I am frequently asked about dreams and how I interpret them. I recently had a night of sequential dreams, which after contemplation, I discovered had the same message. The dreams were straightforward and easy to understand, and gave great insight into how the unconscious never gives up on helping us to understand our needs.
Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living. ~Anais Nin
In the first dream I decided to call someone I’ve been out of contact with, by choice, for years. My heart was light, giddy even, and I found that the words I needed came without effort. When he answered, I told him who I was and asked if we could talk. He greeted me, then replied clearly, though firmly that he was busy and couldn’t talk. I knew immediately that he wasn’t busy at all, but that he didn’t want to talk with me. From the point of deciding to call him I knew that he may not be responsive, and that was OK. I told him that was fine, wished him well, and hung up. For whatever reason his sister was suddenly beside me, and she told me that he had a lot of disdain for me and didn’t want anything to do with me. My dreaming mind instantly recognized her as the “wet blanket person,” the voice always willing to tear down a good situation. She said several derogatory things that weren’t true about me, though it didn’t matter. I was really happy to have made contact with him, no matter how it went, and I fully respected his right not to interact.
The second dream found me standing at a port waiting to board an ocean liner, at the start of my high school reunion trip. Everyone was formally dressed, with all of the women wearing cranberry-colored dresses and the men in black tuxes. I was very excited about the trip and about seeing everyone again. It was also fun to be dressed up, and I doted on my hair. Everyone greeted each other happily and posed for pictures. Frequently, I peered anxiously at the enormous vessel waiting to carry us all toward some great destination. I couldn’t wait to go! Our luggage was already on the ship, and we waited to board. I slipped into the restroom briefly, and when I came back out everyone was gone. Only one other girl remained, and a helicopter was arriving momentarily to take her to the ship to meet the others. I ran around furiously telling the port attendants that I was supposed to be on the ship, as well, that my luggage was already there. They didn’t seem to believe me at first, then once they did, they insisted there was no way they could get me there. The dream faded with me standing at the port, realizing that I wouldn’t be going on my grand trip.
Before I was even fully awake, I realized that both dreams were about not getting desired outcomes. What I couldn’t understand was why the dreams were so different. In the first one, the conversation didn’t go as I’d wanted, but I walked away from it feeling good, confident, grateful. It was an event that I initiated, and with the exception of its cool reception, had full control over. There was no indication that there would ever be another conversation, no eventual happy ending. There was no analysis of who said what and what it really meant. Even when the sister attempted to mar the moment, I still saw the exchange for the great thing that it was. I felt good for having had the interaction, regardless. The second dream was something else, entirely. I felt terrible when I realized I wasn’t going on the trip. Moreover, the logistics of my luggage taking the trip without me–hence, every possession I held dear and may never see again–was very distressing. I was excited, had gotten my hair done, gotten a brand new dress… This was an event that I was not in charge of. I wasn’t responsible for it playing out. All I had to do was pay my way and get myself to the right place at the right time, which I did precisely. At no point in my preparation for the event did it occur to me that the event would fall through or that I wouldn’t be able to go. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.
Why was it OK not to receive a desired outcome in one dream but not the other? What was the reason that I was so distressed about things not working out the way I’d planned in the second dream? What made it OK that the interaction didn’t go the way I’d wanted in the first dream? I walked around for the next day in a fog, using every approach I could think of to wrap my mind around the dreams. It wasn’t until I lay down to sleep the next night and gotten into a reasonably peaceful hypnagogic state that it hit me. I had been looking at the outcome of the dreams as the indicator for my state of being–grateful or upset. I wasn’t looking at my state of being before the events in the dreams as a determining factor in their outcomes. Because I had no attachment to the outcome in the first dream, it didn’t matter what the outcome was. I was going to feel good after, no matter what happened, because I accepted ahead of time that it would not affect how I felt. There was no emotional attachment involved. It could be exactly the balanced exchange that I wanted, the exchange could have been hurtful, or there could be no exchange at all. My wellbeing was not reliant on the outcome.
The second dream was another story. I had invested in the cruise. I paid money, I took time off work, I purchased items to ensure my great time on the trip. Even though the cruise wasn’t my original idea, I was emotionally invested in it coming to pass. I couldn’t conceive of the cruise not happening. Because I couldn’t conceive of it not happening, I was entirely attached to it happening. I was emotionally reliant on one outcome.
So what’s the moral of the archetypal story? Seek balance in all things. If I’m balanced, I can be well with any outcome. Does that mean I shouldn’t put effort into outcomes, or be excited about potential outcomes? Not at all. In fact, excitement and passion are what drive outcomes into being. The trick is not to get all of my hopes and aspirations tied to a specific outcome. I understand the message from my unconscious mind, and I feel its truth. Now to practice hopeful detachment.