Monica didn’t walk into my office. Rather, she exploded through the door. Her hair was in disarray, her clothes were disheveled, there were wrinkled papers sticking haphazardly out of a portfolio she was carrying, and she looked as if she were in the middle of a nightmare—which, in her own way, she was. After awkwardly sitting in the chair I offered her and then requesting a glass of water, she launched into a litany of grievances ranging from a distressing court case she was the plaintive in, to domestic issues, to car troubles. At times her monologue was so rapid-fire and intense, I wondered if she was breathing between outbursts.
The irony was that she had a strong spiritual foundation. Yet the calm, centered approach to life that this kind of background usually produces was the antithesis of her agitated demeanor.
From time to time we are all thrown into “the cauldron” to burn away those inauthentic parts of ourselves that we no longer need. The trick is to see the aggravation as an opportunity, and just as importantly, to understand the language that the distressing circumstance is communicating in. As I would soon see, Monica was more than ready to grow from her crisis.
I work with dreams, and Monica had heard that I consider waking life just as much a dream as the more traditional dream experience we have when we sleep. She had made her appointment with me to see if I could help, and she was now rattling off an itemized list of her myriad aggravations—almost throwing each one of them at me—to try and convince me of how unfair life was being to her.
When she was finally done, I asked her a simple question: Which of her many grievances did she consider the most pressing? Without a doubt it was the court case against a woman—Lucy—who had cheated her in business and was trying to embezzle money. I asked Monica to describe Lucy, and her reply was immediate. “She’s dishonest. She lies. She manipulates. She cheats. She’s aggressive. She does her best to misrepresent any offer she is making. And she always has this saccharine smile on her face that you just know is fake.”
While this latest speech was the shortest one Monica had made since her arrival, it was invaluable because it summarized her crisis and focused specifically on the areas where Monica, herself, needed to work. It is a tenet of dream interpretation that all the symbols of a dream are aspects of the dreamer. Even though she was wide awake during her unpleasant dealings with Lucy, life was presenting Monica with a dream, a powerful one that needed her attention. Lucy, whom Monica was now fighting in court, was the primary symbol of this dream. Most importantly, Lucy was an aspect of Monica, herself.
I never cease to be awed and humbled by the courage of so many of my clients. It is one thing to calmly discuss spiritual principles over a cup of herbal tea while gazing at a beautiful vista. It is quite another to be in the heat of an unfair battle and to be told that the principal, unethical opponent in the conflict is no one but yourself. Whether the warfare is about a lawsuit, a contentious divorce, a heated property boundary dispute, a passionate political disagreement, or even an overwhelming medical issue one is fighting, the nemesis is no more than a dream symbol, and that symbol is doing nothing but describing an aspect of the dreamer. To understand and accept that in the heat of battle takes tremendous bravery. As it turned out, Monica was courageous.
Since the court case was in regard to a business grievance, one that we were going to “pretend” was a dream, I asked Monica what she thought, metaphorically, the “business” of her own life was. After some thought, she said, “If I really think about it, I’d say the business of my life is to grow spiritually.”
Now it was simply a matter of putting the various symbols of the dream together, which I did by offering her own ideas back to her: “Monica, as you go about the ‘business’ of growing spiritually, is there a part of yourself that isn’t quite honest, that manipulates, maybe doesn’t tell the complete truth all the time, cheats on the process, acts aggressively and does it all while wearing a fake saccharine smile?”
Monica’s first reaction was to laugh, but my question to her—using her own words and concepts—also stung. Mostly, it was a moment of profound awakening for her. After she recovered from her initial astonishment, she surrendered into the truth of the dream’s message; she owned it. Much calmer now, she talked about giving lip service to her spiritual life but always setting it aside despite a need to practice her own inner truth. She described knowing how to come from her centered self but ignoring that knowledge during difficult moments. She confessed that she hadn’t meditated in a long time.
It is a cosmic law that whatever you perceive is you. Lucy was simply a reflection of Monica’s inner struggle. Did Monica wish to be free of the legal battle? If so, she needed to change herself; that is how she would change the way Lucy came across to her. Ultimately, Monica needed to face her roiling inner warfare. After all, that was where the conflict was primarily taking place. She needed to acknowledge honestly the importance of her own spiritual process and to make lots of room for it in the way she lived.
Old habits die hard, and there were some amusing and poignant moments as we began to work on Monica’s ingrained patterns. I asked her to close her eyes and tell me how far away she needed to place Lucy in her imagination in order to stop thinking about her in a tense manner. “She’s about half way to the moon,” said Monica, not joking. “Good,” I said, chuckling. “Keep her there…and now send her love.” Monica visibly blanched at this suggestion, but then realized that the request was within reason; to her surprise, she found it doable.
This was the first of our five sessions together, and during the next three, via Skype, she worked hard. The sessions were intense and productive. Then, for the last one, she visited me once more. What a change! She was beautiful! She was attractively dressed, her stride was confident and her smile was radiant. The lawsuit was about to be settled out of court. There was domestic tranquility. And Monica was meditating once more. Clearly, she had begun to live life from her center and from peace again.
It is always gratifying to help someone; that in itself is enough. But there is a postscript to this story, as there is with all stories: Whatever you perceive is you. That adage is as true for me as for anyone. If I see Monica changing for the better, that is good news for me as well, because from the level of spirit, Monica is me.
About the Author
David Rivinus has been a dream analyst since the late 1960s. His discovery that one can analyze startling daytime events as dreams revolutionized his approach, and he has lectured and facilitated dream workshops internationally ever since. Recently, he documented his findings and methods in the book, “Always Dreaming,” available on Amazon. For more information, please visit www.teacherofdreams.com