleeps through his dreams, wakes with his alarm, and vaguely remembers a dream about trying to run from an avalanche, his legs as heavy as lead, fast becoming bogged down in the mud. Relieved to discover it was a dream, he shakes his head, scrolls social media and, well, you know the story from there.
In yet another parallel life, Joe sleeps through his dreams, wakes with his alarm, and remembers the avalanche dream. In the past, this same dream has woken him up in the middle of many nights, and he’s lain in bed, soaked in adrenalin-fuelled sweat, anxious about losing sleep. He’s surprised and delighted that the dream hasn’t disrupted his sleep this time, but, fully slept and alert, he’s now curious. He wonders why he has this dream. He writes it down and resolves to do some research. But he never finds the time because work is stressful and overwhelming, much the same as any other day, leaving him exhausted and feeling that he’s not making any progress.
One day, this Joe, our Joe of the third parallel life, is sitting at his desk when his boss comes in to tell him a co-worker has left and since the company can’t afford to replace him, Joe will need to take on some of the co-worker’s responsibilities. Joe takes a deep breath and nods his head in dutiful agreement, but thinks to himself, ‘I can’t cope with this avalanche of work, it’s bogging me down, how will I ever make any progress in my career?’
The light bulb flashes. Finally he connects what’s happening in his life to what’s been happening in his recurring dream.
You, dear reader, knew it all along, but our dreams often reflect what we don’t acknowledge about ourselves so it can be difficult to make the connection unless you have the tools you need to unpack, explore, and understand your dreams.
So Joe had a dilemma. He could see the connection between his recurring dream and his recurring life situation, but he didn’t know what to do about it. ‘What is my dream telling me to do?’ he wondered. ‘Is it telling me I’m in a hopeless situation and I need to get out of it, leave my job? But then, it doesn’t show that, it just shows me getting bogged down. Is there no way out, is that what my dream is telling me?’
What Joe doesn’t realise is that if he leaves his job without making a change within himself, he’ll end up in another stressful overwhelming situation, unable to escape, bogged down under pressure.
Dreams don’t tell us what to do. They don’t give us guidance. They simply and beautifully reflect what’s going on for us, consciously and – more importantly – unconsciously. It’s Joe’s job to awaken to his situation as revealed by the dream, and discover the unconscious beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and patterns of behaviour that are heavily influencing his life. Enlightened, he will know what to do. He will give himself guidance, based on what he has learned about himself.
How can Joe discover those unconscious beliefs, attitudes, feelings, and patterns of behaviour that are heavily influencing his life?
He can learn the art and science of interpreting his dreams, or he can consult a dream analyst or dream therapist.
The answers lay in the details of the dream, what he does, how he responds, how he feels, what else is happening, who else is in the dream, what bizarre symbols appear, and much more besides. When you know what you’re looking for, and which tools to use, all becomes clear.
Joe’s dream seems quite simple. Most of our dreams are more complex, detailed, and longer, perhaps more challenging to understand but ripe with potential reward. Let’s stick with Joe’s dream for now.
Our Joe gets help with his dream. He now understands how it relates to his life, he acknowledges that it’s a reflection of his unconscious mindset, and he appreciates that it’s not a source of guidance. It’s up to Joe, perhaps with the assistance of his dream therapist, to decide what action to take on this new insight.
There’s just one other thing to consider. Joe’s new awareness may be sufficient to empower him to make a good decision, whether it’s to leave his job, or negotiate with his boss for more manageable conditions, or to find ways to do the same work in a less stressful way, but sometimes awareness is not enough.
He may need to do some dream alchemy: exercises prescribed to reprogram unconscious beliefs and patterns (or to rewire the brain) for better outcomes. These exercises work by transforming elements of the dream while the dreamer is awake. In their simplest form they are visualisations. Joe’s dream alchemy visualisation might involve seeing himself turn and face the avalanche, noticing that in taking this action the avalanche reduces in size, subsides, and takes a form that represents where Joe would like to see himself in his career. The details are always specific to the dreamer and the dream, and require the dreamer to understand the dream and participate in choosing the preferred outcome. Maybe this sounds complex, but when you have dream alchemy tools at your fingertips, it’s an easy-to-follow system.
Joe version 1’s life continued much the same. Joe version 2’s life continued much the same. But Joe version 3’s life, well: What a difference a dream makes when you remember it, interpret it, and take action on what you learn!