Hamster Wheel

Hamster Wheel

A little girl on a hamster wheel.  This is the central focus of a young man’s dream we are working on at the International Association for the Study of Dreams Conference last week.  It’s his dream. And he had an intention before he slept that night to connect to a dream that would help him improve his inner relationship to his mother.  

As the group collectively dug into this dream, I found myself strangely disconnected from it.  As a psychotherapist who specializes in dream work, I’m typically deep into the dream long before we even engage a process to work with it.  But, I thought, my relationship to my mother is really good.  I don’t need to work on this – this dream doesn’t apply to me.

Anyone who has ever done dream work with me knows that my response to a statement like the one I was making in my own head would be something like, really? Why don’t we see? And, yes, there is a bit of playful prodding in that.  Of course, I wasn’t going there.  I actually found myself distracted.  This should have been my first clue that this man’s dream contained something I didn’t want to look at.  Something deep in my subconscious.  

In any case, I navigated the 2 hour workshop with curiosity but no emotion, with respect but no involvement, with appreciation but no growth.  And I should have known.  

As it often goes in dream work, the dream images are multi-layered and represent an area in our subconscious that is asking to come into our conscious awareness.  Little did I realize, I was the girl on the hamster wheel through that entire 2 hour process.  Running and running and getting nowhere, perhaps because I felt way to exposed and vulnerable with the depth of the emotions that lie under the surface.  Especially since I am one of the experts in the field.  The experts don’t lose it, right?

But I did.  I actually broke down and wept, an hour after the workshop, alone in my hotel room.  Shades drawn, do not disturb on the door, blankets up over my head.  My temptation had been to attend the next workshop, to go have lunch with others, to swim….anything to keep myself on that hamster wheel when I felt the wave of emotion welling up.  

So the dam broke, and still there was confusion.  This wasn’t about my mom at all.  That I was telling the truth about.  As I sunk into the feeling, I realized that I was facing saying goodbye to an amazing experience of connection as the conference was coming to an end.  I had new friends.  I had a world of dreamers around me.  I felt at home and alive there.  Rather than facing the grief of losing this, I preferred to stay on my hamster wheel.  But as dream work goes, my awareness moved me off the hamster wheel, and the landing felt very abrupt.  

Like many of us, I struggle with abandonment.  I’ve worked a long time to heal this aspect of my wounding, and I’m down to the relationship I have with myself. While the man was dreaming about an outside relationship, my connection to the dream was in me.  And it was clear that I needed to find a way to get the girl on the hamster wheel to stop running.   To do this, I first had to explore what my hamster wheel is, and I’m going to invite you to consider the same.  Here are my main hamster wheels:   

  • Business.  I can stay busy for days.  Laundry, work, catching up phone calls, making too many social plans, going to the gym – I’ve got to get it all done!
  • Rabbit hole thoughts – I can obsess over something that happened day one of my group facilitation that nobody else even noticed.  Such as my perception that I held the meditation a bit too long.  
  • Perfectionist or Inner Critic Tendencies – these guys will run and run for as long as you let them.  I guarantee they get you nowhere.  
  • Intellectualism – I will do research, I will “figure out the reason” I’m feeling a certain way, or I will endeavor to learn something new all to avoid my emotional processes.  
  • Any type of addictive or substance use behavior.  Emotional eating, drinking too much or out of boredom, over exercising, not eating enough, shopping, planning the future, gambling, working too much.  Really any behavior can fit into this category if the energy of it feels out of balance.
  • Taking care of others at the expense of caring for myself.  

At this conference, I felt very deeply, yet I was busy facilitating, socializing and analyzing anytime I wasn’t deep in a dream.  I hadn’t given myself the space to process all of the healing, hope, and creation that had come from my work there.  And just when I thought I was through it, another dreamer’s image jumped out and grabbed me – this was the most powerful moment of the entire week for me.  

When you engage in group dream work, you not only have the benefit of understanding your own subconscious mind and doing some really cool things with the information, you get to tap into the collective energy of healing from the people around you.  If you’re up for some serious transformation, check out my offerings on the Upcoming Events page.  See you soon!

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