#176 Record Your Dreams

I know this postulation gives many of us pause as we recall some of the more bizarre dreams that when remembered – seem to come out of left field.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#176

Record your dreams

Sleep experts tell us that everyone dreams. Do you remember yours? Psychoanalyst Jeffrey Sumber suggests that dreams are the communication avenue utilized by our subconscious and our conscious selves. He posits that dreams are quite meaningful and will often help us process complicated or confusing emotions in a state that is safe and private.

Ditch the dream ‘dictionary’

I know this postulation gives many of us pause as we recall some of the more bizarre dreams that when remembered – seem to come out of left field. Why in the world would I dream about…. ? We’ve all wondered that question. Dream analysis isn’t a fixed science even though many representations are made as such. While it may be common for people who dream about drowning to be overwhelmed in some area of their lives, it is an inferred meaning – not a ‘fact’.

Currently, all things that happen at an unconscious level are still mysteries and psychologists are only making best guesses at the origin, purpose, and meaning of unconscious events. Clearly, there is a growing body of commonalities yet with dreams especially – it’s a personal event that is as unique as the individual him or her self.

First Step

If you are seeking information about your dreams, the first step is to keep a dream journal on your nightstand. Why there? Many of us forget our dreams within moments of waking unless we wake in the middle of or right after a dream. If we don’t take steps to implant the memory of the dream, it disappears because our brain doesn’t’ consider it necessary information. (Similar to noticing the people next to you at dinner but unable to describe them hours later.) Immediately upon waking… breathe deeply and recall your last known imagery and then write down as many details as you can recall. Generally, as we write we will remember more.

Meaning

Pay particular attention to ‘feelings’ in a dream. If you are engaging in an activity – consider what meaning you give that activity. Who is with you? What is their roll in your life? As it relates to the meaning of your dream – YOU are the expert. You’re the only one who can ultimately decode the messages as they are being sent to you -via imagery – from your subconscious to your consciousness.

After you’ve recorded elements from a number of different dreams – look for commonalities. Identify the events during your conscious day that may correlate to elements in your dreams.

Self Awareness

In this manner, you’ll begin to decode messages or processing strategy that your subconscious mind is working with. It’s fascinating to discover another layer of your psyche and promotes an even deeper level of self-awareness — always a great thing. If you’re curious, get a notebook and begin by…

Recording your dreams.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#191 Focus on Self-Awareness

Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire …

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#191

Focus on Self-Awareness

Some might think that ‘ignorance is bliss’, that ‘denial is safe’ yet living in a state of either can lead to rather dysfunctional coping and/or relating. As a psychotherapist, I find that a number of people entering my office are experiencing one or the other albeit, often unconsciously. Even though it may seem rather counter-intuitive – being ‘aware’ is the emotionally healthier option and so much of my work is to help people become “aware”.

Self Protection

If I could teach people in the world any one skill, it would be an ability to become self aware. It’s not necessarily an easy task! Sometimes, we don’t like what we see when we are able to see everything. That’s where avoidance and denial come into play – they protect us from seeing what feels bad. Who wants to feel awful about themselves?

No Judgement

The only reason we don’t’ want to ‘see’ these things is because on some level – we are judging them. Think about it. If you get a tattoo that you love but your mom hates – no problem. You like it so there’s ‘no judgment’. If you get one during a drunken stupor even though you’ve vowed never to ‘ink’ yourself, you may have a judgment about it and seek to cope with your own disappointment by creating a story that makes it ‘ok’ for you. The preferable scenario is that you simply accept both the drunken stupor and the impulse to get a tattoo without any negative feeling.

Frankly, regret is a waste of your emotional energy. For most of us, we do what we do in each moment because it makes sense based on what we know/feel – at that point in time!! And then, like Maya Angelou said “when you know better, you do better”.

Self-honesty

Even though it may be difficult, seeing yourself clearly – how you think, why you think and feel the way you do, why you engage and react in the manner that is common for you – those are important to know. Nothing changes unless you know it exists. Behavior is only dysfunctional to the extent that it impacts your ability to have the life or relationships that you desire so if it works for you… it’s ok. However, if you are missing a piece of that link then a good hard look at YOU is in order. And since we are always changing in response to our relationships and our environment… it’s an ongoing process.

If your goal is to live with authenticity, then its imperative that you develop a lifelong goal to …

Focus on self-awareness.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

Photo by Taylor Smith on Unsplash

It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It?

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power.

 

“The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you can change ANYTHING in your life.” ~ Hal Elrod

In the last couple of posts I’ve made the comment to “own” you stuff… your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. What does it mean really to ‘own’? I find that just saying it may not be enough, I find that we often need reminded what it is to ‘own’ because we don’t necessarily live in a culture where taking personal responsibility is front and center. We easily fall into patterns of ‘blame’.

