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Your Wisdom Cycle
by Dr. Gillian Holloway
Editor's Note from Sherri Carter: Dr. Holloway says "We vanquish our foes not once, but multiple times, in different forms and at different stages in our lives. This doesn’t mean that we don’t make progress; it means that the adventures through which we strengthen, heal and define ourselves come in cycles." Your dreams are clues into discovering your wisdom cycle.
If you watch thrillers, you are familiar with a cinematic pattern near the end of the movie. Following 90 minutes of tension, there is one final confrontation and battle. The heroine has a life-or-death struggle with the demented killer who has terrorized her throughout the story. She casts about wildly and finds something with which to bash him on the head. To their mutual astonishment, through desperation to survive, she nails him. The killer collapses, dead. Finally, it is all over. She slides down the wall, catching her breath between ragged sobs. She puts her head down on her arms and closes her eyes briefly, utterly spent. Suddenly, the killer rears up again, blood pouring down his face, bellowing like a wounded grizzly bear, hurtling himself at the heroine yet again! He is still very much alive, it was only a glancing blow that knocked him out for a moment, and they are off for another grim struggle…Finally she does put him out of his misery, but the tranquility of the resolution is delivered on a minor chord. It is never as simple or as clean as we had hoped, and the settled feeling of the happy ending is elusive.
I hate this cinematic device, but I fall for it every time, jumping out of my seat and giving a yelp of surprise that amuses my companions. One reason why it works is because it mirrors the human condition. We vanquish our foes not once, but multiple times, in different forms and at different stages in our lives. This doesn’t mean that we don’t make progress; it means that the adventures through which we strengthen, heal and define ourselves come in cycles.
I’M OVER IT…AREN’T I?
A woman recently presented me with a dream about someone from her past who had been her life critic. Most of us have at least one cardinal critic whose apparent purpose for incarnating was to make early life tiresome. Her critic was a wicked stepmother. When her mother died, her father married a woman who found fault with the dreamer at a vulnerable time in her life, and seemed bent on driving a wedge between her and her father.
During her early years, this dreamer felt scorched by her stepmother’s criticism and manipulative style. As a result, she left the home early, worked with laser-like focus and became notably successful. She also married happily and became a mother. She studied psychology and philosophy in an attempt to understand her early life and to be a good mother herself. Through her early adult years, she had a recurring dream that her stepmother was criticizing her again. In these dreams she felt trapped, angry, defensive and deflated. Over the years, she worked through her relationship with her past and forgave her stepmother, who by that time was an old woman, grateful for a cordial relationship with her successful stepdaughter.
Her dreams ceased, and she felt she had truly transformed her history and her family dynamics in a single generation. She became an avid practitioner of meditation and self-reflection. Then, to her astonishment, her dreams of her critical stepmother returned. She contacted me very upset and confused, because, as she explained: “I thought I’d put that all behind me….haven’t I?” As she told me her story, and of the cordial and peaceful relationship she’d had with her stepmother in that woman’s final years, I was able to reassure her. “You can trust what you know in your heart, what you believe in your mind, and the experience you have lived in your life: these things are evidence.” Too often we take what we learn from psychology and use it to second-guess ourselves, instead of trusting our assessment of what is true in our emotional landscape, and externally in our lived experience.
“But why would I dream of something that I have long ago laid to rest?” She asked. “Here is a thought,” I said: “Is there anyone in your present life who has violated your trust by verbal attack, for no reason at all, and left you feeling wounded?” Her tone of voice changed when she replied: “Yes, yes there is someone…it took my breath away; someone really hurt me recently.” Then I asked her this: “Is it possible there is a current of jealousy here that you had never seen before, but in the wake of this attack, you can sense the thread?” She paused and then said: “Yes, I believe that may be true; it is the only thing I can think of that could have caused this to happen, caused her to behave this way.” I asked her this, because from her story of early life, it seemed that her stepmother had been motivated by jealousy as well. Often when painful issues ride into our lives later in life, they do so with perfect symmetry to the original wounding we experienced.
