Do you know what yours mean?
Back when I was a college professor, I taught a class on dreams which I called "Your Unconscious Story Teller." It was filled to capacity every quarter over the two years I taught it.
Understanding the meaning of dreams is a powerful tool for all of us during all stages of our lives. As we get older, we may not remember the dreams we have while sleeping as well as we once did, but we all have dreams while we're awake as well.
I believe it is important to share your dreams and to discuss those dreams you may have given up on. These are the things you let go of because other life decisions — such as school, marriage or jobs — took you on another path.
Aboriginal cultures have a history of tapping into what they call "dream time," an ancient metaphor they use for gaining insight from non-ordinary consciousness.
When you revisit the dreams you left behind you can explore ways of making them part of your future.
We are, in essence, relational beings.
If you live your life never revealing things that you keep hidden, your authentic self will always remain hidden as well. You will be loved by some and befriended by others, but there will always be something crucial missing. You will feel a hole somewhere inside of you, and that hole will keep you from feeling complete.
In addition, if there are dreams or aspirations you've given up on or forgotten, you are likely to feel unfulfilled in your calling. The same is true if there are stories of abuse, hurt, loss, grief, shame, or guilt related to life experiences that you keep buried. You will have to live with the burden of hiding them deeper and deeper as you struggled to feel protected.
The point is not to share these parts of yourself with everyone or just anyone. It's important to find a trusted listener who will keep your stories sacred and personal.
Naked living requires finding your committed and trusted other with whom you can share those stories from your shadowy storage space and reclaim the energy they've been draining from you.
The same is true for your dreams of long ago and dreams you've been stifling under the surface of your public self.
But there is always a way forward, and you can begin by sharing your dreams with another.
To begin, ask yourself these questions:
- What do you long for?
- What do you want to do differently?
- What would you do if you could?
- What is stopping you?
Having a witness to your discoveries is key. You can be emotionally naked by yourself, and, yes, there is value to that experience, but it can only take you so far.
Being emotionally naked during a relational experience with a trusted other has the power to evoke even deeper revelations. It must be a relational experience with a trusted other in order for it to be transformative.
Of course, dwelling for too long on negatively charged memories and beliefs doesn’t always serve us.
I have discovered that while wounds can illuminate, they can also hold us back.
The trick is to find the closeness of the wound to the gift. This may be disguised as the positive shadow, which gets projected on to others as admiration or envy. A good way to channel that envy is to focus on what’s alive in you now that makes you happy.
Your current desires, and not your past fears, should be the most important influences on the blueprint of your future.
I had one client in particular whose story illustrates how following the trail of envy can help you realize your deepest longing.
After several years of coaching, I'd written some articles on retirement coaching — what I called “legacy” coaching. I targeted people who had either retired or were looking to shift their work to philanthropy or professional volunteering in order to create a living legacy.
A 71-year-old widow asked me to coach her.
She said her husband had died two years earlier, and while he had left her plenty of money, she felt something was missing. She wanted something meaningful in her life.
I asked her if there were any dreams she had given up on or put on hold from earlier in her life.
There was a long silence. She looked deep in thought for a moment and then said yes. As a young girl, she had loved dance: ballet, jazz, ballroom — any kind of dance. But she got pregnant at the age of 20 and devoted herself to her homemaker duties instead. Her dreams of dancing were put on a shelf and forgotten.
She hadn't been asked these types of questions before and hadn't thought of those dreams in decades.
I could see in her eyes and hear in her voice the younger woman she remembered. This was touching something deep within her. It was opening up a long-buried dream that was an expression of her essence.
I asked her, “Is dance a part of your life now? Do you attend dance performances?”
She said yes, but that she sometimes felt sad watching dance performances because they brought up her yearning to dance.
This was an area where she was feeling envy.
I then asked, “Well, why don’t you dance?”
She replied, “You’re crazy! I’m too old!”
To be a coach is to believe in endless possibilities, tempered with a dash of reality.
The eventual outcome for this feisty woman was that she sought out dancing classes in her community — and loved them. Her teacher’s feedback was that she was better than many women half her age, which, of course, she enjoyed hearing. And the best part was that she and a couple of the younger women (in their 60s) formed a troupe and began performing dance recitals and offering dance therapy classes in nursing homes, schools, and churches in her area.
Because she was able to share her cherished dream with me, she opened the door to resuscitating it.
At the age of 71, she rediscovered her dancer’s legs and her buoyant heart. We were both overjoyed with her creation, which was recognized by her local paper. Dance gave her the joy and bliss she was longing to experience for several more years, and she stayed involved with her troupe and the dance world even after her movement became too limited to physically participate.
What are your dreams?
Who can you share them with?
And what is still possible in your life?
It's waiting for you right under the surface.
Learn more about vibrant living in Dr. Pat's new book Getting Naked: Ways to Uncover Your Authentic Self at Work, Home, in Relationships, and Life and watch for Dr. Pat in the upcoming TV show, Radical Dating.