Anger, Stress and Anxiety Management Tips for Satisfying Relationships
Damien’s Dreams Prevent Him From Ruining His LIfe – part 4
Settling into married life felt good. Damien was content and very relieved that he had got that part of his life sorted out. But now he was having problems at work. He was making errors on tasks that he routinely did with no difficulty. His confidence cracked and his stress levels went through the roof. His rhythm became disturbed and he couldn’t get back on track to do things on time, and that jarred even more on his perfectionistic attitude. Irritable when he got home, he found it hard to tell his wife about his ‘failures’ and deprived himself of comfort and understanding.
Fearful for his reputation and job, Damien had a series of scary dreams about being tested for exams, just like he felt tested in his life at the time. These dreams were instrumental in getting his confidence back and performing adequately.
The first dream shows how he is on the brink of an emotional crisis
The pendulum swings from over confidence to an expectation of failure
“I was studying for my final biology exam. I was in lab tech school. It was just before 8 and I thought I had time to visit my spiritual guide. So I walked to his house to say hi. Then I saw my mother and brother come in but I didn’t stay to talk. I knew I had to go to school to do my test on time. I thought I had time to walk, but as I walked and walked I saw that it was 8:10. I wondered if I should go back to the spiritual guide’s house and get my car. But I decided to keep walking. Then it was 8:30 and I thought I should get an Uber. Everyone could see how upset I was, and how I failed. I was trying to download the app and was getting very frustrated and anxious. My whole life was about to be ruined. Then I woke up. “
Damien was shaken by the stark precipice of success versus failure he encountered in his dream – dependent on his ability to use judgement and make the right choices, which he isn’t sure he can do. Discussing the dream in therapy, Damien was able to see how scared he was in his real life that he may not succeed. The dream shows him that when he becomes over confident, he loses his balanced center. He over estimates what is possible and doesn’t check into his inner core to make sure he is adequately prepared psychologically.
We analyzed the dream together by talking about the symbols that came up
He knows he needs to check in with his spiritual guide (a symbol of his inner wisdom) but doesn’t quite do so. Then he ignores both his family members both of whom symbolize his broken link with his core self, putting his whole future on the line. He shuns the female part of him (his mother, the grounding and nurturing part of his soul); and he doesn’t greet the male part of him (his brother) the strong rational dependent part of his core self. The act of dismissing these two balanced parts of him put him in jeopardy. He becomes frustrated, looking for something outside himself to rescue him (the Uber application). But it doesn’t work. In the dream he feels exposed and judged by those around him – a symbol of his waking self being ashamed of his lack of judgment and overconfidence. He is being made to feel how bad things get when he loses touch with his authentic self that has the wisdom to guide him.
The message this dream is offering is one of learning to access, tune in and attend to his inner soul which will guide him into making the right choices for his well-being, rather than looking outside of himself to be rescued from possible failure.
Focused exclusively on the part of him that was involved with his new marriage, he had broken loose from his center, heady with the success of his relationship. The dream gives him a scare so that he reunites with his inner core and use his inner guide and all parts of himself to be a success.
Damien didn’t take the dream message seriously and within a few weeks he had a nightmare to drive the point home.
“I was doing a test in school and I didn’t pass. The dean called me and he was crying and said sorry he couldn’t do anything about it. If I took it again and failed I would be thrown out of med school and that would be the end of everything. I had to put more effort into it and not get distracted. I wouldn’t have a good life and no career. It was a nightmare and when I woke up I was so happy it wasn’t real. It was a huge relief.”
Talking about his relief, Damien realized that his nightmare could become a reality if he didn’t pay attention to balancing his inner self. He wouldn’t be anything if he just assumed that things would work out without the link to his ‘guide’ that could keep him nourished and stable. His reliance once again on an outside force to rescue him (the dean) wasn’t going to work.
The experience of failure in the dream came to remind him that he hadn’t fully absorbed the lesson in the prior dream. Damien tends to hand over his authority to someone else and suffers as a result. So this dream is an even sharper reminder that he has to tune in and trust his inner guide who will ensure that he will pass life’s tests as and when they come along.
This time Damien took the message to heart and his next dream exemplified it.
“I was walking from school up a hiking trail to a mountain. There was a museum there like the The views were spectacular. It was open and there were lots of people there. It was magnificent. The museum had stuff that people had made from the past and I thought about how they did it and that that person in that time touched this.”
We talked of the place of learning that brought back memories of being there for 10 years as a student. He had gone there to study and it felt like a home. Damien is now showing signs that he is tuning into himself (home) as a source of wisdom because it’s a place where he learned and matured.
He described the museum as being a place of respect – that keeps history and shows what people did in the past, where one can see what they once worked on. Damien is learning to respect his own personal history and development, respecting it and honoring it, instead of always looking to someone or something outside of himself to guide him.
In the dream he enjoyed the scenery and good views indicating that it made him feel free, good, and alive. So we can see how Damien is in touch with his own internal scenery that liberates him and brings him vitality.
The need to be perfect rocked Damien’s boat, threatening to capsize his boat and throw him into choppy seas
In the next few weeks, Damien experienced several triggers at work that shook his confidence, propelling him towards trying to be perfect and please everyone around him. He was going back to what was familiar – yet irritated that he couldn’t maintain his inner calm. Another dream came along to help him feel solid again.
“I am in high school, and have to do a math test but feel like I’m not prepared. My wife is with me. I see a booth where you can take a practice test that predicts how well you do on the real thing. I took it and got 95%. That was good and I knew that I could do it. It was empowering.”
We noticed that the good feelings Damien had after this dream were very different to the fear and panic at the end of the previous dreams. Something has shifted inside him that points to a greater sense of self-trust as he keeps putting himself to the test. He seems to continue to need proof that he is okay and isn’t just lazy and dependent like his father and brother.
He wants to be sure that he has what it takes for his future, needing to ‘practice,’ get assurance and relieve his anxiety.
The symbol of Math is probably related to ‘adding and subtracting’ things in his life. Almost as if he is sorting out what’s useful and discarding what gets in the way. In real life he is ‘adding’ other activities in his personal life like picking up his interest in comic books. His wife is with him in the dream suggesting that he is identifying more with his adult self and less with his family of origin that had held him back. But unfortunately he only gets it right 95% of the time. Ninety-five is an odd number indicating he still has a way to go to make his life more even and wholesome
Damien is fortunate to work on his inner core with a therapist who helps him understand the value and power of his dreams. You can too.
In part 5 I’ll show you how Damien struggled with his journey towards greater confidence and more self-trust in his life, as his dreams continued to illuminate his progress as he navigated fears of not being perfect, constantly needing proof of his ability to pass life’s tests.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
AUTHOR OF:’ Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: Ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationship.
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Disclaimer: this article is for educational and informational purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have when reading the material or following the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.