At the turn of the century, the Jamaican reggae singer ‘Shaggy’ came out with a song entitled “It wasn’t me”… he was being given advice to deny his responsibility even though he had been caught red handed. Even the music we listen to seeks to reinforce methods of circumventing personal responsibility. We watch crime shows and movies that demonstrate how to ‘Get Away with Murder’ and we see Oliva Pope ‘fix’ problems that high level officials don’t want to be associated with. While I realize that those are fictitious stories on broadcast television, they seep into our subconscious and weep on patterns of blame whenever there is a chance.

“I can’t be happy because he….”, or “if she would change, everything would be ok.”… I hear people saying these things weekly. My response is always – “what about you?” “What is YOUR role in this?” Relationships are BETWEEN people and so every soul in the interaction has some level of responsibility in the dialogue; some level of input in the collaboration. Relationships by definition, are never one sided. Consequently – even if the only contribution is a RE-action… every person is engaged.

What would it look like if we all took responsibility for only OUR own behaviors?

What would it look like if we all stopped and reflected on what ‘I’ could do better or more effectively?

First and foremost… we have to be aware of what we are bringing to the table. What is it that ‘I’ am contributing to this interplay?

  • Am I being antagonistic?
  • Am I being supportive?
  • Am I being defensive?
  • Am I listening well?
  • Am I validating?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I saying what I mean?
  • Am I contributing positively?
  • Am I keeping score? Playing tit for tat?
  • Do I maintain my composure? My tone? My voice?
  • Have I kept my promises or vows?

YOU must be so self-aware that you know – and can admit – your role in any interaction or collaboration.

You must be so self-aware that you can recognize when you are deflecting (changing the direction or focus) – “oh yeah? Well when you ….” Or when you are defensive… “well, I did that because….” And when you aren’t listening – by interrupting. People who interrupt are NOT listening well.

I use these examples because they are usually easier to comprehend when it comes to relationships… we can each see ourselves in an interaction with another and notice when we contribute to the exchange.

In addition, we are also responsible for our own LIVES… no – we don’t control many of the things that happen but we DO control and need to take responsibility for the way that we respond to our lives. We need to OWN the decisions we make in response to our lives. Each of our actions generates a consequence which, ultimately means that we must own part of the consequence.

Ben and Sally went out for her birthday. Ben bought Sally a bunch of ‘shots’ and Sally got drunk. Sally tells her friend – “Ben got me drunk last night”. Ummm… not really. Unless Ben poured the shots down Sally’s throat… SALLY got herself drunk.

Our decisions, our actions, our behavior – determine how we are viewed in the world… they determine how we think of ourselves and they each become a part of our history… things that stay with us, literally forever. Every action becomes a memory that is imprinted on our soul. So… no wonder we may not ‘want’ to take responsibility. No wonder that we may not want to ‘own’ something that has already happened – something that we don’t necessarily want to be there forever…

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power. If I am a wife blaming my husband for his addictions or blaming the problems in our marriage on his demeanor… I am denying that I have the power for my own decisions… for my own change. I am denying that I have any control over my own life.

What do we need to take responsibility for? We need to take responsibility for our own life… for what happens in it. Did you just get fired? Why? Look at the questions I asked earlier … go through them one by one… could you have done a better job? Could you have been more communicative? Could you have put in more effort? If so… just acknowledge it. Yes –  your boss may have been a dick. The working conditions may have sucked but at the end of the day – it was more than likely the way YOU reacted to it… the way you responded that made the decision.

If my husband is unfaithful, I can blame him for not keeping a promise but I am the one who needs to take responsibility for how I RE-act. Will I be vindictive? Seek to hurt him the way that I am hurt? Will I go deep into the uglies? Some of that will – of course – simply be a human reaction but if I go there – no matter my reaction – no one is putting a gun to my head and telling me how to behave. ANY reaction is one that I will have to OWN. I will have to remember that when I look in the mirror – it will be there with me.

Be aware – constantly aware – of what you are willing to carry with you – for the rest of your life.

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Rebuild & Repair

There was a resurgence in our commitment to one another and in our desire to be together.

“Only in the shattering can the rebuilding occur.” -Barbara Marciniak

Hubby moved back in and we began rehabilitating our broken home. Recovering from infidelity is difficult for any couple. Rebuilding trust happens slowly – painfully slow at first. For the injured party, it is not uncommon for questions to linger, for visions of the indiscreet couple to overtake intimate moments, and for fear of more indiscretions to overwhelm typical days. The only true relief comes with time. I was no different in that regard. As much as I tried, I couldn’t erase the vision of Hubby and Dee in his office, or in her bedroom. I learned to shake my head quickly when these images flooded my frontal lobe; to think of something else. It was more difficult to settle my heart rate and respiration when he was a little late or didn’t answer his cell phone. I was automatically and instantly thrust into neurotic angst wondering where he was and who he might be with. I didn’t reason with myself or process the fear, it built into a frenzy and exploded upon him in the form of emotional vomit the minute he walked in.

