Hello Human Being.
Today I want to venture down a path that I’ve neglected for many years. There was a time, not so long ago and yet too long ago, that I wrote about my dreams. As I delved into more self-exploration it became an important source of imagery, one that often provided insight and simplified the constant inner monologue that greeted my waking hours.
My introduction to dream analysis came about during my semester with Roger. Throughout the course and our education on Freud, Jung, et al one thing seemed to standout. Dreaming is still quite a mystery to us all, and many questions remain unanswered. This makes dream analysis quite a challenge. How do you interpret your dreams appropriately when the mechanism you’re using has not been validated? Much of what we think we know about dreaming is actually theoretically based.
Personally, I’ve concluded that one thing is for certain about the practice of understanding our dreams, and once again this revelation has come from none other than dear old Roger. Roger explained early in his teachings of dream interpretation, the one reliable constant:
Our individual dreams live within our minds, meaning, what you see in your dream is a manifestation from your own psyche. Thus, one of the most important things you can do is to analyze the individual parts of the dream, each part being a part of your self, your being, your whole. Within this construct you gain more perspective by looking at the dream from different vantage points. For example if you dream of yourself walking down a long hallway with many doors, you are not just yourself, but also the hall, the doors, the air, and anything else that stands out to you. Then you begin to deconstruct what each individual item or aspect means to you.
Recently I’ve felt that I needed to gain a little more perspective of my own. I’ve been lost in my thoughts and I’ve found myself evaluating and re-evaluating my position in life and the progress I’ve made. I have a lot of big dreams, but often find that the forward momentum required to see them through is missing. I find myself asking, am I where I need to be? Am I the person I want to be? Am I doing the things I need to do? This is not a departure from the practice of being in the present, but rather a way to gain awareness and confidence in each moment, by being steadfast in my individual truth, and finding purpose for my actions.
All this being said, I found my inner voice had taken a turn toward Mania-town. Too many questions and too many words were swimming around in my head. I didn’t know what my next move should be or what direction I needed to go to achieve the next development in my being. Simply put, I was feeling stuck, despite my efforts to remain present. I think (or at least I’d like to believe) that my psyche recognized my need for a different perspective, a new source of imagery, and a vantage point that would allow me to make sense of the things my conscious mind could not yet grasp.
My dream was rather short, or so it seemed. It was initially quite confusing. It left me feeling uneasy and questioning “what in the actual fuck was that all about?”. My interpretation was rusty and it took some time to work out what it all meant.
I rarely dream in first person. I find myself a spectator much of the time and this dream was no different. I watched my “dream self” as I was standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom. There was nothing remarkable about the space or my appearance at first glance. It appeared as it normally does. It seemed I stood there for quite awhile, before seeing myself turn my head to the side slowly, and lean in toward the mirror. As I did, I lifted my right hand to drag it through my hair. I immediately noticed that my hair was thinning in balding horizontal stripes. I pulled the remaining hair up and back to reveal cheetah spots all over my scalp. I, the spectator, was alarmed, but my “dream self” stood calmly, blankly even, gazing at the spots. Again, some time passed before the dream faded and I woke up.
My immediate sense was that this dream was quite different. While I often dream with striking imagery, my dreams are typically longer, and the scene changes multiple times. I rarely dream that I am alone. Generally speaking my “dream self” is always in motion, she is always attempting to complete a task, reach a goal, or get away from someone or thing. The stillness of this dream, the lack of movement, the lack of changing imagery, and the absence of other “characters” was the first thing that stood out. My interpretation is that my subconscious is saying “you really need to look inward” or possibly “you need to focus on your self”. Maybe even “slow down and find stillness”.
Beyond this I was initially at a loss. What could the spots mean? How do I interpret the other things I saw? Am I supposed to be the damn mirror or what? Turns out the answer to this question is yes.
In my life, I’ve been lucky to meet many interesting people, whose individual and collective energies have enriched my life in so many ways. One of those people happens to be one of my best friends. We’ll call her A. A has a PhD in psychology. Her major area of expertise happens to be in psychoanalysis and dream analysis. She is also quite skilled in the areas of coffee guzzling, chain smoking, spiritual intuition, incredible compassion, and waxing intellectual. So I called her up for a coffee date.
