All the world’s a stage

All the world's a stage Jane Teresa Anderson Dreams

The moment has come to step out on stage and perform in front of an audience but you haven’t prepared. Worse than this, you know zilch. It’s a common dream theme, and you’ve probably had a variation of it at some point in your life.

What did you make of it? How did you relate it to your life? How did it help you to understand yourself more deeply, or to make a change?

Your dream might involve a theatre performance, giving a presentation at work, teaching a class of eager students, delivering your artwork for public exhibition, flying a plane, or any number of situations, all of which come down to you not being able to deliver because you haven’t prepared or don’t know enough.

In a recent dream, I was to play a classical orchestral piece on keyboard. It was to be a solo performance. The auditorium was packed, the audience looked discerning, an anticipatory silence descended, and all eyes were on me, seated at the keyboard at the very centre of the room. Not only had I not studied or practised the piece, but I’m not a musician. I might have been able to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star with one finger, but then again, maybe not. I wondered what to do. I thought I was alone in this, but to my surprise the conductor came into the room, sat opposite me across the keyboard, and held me in her mesmerising gaze. I woke up before playing a note, although now I knew what to do.

Every dream is as unique as every dreamer, so there’s no blanket interpretation that applies to everyone for this kind of dream theme. All dreams reflect your conscious and unconscious experiences of the previous 1-2 days, and it’s most helpful to begin by looking at a dream as a metaphor for what’s been going on for you during those couple of days. Look for the metaphor in your dream. What feels accurate? Where in your life did you feel unprepared? Or was your metaphor more along the lines of over-promising and under-delivering? Or being over-prepared, leaving no room for changing your approach? Or being fearful of judgement? Or feeling you lack talent? You’ll know when you’ve found the connection. You’ll feel a tingly sensation, a kind of knowing, though your logical mind may say, ‘No way!’ Respect the tingly sensation, explore.

There is so much more to dream analysis, but this first step can open your eyes and bless you with new understanding about yourself, your inner world, your unconscious mindset.

My dream reflected the decision I had just made about the new book I’m writing this year, and the last throes of inner conflict about a change of writing approach and style. I came through. By the end of the dream I had resolved the conflict and knew what to do. I woke up feeling confident and energised. I was ready to begin, to place my fingers on my laptop keyboard, to orchestrate words into being.

My previous books were all planned in detail before I began writing. I named chapters, summarised the intended content chapter by chapter, decided upon a style, created a template for each chapter, specified the path I would take to guide readers through a process, or to get my message across. There was rationality in the structure, a solid plan. I was so prepared for each book that I even knew how long it would take me to write. My writing days were planned, x number of writing days at y number of words equals first draft completed by z date. And it worked for each of the six paperback books I have written. Safe within that structure, the actual words I chose were free to find their own expression, as if I were the observer, to surprise me with new twists, insights, metaphors, to write their own examples, to make me smile.

So I have decided on a complete change in approach and style for this new book. I haven’t prepared in my usual ‘classical’ way. I haven’t prepared a structure, marked out days in my diary, plotted the path or even the message. I feel the music. My dream reminded me that some part of me knows how to conduct the flow, to hold my attention in the mesmerised moment. All I need to do is lean into the keyboard and let it flow.

That much I understood at the end of my dream. On the caffeinated wings of my morning coffee, I realised that some part of me is also the musical keyboard in the dream, the instrument or channel for the music, no doubt conducted by my mesmerised in-the-moment intuitive self, free to break free from a pre-planned, logical structure. (Sticking with the metaphor, this may sound like big-noting myself and my abilities, but in dream analysis it’s helpful to look at everything as well as everyone in the dream as representing something about the dreamer.) In short, if I get stuck while I’m writing, I will imagine being the music. This is a form of dream alchemy, moving into a potent dream symbol, giving it – and yourself – more life.

Now, dear discerning audience, there are no big promises here. I may write something wonderful, something inspirational, something profound, or I may write something more akin to a one-fingered rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but whatever it is, I will enjoy the process.

The night before this dream, I dreamed I was on stage performing in a Shakespeare play. Everyone else knew their lines. I didn’t. I hadn’t prepared. But I got by. As I whispered to one of the other actors, “It’s ok, I don’t know the lines, but I know the general gist”. Much to the other actors’ amusement, I reframed Shakespeare’s beautiful poetry to fit the theme, and even had the audience laughing at one point with my Shakespearean puns. I’m sure they were far funnier in my dream, and I would certainly have been booed off the stage in waking life, but, as a precursor to my keyboard dream, it rather fits the bill, don’t you think?

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1 comment on “All the world’s a stage”

  1. Carmen

    Love this post – and the keyboard double meaning for piano and computer. When I started writing, I often wished the most to feel fluent with my work, like playing a piano—that’s actually how I used to describe it.

    I have had one of these ‘show’ dreams before. It was shortly before I was to go on a big overseas trip. In the dream I was in a car being taken to be part of a production of The Sound of Music. I had to play Liesel von Trapp! (Don’t know about that last name!) We’d had no rehearsal, but honestly I felt that I would muck my way through somehow. And Hugh Jackman was in the show too — he didn’t seem worried, so I remember thinking that it would probably turn out fine! (Hugh Jackman represents to me that rare thing—an Australian who doesn’t ever lose his temper. Maybe I was worried that I would make a bad impression overseas. Anyway, the trip turned out fine too!)

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