How often has your alarm clock saved you from a worrying dream you thought was real? What a relief to wake into your everyday life, where all the quandaries and confusions of the dream evaporate and leave you free to get on with your day! You may have spent all night trying to catch that dream plane but now, awake, your confidence in getting places on time is restored. Phew. Missing a plane would never happen to you, would it? You may have endured hair-raising confrontations with a slippery, fang-endowed snake but now, awake, you know that’s one encounter you need not worry about, living in the city, as you do. Or perhaps that alarm clock intruded on a passionate, illicit love affair. Plummeting to earth on opening your eyes you console yourself that at least your waking life is guilt-free. “No,” you conclude, looking around your bedroom, “This is my life. This is what’s real. There are no missed planes, lurking snakes or secret lovers in my life.”
But I invite you to take another look. No time? No problem! This is an easy exercise. It will take you no longer than five minutes a day and you can always set that alarm for five minutes earlier, can’t you?
This is what to do:
Write one sentence a day. It’s best to write this sentence a few minutes after waking up, while your dream is fresh on your mind, so keep an exercise book or diary by your bedside for this purpose.
The sentence is a summary of your dream, written in the present tense, starting with the words ‘I feel’ and including the word ‘something’. It can only be one sentence though! Here are some examples.
It was a long and complicated dream, but the part that stood out for you was when your son was carrying a stack of precious, fine china crockery. You were moving house and were worried that the plates, cups and saucers should have been properly packed to prevent them from breaking.
Your sentence might be:
I feel worried that something precious and fragile may break.
It’s your recurring dream theme again. It’s long, it’s involved, and the essence is that you have a plane to catch but everything goes wrong and you never get airborne.
Your sentence might be:
I feel frustrated that so many delays are slowing me down from achieving something so simple.
This dream was an epic adventure involving snakes appearing from nowhere, chasing you and threatening to bite you. At one point you were actually bitten. Surprisingly it didn’t hurt as much as you thought it would, but your dream ends in trepidation. Was the snake poisonous or harmless? Only time will tell.
Your sentence might be:
I feel surprised that something I expected to be painful was not as bad as I had anticipated, but only time will tell the full outcome.
You were magnetically attracted to an awesome person and ended up having a deeply loving sexual tryst that left you feeling elated physically, mentally and spiritually. In the dream you know you have been unfaithful to your partner. You decide the solution is to keep this affair secret.
Your sentence might be:
I feel an attraction to something deeply and personally fulfilling, but I feel the only way I can protect my current way of life is to keep this secret.
The bit that stands out for you in your dream is the swarm of bees. You get stung, yet you decide to chase the bees. They lead you to the hive where you dive in, as small as a bee now, and see all the honey being made. Rows and rows of tasty, golden honey glisten.
Your sentence might be:
I feel surprise that when I dive into something I think will be painful, I discover such rich rewards.
In each of these examples, notice that ‘something’ is usually one of the main dream symbols: it’s the crockery, catching the plane, the snakebite, the lover and the beehive. In other words, ‘something’ can be a thing, an action or goal, a sensation, a person or a place.
Five minutes a day to write one sentence summarising your dream. There is no right sentence. There are many ways to summarise a dream, so dive in and just do it.
Use the examples as guidelines and remember to start with “I feel” and to include the word ‘something’. As the days go by, you’ll get quicker at this.
Five minutes will become two. Just two minutes a day!
So what do you do with all these sentences after writing them down?
Choose a day, perhaps a weekend day or an evening you usually have to yourself, to take 30 minutes to review your list. Make it a weekly appointment with yourself. Allow no interruptions.
You will have seven sentences to review, assuming you remembered a dream on each night, less if your dream recall was not so hot. (If you remember more than one dream on any night, you can choose to summarise only the most vivid one, or to summarise them all.)
During your 30-minute weekly review, read each of your seven sentences in turn and ask yourself, “Where does this apply in my life?” If an answer comes to you, write it down, using – you’ve guessed it – one sentence.
As a guide, your answers to the examples in this article might be:
1. I feel worried that something precious and fragile may break. Where does this apply in my life?
Answer: My relationship is precious to me but it feels fragile and in need of careful handling.