After explaining my dream to her she said that the mirror and the act of staring into it symbolizes my need for healthy narcissism.
Essentially, it was a symbol, strategically placed by my sub-conscious, as a representative of my current state of mind- the act of questioning my seat in life. And when my “dream self” leaned in toward the mirror, it was as if she was telling me to look deeper, to see what’s under the surface. She was giving me the “green light” to continue my introspection. My “dream self” likes to remind me to take care of my needs.
As for the spots, A said that she thinks I need to look a little further into the imagery. Then A said that she got the sense that I needed to meditate on the word “mother”. So I took to really working through the dream, and as well making some notes. The following is my full analysis of my dream.
What words do you think of when you describe a cheetah?
strong, wild, beautiful, independent, lithe, agile, intelligent, fierce, calculating, loyal, survivor, maternal, feline, free
Why are the spots on me? Why on my head? What do they symbolize in regard to my life currently?
I believe that the spots were on me as a visual reminder that there is always more under the surface. I believe the location was a reminder that I spend a lot of time leading with my head, and my analytic self, instead of my heart and soul. This is something I’m typically quite aware of in others, but not always so with myself. Sometimes the simplest of truths cannot be revealed on a conscious level, until I’m ready to hear, understand, and embrace them. Sometimes my mental blocks prohibit me from being fully in my body, in my being.
One of those mental blocks is accepting the truth that I’m aging. I’m 31, and for the first time in my life, the effects of aging are starting to lick at the edges of my being. I am starting to see the damage I’ve done to my skin via tanning, late nights, and lack of hydration, I’ve begun to feel more sluggish in terms of my energy level, I’ve gained weight and this has perpetuated the achy feeling in my joints that began back when I was dancer. At one point in the last year I’ve also had an issue with hair loss related to stress and poor nutrition. When this occurred I became utterly obsessed with finding the cause and fixing it. I’ve been going through a lot of physical changes, which have been challenging. I’ve resisted them. Fought them. I certainly have not accepted them.
For awhile I honestly think I’d convinced myself that I could stay young forever.
I believe my dream was a reminder that in the last year or so these changes have become a big part of my reality and that my thoughts surrounding my aging body have contributed to this sense of being stuck in some ways, as well as my lack of motivation. My aging body is often the target of my day to day self-shaming. As I prepare myself for each day I’ve found that I often scrutinize myself and seek out the signs of fading youth. I sometimes find myself cursing little lines in my face, or thinning hair at my temples, and the greys that seem to multiply overnight. Each day I stand in front of the very mirror I dreamed about and I take part in self-hate. I was not practicing the healthy narcissism necessary to gain resolve, comfort, and understanding of my changing body. I am actually a little bit ashamed of the way I’ve thought about myself and the things I’ve outright said to myself.
I knew I needed to find a way to move my thought patterns toward healthy narcissism, just as A had said.
What is healthy narcissism? What does it look like?
According to Wikipedia, healthy narcissism contributes to improving emotional intelligence as part of the process of adapting to changes; to intensifying curiosity and investigating the environment; to relating to otherness, and for enhancing ‘joie de vivre or the joy of living.
I go back to the words I used to describe the cheetah and see words like “beautiful”, “fierce”, “agile”, and I am reminded that these days I rarely describe myself using words such as these. I believe that the spots were placed as a reminder to accept myself in the place I am physically right now and to look for the cheetah’s qualities within myself. I am also reminded that sometimes those qualities are hidden in plain view (e.g. under the hair). I am also reminded that sometimes you have to clear out space in order to make room for something else. I would have never seen the beautiful spots on my scalp if it hadn’t been for the loss of my hair. Such is the case with aging.
With that I am beginning to realize that I can accept aging and learn how to do it gracefully. I can help myself along by drinking water, exercising, eating good food, surrounding myself with positive energy doing the things I love with the people I love. I can learn to love myself as I age and grow and change. I can be ok with this natural part of being human. And I believe that the act of doing these things and finding acceptance of my current self, will bring comfort and open up space that will allow me to experience joie de vivre.