Our therapist worked with him to be patient with me as I began to heal and I worked on acquiring better skills that allowed me to emote differently and to cope more effectively with the volatility of my feelings. I learned to journal. I would write my thoughts and their corresponding feelings whether they were rational or not. I had a lot going on in my mind every day and I had to figure out how to validate myself.  I started smoking again. Hubby never had quit through all my pregnancies and we were spending a lot of time outside on the deck talking. Many of those conversations were difficult and having a cigarette in my hand somehow helped. It gave me something to focus on and strangely, connected us again. When we were first married, both of us smoking, we would sit outside and talk well into the evenings. Our talking time had been significantly curbed after I got pregnant and stopped smoking. I wouldn’t sit outside with him mostly due to my aversion to cigarette odor but also because I was also annoyed that he was still a smoker. Now, it was just easier to join him. I was mad at myself for picking up such an undesirable habit again but it served a number of purposes – at least in my mind.

There was a typical honeymoon period where we were all ‘in love’ and ‘romantic’ again. There was a resurgence in our commitment to one another and in our desire to be together. Money was still really tight, especially now that we were spending a car payment amount of money on counseling. It was difficult for us to ‘go places’ or ‘do things’ due to budget restraints but we would just take a walk or plan a picnic lunch from time to time, which helped us stay focused on one another. I tried to make sure that there was good balance between the time I spent on home, family, work, and Hubby. I was successful some days, others… not so much. There are only so many hours in a day and I couldn’t figure out most days how to make it all happen. I still feared that if I wasn’t fixing this element in myself that he would just keep looking elsewhere. I lived with an underlayment of that fear Every. Single. Day.

In therapy, I was learning about self-care. She had helped me to see that I was in a co-dependent relationship characterized by three distinct elements:

  •             Attempting to please another person in an effort to garner love or affection
  •             Making excuses for another person’s bad behavior
  •             Constant support of my partner at the cost of my own happiness

She motivated me to start thinking of myself in a healthier way, to develop interests beyond my husband and family. She taught me to think about my needs and to discern what was important to me. One does not simply ‘change’ thirty years of habit overnight (although I didn’t realize that) and so I experienced a great deal of frustration in my pursuit of perfecting the changes I wanted to facilitate. I felt as though I was entering a period of self-discovery and indeed, it was a beginning.

Our pastor had been grossly supportive, offering additional counsel as needed and always had a smile, an approving hug, ready for us on Sunday mornings when we entered the building. On more than one occasion I was moved to tears as the sermon or the readings would touch on a scar or still sore mental spot if it pertained to forgiveness or family or on being a ‘good’ person. I was occasionally conflicted about the ‘trauma’ we had experienced as a family and the way that it had been ‘glossed over’ simply because no one knew. Hubby – understandably – wasn’t keen on people knowing he had cheated on his wife and I didn’t want people to think badly of him going forward. I had largely, suffered in silence. At least as far as our community was concerned but I did have family.

I had a tremendous amount of support in my life and I used their counsel frequently. My friends Michele, E., my mom, and surprisingly, my twin sisters. Technically, they are half-sisters as we have different fathers but we never used that terminology and I didn’t love them any less. I had been a part of their entire lives; from changing their diapers to working on high school term papers for them. They were turning twenty that year and transforming into really great young ladies. College hadn’t proven to be their vibe and so they demonstrated how hard working they were by holding down jobs in a variety of genres. Cellular phones were just becoming big business and they had an opportunity to participate via sales. They were spectacular! No one I was aware of knew more than they did about cell phones. It was fun to see them blossom into women. When they got to spend time with us, they brought fun and light into our home; we were always laughing. After years of having them visit as kids and then babysitters, it was great to experience them as adults. Our families were central forces in our life. Hubby’s family was closer in proximity and we saw them more often, but I was particularly close to my own. Even though it was a contemporary conglomeration of step-parents and half-siblings who lived far away from me, they all were the grounding strength of what drove and guided me.

We had a party that fall. We were putting ourselves back on track and it was the right time to celebrate not only Baby Em’s baptism but our renewed marital spirit. We invited everyone in both families and a number of distant friends. It was a time of leaf raking, wood stacking, and pumpkin eating. Everyone helped and it was easy. Love was abundant. I was proud of us. We were weathering the storm. We still went to therapy weekly but it had transformed from pain management to skill development in a short time frame. I believed that therapy had saved our marriage.

Looking at Layers

I took my responsibility for change seriously. I knew that I had to learn how to give in ways that I hadn’t before.

