“Are we meant to learn lessons from our dreams?” asked Cheryl, in an email I received this week. It’s a good question, both simple and complex, and one many people ask. So, are we meant to learn lessons from our dreams?
I’ve been watching Isobel, my eight month old granddaughter, learning to crawl. You might think crawling is innate, an instinct, but not all babies crawl before they can walk. Some progress directly from sitting to standing and walking, while others get mobile by rolling around, or shuffling on their bottoms, or scrabbling on hands and feet rather than on hands and knees.
Newborns have an instinctive crawling reflex. If you place a newborn on her mother’s tummy, she will usually do the ‘breast crawl’, crawling up to latch on to her mother’s nipple. If you place babies onto their tummies in their first weeks of life, you will see little movements like crawling. Although they don’t make any forward movement, this action is believed to help protect them from asphyxiation when lying face down. The instinct seems to disappear after a few weeks, and since babies in some cultures never crawl, it appears that crawling is just one of many possible solutions babies find to satisfy a drive to get mobile before they work out how to walk.
Here’s what I’ve learned from watching Isobel learn to crawl.
The most important thing is the toy she wants to get to. It’s all about keeping her eye on the prize. Locked on all fours, swaying, getting nowhere, you can almost hear her thinking, searching for a solution. At least, that’s my interpretation of what’s going on.
Does this remind you of a situation in your life, now or in the past, where you know what you want to achieve, but you can’t seem to get it happening? Or you can’t quite work out exactly what to do? Or you just feel stuck?
What do you do next? Keep trying? Get frustrated? Look for a different solution? Give up? Feel like a failure? Cry for help?
What is the right thing to do? Is there a life lesson here?
Some argue for persistence. Stick with the formula, stick with doing what you’re doing, and you will eventually succeed. Others argue the opposite. If what you’re doing isn’t working, then you need to change what you’re doing.
Isobel might have found a different way to get mobile. She got pretty good at doing the roly poly, which, by adding a wriggle here and there, sort of got her to where she wanted to be, but crawling still intrigued her, so she spent more time swaying on all fours, thinking. And growing stronger. After a few days, she tried hefting both legs at the same time, and then finally worked out the cross crawl pattern – move right knee and left hand, then left knee and right hand. Now she’s building up the strength to go more than four little crawls at a time.
What can you take from Isobel’s story to apply to a situation where you feel stuck?
Are you really stuck? Or, like a baby swaying on all fours, are you really in training, practising and acquiring accessary skills, gaining strengths, developing and refining systems, even if all you’ve got is a feeling of getting nowhere? Is the resistance you feel actually assistance in disguise? Is giving up the best solution, or might today be the day when everything you have learned finally clicks into co-ordination and, quite suddenly, you achieve your goal?
“You can’t walk before you can crawl,” is a commonly quoted life lesson. Not necessarily true when considered literally. Generally true metaphorically.
I’m not sure what kind of lessons Cheryl was referring to when she asked if we are we meant to learn lessons from our dreams, but I do know that our dreams process our conscious and unconscious experiences of the last 24-48 hours, matching them to our past experiences before filing them away as ‘same old’ or ‘new’. So our dreams reflect our personal beliefs about life – the life lessons we have drawn and relied upon (same old), and new life lessons in the making.
The lessons I draw from my life experiences may be different from the lessons you draw, and the lessons you drew when you were ten may be different from the lessons you will draw when you are ninety. What seems right or feels right or works right for you may be totally wrong for me, but the more we share and compare what our life lessons have taught us, the closer we move towards living our lives meaningfully.
When you interpret your dreams, you understand the unconscious patterns of your life. You see how you live your life according to the personal lessons you have learned, and you see which of those life lessons are working well for you, and which are not. It’s never too late to learn (oh, that’s a universal life lesson, by the way), and if it’s meaningful life lessons you’re after, look into your dreams to understand your life, how it has shaped you, and how you can choose to shape it.
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