Maybe I can be more like a cheetah. Have you ever seen an aging cheetah? Is it any less striking, beautiful, regal, and revered? The spots retain their beauty. The cat retains its force. The cheetah retains her feline femininity, her youthful stride, and her fierce, untamed nature.
And I am also reminded, that these qualities are no less so when the cheetah becomes a mother. As a younger person I had convinced myself otherwise. I had blocked myself from the idea of motherhood. In my mind, motherhood and fading youth have always gone hand in hand. I think that on some level, I have been afraid that I would not be able to enter this stage in life without giving up aspects of myself, both physically and psychologically. I’ve always prided myself on being strong, independent, maybe even a little hard. I’ve always equated 30-somethings and motherhood, with softness. The idea of becoming a mother has always been tied to concessions of youth, freedom, and independence. I thought being a mother meant leaving those things behind. I was wrong. So wrong.
Throughout the last few years the idea of motherhood has developed a very literal connotation as I navigate the question of whether or not to have children, wondering whether I even can have children, and wondering what kind of mother I would be. I have faced external pressure from my parents and in-laws, because quite frankly, they want grandchildren to spoil! This pressure has clouded my thoughts and it has been hard to determine whether or not having children was something that I personally wanted. When I was younger I was adamant that I did not want to have children, but now, standing on the precipice of middle-age, it becomes a more heavily weighted question.
I recall now that there is a theory that every woman goes through three stages in life, the maiden, the mother, and the crone. Each stage builds upon the former.
The transition from maiden to mother, is often referred to as “Saturn Return” in astrology, and for most women, this change occurs at around the ages of 27-31. It is often attributed to a changing sense of time, a sense of urgency regarding one’s life path, and asking big questions. Often during this time, people will change careers, begin new travels, and even reevaluate relationships with friends and loved ones. It is a time to question and evaluate what is most important.
The transitions I’ve been through in the last few years have been tough in some ways. I found myself evaluating myself, my relationships, my morals, my ideologies, and my basic beliefs, and questioning whether my place in life reflects those things. When I discovered misalignment, I attempted to make changes to realign those things. Some of these changes, especially social changes, have met some resistance. I’ve struggled and almost given in, but in the end I feel I’ve stayed mostly true to my values, and in that I’ve felt more wisdom and peace.
I get this sense sometimes. It is the sense that “I am myself, but I”m not myself. I am a new version of myself”. I didn’t realize it, but I have been making the transition from maiden to mother. I have been moving through my Saturn Return. I have been growing up and leaving some of my foolish notions behind. I am realizing that you can be a Mother without biologically being a mother. This very concept sort of blows my mind. I am eventually going to be a Mother, whether I choose to have children or not. I may as well embrace this stage and even welcome the changes it brings about in my life. I am also realizing that time does not wait, and that we are all fluid beings. Nothing is static. I am learning that my ability to adapt and to go with the flow, so to speak, will allow me to be open to new possibilities, experiences, and discoveries about myself. These are all concepts that I want to explore further in future entries.
This dream has taught me a lot. I feel it was the final piece I needed to gain some recognition of my new stage in my life and to be ok with it. I want to move forward, accepting myself for who I am today. I believe that acceptance and adaptability will lead to joie de vivre. If I let go of some of my ideas about control and my unrealistic expectations of myself, I will find new joy in daily experiences. When I let go of negative or doubting self-talk I will be able to more readily embrace all that life has to offer. With that sentiment in mind, I’d like to share this simple quote from wikipedia. Please note the statement on being!
The joie de vivre can be a joy of conversation, joy of eating, joy of anything one might do… And joie de vivre may be seen as a joy of everything, a comprehensive joy, a philosophy of life, a Weltanschauung (world view).
Robert’s Dictionnaire says joie is “sentiment exaltant ressenti par toute la conscience”,
that is, involves one’s whole being.
(Photo credits: Photo 1- Unknown, Photo 2- elephant journal, Photo 3- Suzi Eszterhas, Photo 4- Ana Luisa Pinto)