“I’m like an onion. You can peel away my layers, but the further you go, the more it’ll make you cry.”  ― Laura Carstairs-Waters

I really connected to this therapist and it turns out that a ‘connection’ with your counselor is vital to your healing. I tell my own clients this all the time; if there is no rapport, find a new one! Of course, one of the first things she wanted to know about is how my child hood was. I recounted the many moves, my parents’ divorce, my sibling connections, how I was a primary caregiver, etc., and praised the job my mom and dad did overall. I talked about how great it was to grow up in a small town and to see my parents happier with the partners they chose the second time around. I talked for almost the whole hour and her eyes got bigger and bigger as the clock ticked. I really do laugh about this today but then – I was dead serious. I thought I had a great childhood!! I was completely oblivious as to how my childhood shaped my thoughts, feelings, or perspective about the world. I just hadn’t ever given it a second thought. I was who I was and I had an image of who I needed to be. I strived to be that person regardless of the obstacles of distorted cognition’s that developed in childhood.  [We therapists are not looking back to BLAME anyone but to understand who the person on the couch really is – so many clues!] Nonetheless, she was wide eyed and I was smug. When I said, “it was great”, she said “well, OK then.” Little did I realize she was probably thinking about how much work there was to do!

I began to learn about myself bit by bit as she ‘peeled back’ the proverbial onion. I realized that I was a caregiver. Something that was blatantly obvious to many others was just being awakened in my consciousness. I knew that I always jumped in and took care of people but I never thought about why. I also learned that I took care of these people without regard to what I needed. In fact, I wasn’t aware of how to discern what my needs looked like and really wouldn’t for several more years. I realized that I did very little for myself and resentment of it lived in my subconscious, leaking out in the form of passive aggressive behavior more often that I would have liked to admit. I learned that I thought people would not like me if I said “no” to them. I had lots of thoughts really that were fairly misconstrued, some of which were based on ideas in my mind that were just plain false and others that I had due to some assumption that I had made over time. More on the specifics of these – later.

Most importantly, I learned how many of these things impacted my ability to be a good partner to my husband. I love to argue a point. I cherished my time on the debate team in school and probably should have become an attorney. I enjoy defending a position, especially if I feel like I am educated on the topic. In fact, my father and brothers are very much like me in that regard and I grew up in an environment where debating was the way that we communicated with one another on various levels. Well, Hubby did not. In actuality, Hubby felt like each time I entered into debate mode I was simply trying to be right, to run him down, to be better than or ‘one up’ him. That’s not what was happening in my mind – ever – but with counseling, I was able to see how my ‘debating’ behavior could have been interrupted in that manner. I never really cared to be right – only engage in the argument. Although, I will admit that I rarely entered into a full on debate unless I was certain of the information and the odds that I was ‘wrong’ were quite low.

I learned that having children was all consuming for me. I loved those kids to the moon and back – more really. They started my day with love and even though I was usually really ready for them to go to bed by eight, I tucked them each in with hugs and kisses, full of gratitude for their sweetness and genuine naiveté. Francis was growing into such a great young man, so self-sufficient and helpful. I was incredibly protective of him, often to the demise of Hubby’s discipline because I thought there was too much responsibility placed on him. Hubby was tough. He never had time to ‘grow into’ fatherhood – it just happened with my six-year-old. I believe that his interest was in developing character and integrity but our values on how to foster those qualities varied significantly and I often disagreed with his approach. As such, I became a defender and interfered perhaps too much (although I may do it again under the same conditions). The dedication with which I embarked on mothering used the majority of my ‘giving’ energy and generally left little for Hubby. On many occasions I recall asking him to be ‘an adult’ about this – that the children were only young for a while. In retrospect, I needed to assimilate ‘balance’ into this area of my life as well so that Hubby time was also a part of my day.

I learned also that I am a fast processor. I am quick on my feet to render information, decipher it, and respond on point. This, generally was in contrast to Hubby who had to think and consider what he heard before he could constitute a response that felt appropriate to him. Essentially, this made me ‘hot headed’ even though I didn’t have a temper per se, I sought a response quickly and would ‘chase’ down an answer. There was more than one occasion where I literally followed behind him demanding resolution with tone and frustration. It also was not perceived in the way that I intended but I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I took my responsibility for change seriously. I knew that I had to learn how to give in ways that I hadn’t before. I was all geared up to be better, to be the wife that would be hard to walk away from, to be ‘all in’. It was possible that I had been ‘holding back’, unwilling to be completely and totally vulnerable in case something happened. I needed to be more open and emotionally available. I know I didn’t ’cause’ him to behavior poorly or cause him to be disrespectful but I was one half of this partnership and I wanted to own my part.

We learned about ourselves and about one another in so much as we were open to hearing. One can only absorb so much at a time. We both knew that we had to individually change some behaviors if our relationship was going to progress. I saw what I needed to do and I clearly communicated what elements I needed from him; fidelity, honesty, and respect. I think he tried, but it wasn’t meant to be.