A tall, paunchy man stood next to the wall. No one could see him, except for me. I was afraid of him.
I tried to stuff him into a large trunk and close the lid. The lid would not completely close. I was afraid, knowing he would emerge again.
Later, I was in a bedroom packed with people. The people were dancing. The room was dim and halo colored. I saw a young woman with spiky purple hair. I was afraid of her. No one else could see her. She was not as fully substantial as the other people in the room. I wanted to get away from her.
I suddenly realized that I was schizophrenic. And I remembered reading that, if you are schizophrenic, one thing you can try is turning toward the voices in your head. Instead of treating them with fear and aversion, talk to them calmly. Ask them questions. Try to make friends with them. This may appease them somehow: make them recede or become friendlier, or at least less frightening.
And so, despite my terror, I turned toward the young woman with spiky purple hair.
“Why are you here?” I inquired. “What is it that you have to say to me?”
“I have nothing to say to you,” she said. “You are on the right path.”
This was a dream I had last week. The dream did not end there. The rest of it was long and tedious:
I realized that I should talk to my psychiatrist; my meds might be an issue. I traveled by bus and train and hired car to get to where he was. When I finally found him, he wanted to go somewhere to get lunch with some people. There was no conversation about my meds. Apparently, he had no concerns.
I had a long and tedious time trying to get back. I traveled by train and elevator and boat.*
And then I was at work. I worked in an old house that had to be fixed up. I was supposed to paint a room. The room was half painted already. Whoever had done the previous work had slathered the paint on way too thick, but I wasn’t supposed to fix it. And I couldn’t paint the rest of the room because there was too much furniture in the way. It was a tedious job to sit there and do nothing, but that’s what I was being paid to do.
Even though all of this traveling and getting paid to do nothing was tedious and annoying, I knew that I was on the right path.
I woke with relief! As I have written before, my understanding is that dreams are one way to access what the unconscious mind (a.k.a. the “gut”) is up to. The conscious, thinking mind can block wisdom with all of its logical rationalizing and endless deliberation loops. The unconscious mind is sometimes able to piece things together long before the conscious mind gets around to making linguistic sense of the pieces and the whole.
And so, it was a relief to know that my unconscious mind thinks that I am on the right path!—despite all my fears and the tedium of my daily routine.
What parts of my dream were real, versus imaginary?
I don’t really have schizophrenia (though it runs in my family, as I have noted previously). But I did really read a Harper’s article about schizophrenia and turning toward the voices in your head.
Side note: in searching for the Harper’s article just now, I hit upon this Atlantic article that underscores how your attitude toward your voices can make a huge difference in their attitude toward you—and in a much conciser way than the Harper’s article (for those pressed for time).
But you don’t have to have schizophrenia to be forced (that is, if you wish to surmount a roadblock in your life) to forge a relationship with yourself and the way you experience your world. As a longtime anxiety sufferer, I have learned that the more frequently I approach my world with curiosity and compassion, as opposed to fear, the better off I am.
Note that when I talk about “your world” and “my world,” I am referring to both inner experiences like our emotions and thoughts and sensations, and outer experiences like the way we interact with other people and spend our time and in general live our lives. Both our inner and our outer worlds offer opportunities for shying away with fear or, alternatively, stepping closer with kindness and curiosity.
And so, when I examine my concussion with kindness and curiosity, I can truly see that I’m making excellent progress. I really am on the right track! It’s not possible to see the progress day by day, but when I think about how much I could do two weeks ago, versus today? It’s incredible! But when I shy away from my concussion with fear, all there is is a blanket of terror . . . and the jerky kind of decision making that never ends well.
As for the frustrating and boring half of the dream, this surely represents how tedious my unconscious mind knows it is to recover from a concussion. There’s lots of sitting around doing nothing, as the brain heals. Every time I do something—like read, use a computer or phone, go out in public, hang out with a friend, go on a walk, do head-spinny exercises per my PT’s instructions, or use a hairdryer (those things are super noisy! even on the low setting!), I have to rest my brain afterward. That is, I have to do nothing for a time. Sometimes the do-nothing period is fifteen minutes, sometimes it’s an hour, sometimes it’s four hours, and sometimes it’s the entire rest of the day. It depends on how taxing the activity was for my brain and how far along in the healing process I’ve gotten.
And since I have not yet been medically cleared to drive, but have endless medical appointments, I’ve also been doing lots of hanging around in buses, hired cars, trains, and elevators . . . though I have not yet had occasion to travel by boat!
So, what’s the wisdom here? Shall I get to my point?
The wisdom is that, if you turn toward your fears with an attitude of curiosity, and perhaps a certain sense of love for humanity and nature and your world, you may just realize that everything’s going to be okay. You’re doing fine. You may have some tedious work to do; but that’s okay. You can do this work; you will do this work. And you will do this work with gentleness and patience. You can do this thing.
And if you listen to what your gut says to you via your dreams, you may gain insight into what you’re going through. This may help you in your decision making and in finding your way to a good place, a good space.
Maybe. Or you may just have a fun time wondering why your unconscious mind decided to pull room painting out of the memory chest. That’s kinda random, huh?
(Unless there’s something it knows about room painting that I don’t. . . . Cue in the creepy music. . . .)
What fear will you turn toward, with kindness and curiosity, this week?
*After I wrote this blog post, I remembered that, all throughout the traveling portion of my dream, I was accompanied by a man. We did not speak. He was just there, tagging along. It was not uncomfortable; there was just nothing to say. It now occurs to me—might this have been the man I tried to stuff into the chest?