We’ll come back to Mosaic Man and his dream later, but to get the most from this article, first play some more What If with me.
A woman dreamed she was in a bar and no-one was serving her.
What if … she walked round to the other side of the counter and served herself?
A man dreamed he was drowning.
What if … he inflated his life jacket?
What if … he started to swim?
What if … he removed his heavy shoes?
What if … he let go?
A woman dreamed she was late for her plane.
What if … she phoned the airport and asked the plane to wait?
What if … she decided to miss the plane and choose another destination?
What if … she remembered she was the pilot, so she’d go in her own time?
A man dreamed he had more bags than he could carry.
What if … he put down some of the bags, and travelled lighter?
What if … he hired a truck to deliver the bags?
What if … he distributed the bags among the people he was travelling with?
What if … he looked inside the bags and re-evaluated the contents?
What if … he asked himself why he was carrying the bags in the first place?
Are you getting the hang of this? Before reading further, go back and add some more What ifs to all the above dreams. See how many What ifs you can think up.
A man dreamed he woke up to find himself in a prison cell.
What if … he started to dig an escape tunnel?
What if … he decided to spend his long years in jail writing his memoirs?
What if … he decided to write to people he had wronged to make amends?
What if … he discovered the door was unlocked, and left?
What if … he scolded himself for falling asleep on the job, finished cleaning the cell and went home?
A woman dreamed she came across a fork in the road.
What if … she took the left turning?
What if … she took the right turning?
What if … she left the road and went cross-country?
What if … she tossed a coin to decide on her next step?
What if … she followed the footprints in the snow?
What if … she picked up the fork?
Aha! Now, did you beat me to that last line? On the left hand I couldn’t resist the joke, and on the right hand I wanted to remind you that when we’re talking dreams, anything is possible. Dreams love puns, so to dream of finding a fork (cutlery) on the road may symbolise reaching a fork (decision point).
More importantly, dreams reveal our personal perceptions and understandings of life, so when you ask What if questions about a dream make sure you question your perception of the dream situation as well as alternative outcomes.
The final What if for Prison Man, for example, questioned his perception of the dream situation. What if he wasn’t imprisoned at all, but had simply momentarily forgotten he was cleaning the cell, and was always free to go?
How can all of this help you to interpret your dreams and introduce positive changes into your life?
Most dreams are metaphors – stories that parallel your waking life situation. (When you sleep, your right brain is more active than your left [logical] brain, and it expresses itself in metaphors.) The trick is to find the situation in your waking life described by your dream metaphor.
Mosaic Man, for example, thought about his dream of endlessly crawling over a mosaic floor, checking for missing tiles. He could see the link with his work situation. He was a business owner and had recently lost several members of staff to a competing business. For months he had been preoccupied with these losses, trying to work out why they were leaving and who might leave next. He saw the mosaic floor as his staff network, the foundation of his business, and he saw the individual lost tiles as the lost staff. He could see from his dream that he was so focussed on the details of individual staff losses, that he was losing sight of the big picture. When he thought about What if he climbed the stairs and looked down on the mosaic floor instead of crawling over it, his whole perception shifted. He realised his business was suffering because he had lost touch with the big picture, with what his business was about, how it was seen, how he marketed it, how he communicated with the ‘whole’ network and much more. He saw what he needed to see to make the changes that encouraged staff to stay and the business to thrive.
We tell children fairy stories (metaphors) to help them understand life’s challenges. We tell parables and Zen stories to throw light on our lives. It’s sometimes easier and less confronting to help someone forward by sharing a metaphor than by discussing their situation more directly. We respond to the suggestions embedded in fairy stories, parables and other metaphors. Our unconscious minds particularly embrace this format – metaphors speak the language of the unconscious mind, the language of dreams.
If you’re the kind of person who tends to focus on small details and miss the big picture, it’s very likely that my little dream story about Mosaic Man has already filtered through to your unconscious mind. It will be there for you when you need it. And, neatly encompassed in the same dream metaphor is the reverse suggestion – that sometimes you may need to get closer to the small details, to get in touch with things you may overlook in the big picture.
So here’s the thing:
Most dreams are one-sided metaphors, highlighting our often one-sided perception of life. The woman who dreamed she wasn’t getting served at the bar was viewing her unconscious mind’s summary that her needs were not being served. She looked at her dream and could relate it to her waking life, but what to do next? She knew she wasn’t getting her needs met, but didn’t know what to do about it. By asking What if questions of the dream scenario, you help yourself to see your options.
It never occurred to Thirsty Lady to serve herself. She had an unconscious belief in waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Changing the metaphor (asking What if questions and imagining the results) changed her attitude by changing her perception. (This is another form of dream alchemy practice – the practice of transforming your unconscious perceptions and beliefs by changing the dream outcome.)
Drowning Man had always relied on people to save him. He let life happen to him, rather than making life happen according to his choices. By asking What if questions and imagining the outcomes, he realised he had choices. He saw his passive (let it happen to me) approach, and decided to be more active, to ‘start swimming’ towards his goals, and make it happen.
I have given you some ready-made metaphors in this article, metaphors you can apply to various life situations. There might be somewhere in your life right now where you can remove your heavy shoes when you feel you are drowning, or choose a better destination when you are obviously intent on making yourself late for your ‘plane’, or re-evaluate the load you are carrying, or realise you’re only as imprisoned as you believe, or that what you imagined to be a fork in the road was a complete misunderstanding.
Next time you have a dream with an unsatisfactory ending, ask yourself MANY What if questions. Imagine the possible outcomes. Then look for the life situation that parallels your dream. Once you have matched your dream metaphor to a life situation, you can apply your What ifs to your life situation – and strike gold.
[Copyright Jane Teresa Anderson, February 2008. First published as a Dream Sight article.]
What if …
starting today, you dream-weave a new vision of how you are in the world?
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