As this dreamer and I talked, I reassured her that this incident and her dream were not signals that she was “backsliding” spiritually, as she put it. Instead, this experience was likely part of her cycle of wisdom. We seem to have cardinal people and experiences in early life through which we receive wounds and patterns that fuel our engines, one way or another, for the first years of life. This is particularly true when those early catalysts are negative, and in response to them, we strive to live in a style sharply divergent from that negativity. Many people become hyper responsible, successful, empathic and compassionate, or do whatever they can to move away from the wounding element that they view as the anti-model for a fruitful life. Later on, when a solid foundation has been built, and the relationship with the cardinal wounding person has been released or mended, the individual for a time feels entirely free from the past. With the benefit of a secure foundation and a strong sense of self, this individual is then challenged by life to revisit the pattern associated with that early wounding. At this point we are asked to move into right relationship with an issue, rather than with the person who wielded that issue as a weapon toward us earlier in life.
Most typically, someone in the dreamer’s circle re-enacts the behavior that was wounding in early life; stirring a strong emotional allergy to a certain behavior. Although the incident may be objectively inconsequential, that is irrelevant. Like Superman faced with Kryptonite: this is the one thing that will bring us to our knees. We may experience self doubt, depression, a feeling of having been an imposter all these years, or a sudden rage and defensiveness with a powerful urge to strike back.
This woman had indeed forgiven her stepmother and had resolved her past as she remembered it. The next level of her cycle of wisdom involved an encounter with the issue of being attacked, being the victim of unexpected jealousy and smallness. While she was no longer vulnerable to her stepmother, she was still sensitized to this particular pattern. Our discussion about her dream helped her to recognize the marker of this pattern, and to meet it, at least in part, from a spiritual perspective that diminished the emotional onslaught that had left her reeling.
TOLERATING YOUR THEME
There are two reliable clues to an encounter with your old nemesis, your dreams and your heightened reaction. It is always difficult to practice tolerance toward our own life themes, and it may seem that those around us drew more manageable challenges. Set the bar low and focus on maintaining the awareness of this experience as a cycle of wisdom. Sometimes living with this awareness, rather than trying to squash the issue like a bug, alters your experience. When you do this, you not only set an issue to rest, but you also experience an upsurge of energy and centeredness in your own peaceful authority. It truly can be like magic. During these passages, it is vital that you trust yourself, believe in yourself and in all you have learned and achieved. Here are some suggestions to walk with:
1. Accept grit in your shoes. You may not feel quite right, but it does not follow that everything is wrong. Be gentle with feeling stuck and observe your reactions as they smooth out.
2. Don’t hate the one who delivered the invitation to heal. You can adjust your trust or relationship, but resist the urge to take this personally.
3. Realize, as irksome as it sounds, that this cycle means you have grown, and you are having a different kind of encounter. You will handle this as you have handled everything else, with strength and grace.
4. Be an advocate for yourself. Seek support; share the burdens you carry, let friends know if your edges feel frayed. Invite good energy into your life, instead of holding your breath under water.
5. Resist the urge to amplify the incident on the Complaint Board of life. Like a snowball gathering more of its own substance, that can turn a small bump into a monument.
6. Always trust your own goodness and your personal truth. Return to it, and honor it.
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About the Author
Dr. Gillian Holloway is an expert in the area of dreams and intuition. She is the author of four books on dreams, and has taught at Marylhurst University in Portland Oregon for 16 years. Her work has been featured on ABC’s 20/20 as well as the New York Times Health Blog and The Washington Post. Gillian’s direct approach to dream symbolism and modern stress dreams is widely quoted by journalists. Her latest research focuses on the impact and implications of our dreams of the dead. To learn more Dr. Holloway’s work visit www.lifetreks.com. To learn more about her book, “5 Steps to Decoded Your Dreams" click here.