06 May Bottled Dreams
Journaling and meditation are two proactive and simple tools that you can use to move forward in your process of healing. One prescription that Dr Sarno made for dealing with chronic pain was journaling daily. Nicole Sachs, a former patient and protege of Dr Sarno, focuses some of her work on helping others to journal. There’s a lot of data that backs up the positive health effects of journaling that should also be re-assuring. There’s also a lot of data that points to the value of daily meditation.
I’m a stop-and-start journaler (and meditator). Discipline is not my strong suit. However, I recognize that when I can be a bit more disciplined about the practices, I see more benefit. 2019 started with a wallop and the hits have just kept coming, so my stress level has been about as high this year as it has ever been in my life. However, having been doing “the work” with diligence for the past 8 years, I am way more equipped to handle and process that stress than any other point in my life. Still, it can often creep up at night, and last week my wife woke me up because I was having a nightmare. I remember that I was being chased, and I felt kind of helpless in the dream. It wasn’t a terror dream, but it wasn’t pleasant. When I get stressed out late at night I try to both meditate and stretch. I find that when I try to stay asleep without addressing what is creeping into my semi-consciousness, it just continues. Usually if I sit up and consciously meditate for five minutes, or do some stretches, I wake up enough to push past the negative thought patterns and fall back to sleep.
,This morning I thought about the connections between repression of our emotions, dreaming, and healing. Often, the thoughts that we fail to process or accept during the day come roaring forth in our dreams. It’s as if the darkness allows those fraught feelings to come out of their hiding place, and perhaps work on finding a deeper place to hide. Our dreams are our reality, in the sense that they represent parts of ourselves – our fears and hopes – that we are less consciously aware of. Oftentimes, there are things we think about that we have a hard time even admitting to ourselves. They are thoughts and feelings that we don’t want to have. If we accept those thoughts, they become more present and we can address them. We can question them. When we repress them, they are like a greased pig that we are trying to put into a basket; slipping and sliding out of our conscious grasp. When they bounce around inside our head, they build up pressure, like a soda that was dropped on the floor before it was opened. Journaling can be a way of gently letting that pressure out. Perhaps dreaming about things that we don’t want to consciously think serves some of the same purpose.
Each time I begin to meditate, my busy mind tries to get me to focus on the things that I need to get done. Observing how that process takes place is very instructive. Just like journaling, simply observing my thoughts, helps me to dial down my reaction to those thoughts. When I sit down to meditate, I often shudder just a little bit on my first breath. It reveals to me just how much I’m holding in. The same is true of journaling. When I simply sit down to write I have a million things I want to get out. However, after a page of scribbles, that I mostly can’t read, I feel more relaxed and focused.
Starting any kind of practice can seem overwhelming, like it’s one more responsibility to bear. The truth is, though, that both journaling and meditation give us more agency and ability to complete other tasks- and to figure out which ones we should focus on and which ones to let go. The other day, a friend complained on Facebook about her retail job. She had complained a number of times, so I gently suggested that she let it go- as she had a couple of other jobs and something had to give. An hour later, she let me know that she had put in her notice. Then the next day, I found out she had applied for another job at a plant nursery- and had asked for a salary that reflected her experience and skill -“so I probably won’t get it.” she said. This morning she let me know that not only did she get it, but that it will be a long term job – rather than a seasonal one. She’s been doing the work for a long time. The work pays off. Even if we do the work, we need others sometimes to help reflect back what we are often communicating unconsciously. While the personal work I’ve been doing has been helpful to me personally- it’s been much more powerful in the ways it helps me to reflect back to people what they kind of need to hear- the things they’ve been yelling out but others haven’t recognized.