Returning from a trip abroad, thirty-seven-year-old Natalie was full of enthusiasm and energy to kick start her career in the creative arts. She had jotted down a ton of ideas including doing a workshop online about writing comedy scripts; doing improvisation, teaching acting at night school and finishing a script that she started 2 years ago. But within four days she wanted to do anything but tackle her list. She wanted to talk to friends, go to a spa, do yoga and cook, but not move forward with her career steps.
Tired of this up and down pattern of excitement followed by a crash, Natalie was acutely aware of her shame and disappointment, despite working on herself for some years. No matter what steps she took and how determined she was, she went from feeling full of desire and motivation to feeling listless when it came to her scripts, workshops, etc.
It all felt too much to manage.
Then a dream came along that helped her understand what was holding her back.
She dreamt that she got a job in a hair salon. She was new and had little experience. A member of the band ‘Kiss’ came into the salon. He had long black wavy hair and wanted it straightened. He was in a hurry and Natalie wasn’t sure she could get it done in time. She used a flat iron that she knew wasn’t the most appropriate for this job but persisted anyway. As her client got impatient and was about to leave the manager of the salon came over and told her to get on with the job and she then complained about not having the right tool. The manager got angry with her and told her that she could have asked for it, before directing her to the front desk where the correct flat iron was located.
Natalie explored her dream with me and noticed that she was feeling as if she were new at the game of working for money, just like she had been in the dream. She also felt as if she was starting from scratch, lost and unable to do what she needed to execute her goals, just as her dream portrayed.
But Natalie learned something important about herself from her dream.
She discovered that she ‘knew’ what the right tool was but refused to ask for it or get it without someone else pushing her. As we talked further it became apparent that Natalie discarded the parts of her that ‘knew’ what to do and how to do it in real life, so that each time she started a fresh it felt as if she was at square one, without a road map or hiking gear. Feeling overwhelmed and scared she would just give up and her career aspirations would die off.
I helped Natalie appreciate that she had a great many resources including knowledge and skill that she hid from herself because it involved her using her energy and motivation to activate them to serve her purpose. It wasn’t that she was lazy, it was that she just didn’t want to do the work for herself. She wanted someone else to step in and do it so she felt cared for and not alone in taking care of herself.
The images in the dream proved really central in helping Natalie gain insight into those parts of her that sabotaged her success.
We discussed the image of the flat iron, and found a rich seam of material that Natalie used to help paint a more in depth picture of why she kept getting stuck in the same place.
First we played with the word ‘flat.’ We talked about ‘flat as in a linear line,’ ‘flat-lining’ as on a medical monitor, and a tire having a flat! All these ways of new images of ‘flat’ gave Natalie a sense of how she wanted a lifeless learning experience, with no bumps or grooves along the way. I also noted that she wanted to drive herself forward with no air in her tires, despite having a great body and engine in terms of her intelligence and talents. Natalie recalled how things had come so easily to her in school that she never had to put any work into it, and wanted that same experience in her adult life. She didn’t want to use her resources in the fullest way possible, and so her tires would deflate, stopping her from progressing.
Then we moved on to the word ‘iron.’ Natalie associated it with a steel grip, a rigid determination to do something irrespective of its effects or repercussions. She mentioned how fearful she was of doing things that would be outside her chosen field, making her rigidly stick to a narrow path, excluding experiences that could enhance and enrich her career in the creative arts.
I added that a lack of iron was a sign of anemia, a cause of weakness and lethargy. Without the right kind of iron (like the right tool in the dream) she would be lifeless and unable to manage her jobs. That she couldn’t actually ‘grip’ the parts of her that could coalesce and make her goals a reality.
We shifted to talking about ‘ironing’ and the first thin that Natalie thought of was that of ‘ironing out wrinkles.’
She immediately connected to the part of her that had to iron out wrinkles that sabotaged her career success. She had to iron out the problems that stood in her way, that of disavowing her talents, skills and knowledge when her motivation was present, AND losing touch with her motivation when she owned her talents.
The dream continued to give us food for Natalie to chew on in her therapy. She began to see how she separated her motivation from her talents and scuppered her chances of a good future. She is now in the process of integrating those two parts of her and take real steps towards earning a living at what she was good at.
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Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D