I began recording and working with my dreams in 1989. In those early days, many of my dreams had to do with conflicting feelings about my career. This is one of them.
Dream #198: “Hiding From the Enemy”
Someone desecrates my small, primitive wooden house and ransacks my possessions while I’m away teaching writing classes. It’s a dark night and the enemy is looking for me. I’m in danger. I hide, lying flat on the ground, pressed against the outside wall of the classroom. I’m afraid to breathe or make a sound. I know my tribe values my contribution and won’t give me away.
In dreams, houses usually represent the psychological condition in which we’re living. So right away I’m being told that my inner life is cramped and primitive. Moreover, it is a mess. But instead of trying to fix it up, what am I doing? Hiding in terror behind a classroom! In other words, I’m using my focus on my job (I’m a college professor) as an escape, a way to avoid conducting some inner work and confronting an unknown enemy that’s really messing with my mind.
And who or what is this enemy that has my dream ego holding its breath and cowering in the dark? When I had this dream I couldn’t imagine what it might be; dreams are, after all, dramatizations about the unconscious self. But now I know and the knowing makes me sad for my cluelessness and the needless anxiety I was suffering. I was a puppet of convention and terrified of my natural, authentic self!
At that time it must have looked to others as if I had the world by the tail; but inside a battle had been raging for over nine years between two apparently irreconcilable opposites. On one side was my ego that was growing increasingly unhappy with its lack of personal meaning and spiritual fulfillment, but still preferred the familiarity and safety of the status quo to the dangers of the unknown. On the other was the compelling new voice of Sophia whose call to freedom from conformity was deeply attractive but felt dangerously subversive. Which side was right? Which was wrong? Nothing in my life had prepared me for this excruciating dilemma. How was I to choose? Rejecting either one would have felt like a terrible mistake.
My solution was deceptively simple and came in its own sweet time. I listened to my inner opposites and tolerated the tension between them for nine long years without shutting down or rushing to premature closure. Gradually I grew more aware of a fuller range of choices and braver about making original ones that honored my inner life as much as my outer one. Then I had a big dream in which I was going against the current in a rushing river and walking back upstream toward my true home. This dream told me that something in my psyche had shifted. Without my ego’s full awareness I had changed directions and simply slipped into myself. Why? Because I was taking my inner life seriously and paying attention. I was just trying to stay conscious.
It seems to me that the energies of life support two basic human endeavors: to become ourselves and learn to love. And until we get the first one right, we can’t accomplish the second. That’s why making the unconscious conscious is my career now and nothing less will ever satisfy.
Most people think working with horses is a one-way form of communication: the human does the training and the horse does the listening and learning so it can serve the human’s needs. Most riders and trainers love horses very much and train them with kindness and patience; others believe they need to “break” horses with bullying and brute force. Either type can achieve great success…from the perspective of the human ego.