2. I feel frustrated that so many delays are slowing me down from achieving something so simple. Where does this apply in my life?
Answer: Losing ten kilos in six months should be so simple, but here I am, still way overweight after twelve months of setting my goal.
3. I feel surprised that something I expected to be painful was not as bad as I had anticipated, but only time will tell the full outcome. Where does this apply in my life?
Answer: I finally got enough courage up to talk to my partner about a sensitive issue, and it wasn’t as painful I had expected it to be, though how things will turn out in the long run, I don’t know.
4. I feel an attraction to something deeply and personally fulfilling, but I feel the only way I can protect my current way of life is to keep this secret.
Where does this apply in my life?
Answer: I want to build an energy-saving home and embrace a self-sufficient lifestyle, but to do this I risk losing the support of my family who enjoy the luxuries of life my current high income allows.
5. I feel surprise that when I dive into something I think will be painful, I discover such rich rewards. Where does this apply in my life?
Answer: I finally decided to tackle my tax problem by enlisting the help of an accountant who not only taught me some simple, helpful bookkeeping skills but also got me an unexpected tax rebate!
What is the value in doing this exercise? These examples might give you the feeling that dreams simply tell us what we already know, but not so. It’s easy to think that, looking in on someone else’s dreams, someone else’s summary sentences, someone else’s answers. But we rarely appreciate the deeper patterns of our lives until we look closely. Your dreams draw your attention to the way your life is. They exclaim, “Hey! THIS is your life! Is this how you want it to be, or would you like to change this pattern?”
So, what might our example dreamer conclude?
1. Her dream about handling fragile crockery helped her to see that she regards her relationship as both precious and fragile. Strange though it may seem, she hadn’t seen her relationship in this light before, but her dream view suddenly made sense of a few things. She began to see why she tiptoes around her partner’s moods, fearful of breaking up, instead of finding a mutually beneficial way of relating, perhaps taking a tip from the dream and looking at better ways of strengthening the relationship (better ways of packing the crockery). Her dream gives her a metaphor to contemplate. Does she want a fragile relationship?
2. Her dream about missing the plane because of so many delays helped her to see that her weight-loss goal is achievable. Why? She travels widely with her job and never, ever misses a plane. If she can achieve something as simple as catching a plane by taking a step-by-step approach, she can achieve the equally simple goal of weight-loss. She looked at her dream again and suddenly saw all the delays in a new light: her lost baggage was her fear of losing weight, her lack of passport gave her a feeling that maybe, just maybe, she wasn’t ready to give herself permission to achieve her goal and all the rewards that go with it. The delays, she saw, were all her own work!
3. Her dream about the snakebite helped her to see that other sensitive issues that she fears broaching may also be less painful once faced. Her dream gave her courage, not only to face pain, but also to trust the outcome. She decided to visualise this dream whenever she needs to address an issue, summoning up a feeling of trust in the process.
4. Her dream about the secret affair helped her to realise just how important her desire to embrace a change of lifestyle was. It also helped her to see that her ‘secret affair’ was a form of infidelity to her family. In trying to protect them, she was hiding a wonderful part of her being from them. She wasn’t being true to them. From here she began to understand why some of her family relationships weren’t as fulfilling as they could be. She saw she needed to share more of herself. She called a family conference – an entirely new approach – and shared her dream of building an alternative lifestyle. She was blown away to discover that they also had ‘secret dreams’ and that they all had more in common than they had believed.
5. Her dream about the beehive, you might argue, was an afterthought. She had already dived into her tax problem and been rewarded with some very golden honey, so how could this dream be of help? Dreams confirm our excellent moves, cementing in positive new attitudes and patterns. She used the dream as a visualisation from that day forward. Whenever a task looked too daunting, too stinging, too deep, she closed her eyes and imagined flying into the hive and discovering all that honey. Her visualisation helped her to dive in, uplifting and inspiring her forward.
Five minutes a day, one simple sentence a day, one thirty minute contemplation once a week. Give it a go. What’s that? Can’t stop, you’ve got a plane to catch? I don’t think so. Is this your life?
[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, March 2006. First published as a Dream Sight article.]
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