Can't Have It Both Ways
The proverbial having our cake and eating it too applies to our psychic life and to the world of dreams. In order to heal and grow, we need to heal and grow. Quite often, I find that people say they want healing when in reality they only want relief. Healing takes seeing our way through tough times with tough messages. They challenge us to look at ourselves, our dreams, and our life situation in new ways that can upset old patterns and perspectives.
I think it makes common sense that we can’t grow and stay the same. Yet, the pull to not make necessary changes in life is strong. The old habits and ways of relating that go counter to well being have to go if we are to get better and stronger. That requires living in a way that is positive and generative and not in ways that are destructive and land us in one dead end after another.
Patients seeking depth psychotherapy frequently struggle to understand that the way they are living affects the way they are feeling. They think bad feelings somehow come out of nowhere and inflict themselves. They think they are the victims of invisible forces that have targeted them and made their life miserable. Over time in dream therapy, we come to understand that it’s not just about what has happened to us in life that shapes us. What also matters is what we have done with what has happened to us. We have a choice to deal consciously with what’s happened to us or to close our eyes and be victims, whining and complaining about our sorry lot in life.
In dream therapy, symbols and images come to the rescue. When we sleep at night, our unconscious mind tries to get through to us. We find ourselves face to face with a dark foe. I love these dreams, the image of the shadowy figure providing just the medicine we need for the illness at hand. Inevitably, it’s the scary dream that gives the most enlightenment. It shakes us to the core with what we need in the way that we need it. In dreams like this, there’s no way out. The terror stalks us, won’t let up, demands recognition and reckoning. It’s the psyche’s way of saying it’s time to take care of emotional and spiritual business.
A person related, “Last night was rough dreaming for me. It was nightmare time. I couldn’t run fast enough from whoever it was that was chasing me. It was the dark of night, and there was nowhere for me to go. Footsteps pounded behind me, caught up with me no matter which way I turned or where I went.” The individual looked up at me and stated, “I don’t know what that dream was about, but here I am and so I thought I’d tell you about it.”
“Do you have any idea what it might mean for you? How it might speak to you?” I asked not really thinking they would be able to pull the image together in a coherent way or with meaning. They seemed overwhelmed by the lingering emotional effects of the dramatic scenario. “The best I can say is that I can’t keep up running from what I need to face. I can’t have it both ways—running and dreams don’t square up.” I replied, “I’m impressed. It’s time to face the feelings and situations you’ve been trying to outrun.” Over the course of many months we explored the life conflicts that propelled him to have this dream and to enter dream therapy.
Dreams speak to stopping, turning around, and facing what we’re running from. We can’t have it both ways, our cake and eat it too. Emotional and spiritual therapy sees us along our way through life’s tough times, dreams leading the way.