When you first begin spelunking in the dreamtime, you discover that you are largely puppeted to life by unconscious forces. At any given time, the shoulds and shalts of your parents, church, school or government may be at the helm of you. Other times, waves of primitive rage, ancestral grief, punch-drunk lovesickness of the gods and the procrastinations of your eternal inner youth take you on wild detours.
You can always tell when you’ve been possessed by one of these madcap archetypes when you find yourself embarrassed and astonished afterwards, “Why did I say that!? That was so unlike me. I haven’t been myself lately.” These visits might take seconds to pass and wreak flash-storm havoc in your life, or, if you’ve gotten extra comfy in your routine, you might go entire weeks on auto-pilot, functionally unaware of who is dancing your strings.
There’s a fantastic scene in Being John Malkovich when Malkovich discovers the portal into his own mind that a puppeteer has been profiteering from by conducting tours through it. Angrily, Malkovich crawls down into it only to discover a world of characters who are all himself; the waiter is Malkovich, the busboy is Malkovich, even the ample woman in an evening dress is Malkovich. It’s Malkovichs all the way down!
It’s an excellent, if disturbing, depiction of a psychic breakthrough. Only when you’re sufficiently sick of behaving unconsciously do you decide to get behind the scenes of your own drama. Of course, once you’ve taken a peek behind the curtain to see the skinny actors out of their costumes, the wooden delivery of an old script and flimsy props, you can’t un-see any of it. The fault you once found in outside forces suddenly lies squarely in your own lap. This knowledge is alternately exhilarating and exhausting.
Everyone is a mirror. All the characters in your dreams, even the bit-parts, are aspects of yourself. Boring, bossy, indiscreet, secretive, insightful, sexy, demanding and genius – top to bottom, wall to wall YOU. Once the shock of that has worn off, (this might take a while), you realise that it’s true of waking life as well. Surrounded by people you greatly admire? Triggered and conflicted all day long? Cocktail of both, perhaps?
The overall handiest dream tool I’ve discovered, the thing I call my religion, is Yesness. When you affirm everything that comes down the pipes, you are quicker to integrate the lessons – and jollier while you do it. Territorial mama bears in your dreams? Yes, why avoid my nature! Singing duets with Frank Sinatra? Yes, I am a huge star! Too grey to get out of bed? Yes – we don’t make the sky explain!
The more we can love about ourselves, quirks and shimmers, the sooner we can yes the diversity around us and possibly even awaken to this Oneness everyone keeps talking about.
Now this will keep you busy for a good long while, but if you really want to bake your noodle, consider that self-awareness is realizing that you are also a character in somebody else’s dream. Better make it a juicy one.