A lot of personal growth is, in a strange way, a process of remembering. Our life experiences bring us plentiful opportunities for learning, but they can also lure us into forgetting – or at least ignoring – the voices inside of us. And those voices often hold more wisdom than all of our worldly learning. This is the wisdom of our hearts, which perceives life directly; which (pardon the pun) sees right to the heart of every matter.
Roles that we play in our waking lives become more transparent in our dreams, as the other voices within us take on form. When I first began working with my dreams, in my late teens and early twenties, I was lost in projecting a caustic and cynical exterior that didn’t reflect my real self at all. My dreams of course reflected this persona in its various guises. But they also showed me personalities that had a very different way of being. They were gentler, kinder and more honest. They spoke with the clear voice of my own heart, which at the time was buried beneath the protective layers that I’d put up to hide my more vulnerable feelings.
As we continue to work with our dreams, and spend time with the feelings that they churn up inside of us, they will work to dissolve those layers. Over time they can convince us that we don’t actually need those forms of protection anymore. A lot of our defenses are formed early in life when, for whatever reasons, we become convinced that the world is unsafe. Perhaps they serve their purpose at that time; but such defenses also keep us from living through our hearts. They insulate us against pain, but those same barriers can also keep us from experiencing joy.
My dreams brought me in touch with my pain so that I could acknowledge, feel and move through it. Because I was open to it I was then able to see that I no longer needed the protective habits – the hard exterior – that had actually kept me from living a fuller life. I was able to drop my sarcastic and cynical posture and begin revealing my heart to the people close to me in my life. If I ever got sidetracked in this pursuit – falling into old patterns of anger and resentment – my dreams would show me where I was getting lost and help me to return to my more vulnerable self.
The dream journey has no end, because there is always more for us to feel, experience and know. But if you start listening to your dreams and keep on ongoing journal you will be able to look back, down the road, and see how much distance you have traveled. You may see how you’ve begun to live, more and more, from your heart – rather than from the persona that you thought you needed to “tough out” the world.