Q: I’m in an OB/GYN practice located in a lodge-like house surrounded by big pine trees. The doctors are all men in scrubs. It’s nighttime and the doctors are sleeping on cots so they can attend to patients going into labor. I sleep on a cot in between two other girls my age. Three times during the night, all three of us are awakened by a scary dream in which the house has tipped over. Then it’s breakfast. I’m trying to cut up a teal & purple clay-like substance to mix with my scrambled eggs, but it keeps getting stuck to the knife. Then I realize I’m eating on a piano. I start to play the piano but the girl next to me, who is now my best friend, tells me to stop. I’m irritated and feel rejected and also a little bit confused. I was making a lot of mistakes and having a hard time recalling the piece I was trying to play. Then I wake up.
A: What a very detailed and quite intriguing dream you’ve sent along! You are in the woods; new life is being created, women are going into labor; there are only male doctors; there are three young women with three dreams in which a house tips over; you have eggs you’re struggling to eat as your knife gets stuck in clay; you’re irritated that your friend has asked you to stop playing the piano; and then you wake up. What does this all mean? Whew! We’ve got our work cut out for us.
You informed me that you are a 24 year old woman currently working in publishing. “What are your associations to the obstetrics and gynecology practice?” I asked. “The OB/GYN thing is kind of funny…” you responded. “Despite having no background in science or medicine, a couple months ago I was toying around with the idea of going back to school for medicine, and I told my sister that if I were to do that, I’d want to be an OB/GYN.”And what about the piano, I wondered. Do you play? “I played classical piano growing up,” you wrote, “but I haven’t played much since I graduated from college in 2010… Growing up, I was always fluctuating between feeling really inadequate when it came to piano and also pretty lazy. I almost never practiced as much as I should have. I’ve always wondered if music is my ‘passion’ in the way people use that word today, but I’ve never felt like I’m all that good at it.”
Here we have two responses related to work, craft, and passion. It’s evident that you’re sorting through issues related to your career and future: what you want, where you’re going, and how to get there. At the moment, you’re quite uncertain about your competence and your passions and not sure where to place your energies. With the piano, you felt both inadequate and yet struggled to put in the time and effort to achieve success. Consider this tension. I’ll state it plainly: this inner ambivalence is holding you back. In seeking your passion, ask yourself if you currently have the tenacity to practice and work hard to achieve what you seek. Do you have the focus to really, devotedly, go after something that you want? Do you have the ability to make a choice, faced with the possibility that it may be the wrong one? Your dream suggests that something may be holding you back: at breakfast, you are trying to cut through a substance that might be seen as your prima materia, the muddy slough of life that has not yet turned into nourishment. What is the old stuff of your life that is preventing you from integrating the new stuff? The eggs, of course, are also indicative of rebirth, mirroring the general theme of reproduction, pregnancy, and birth in your dream that is being sought but somewhat thwarted.
The masculine, dynamic aspect of your psyche is highlighted in that male only doctors are attending to the labor, as well as in the occurrence of the number 3, which symbolically also represents the masculine (think of the Holy Trinity). Does your feminine nature, your relational, emotional, contemplative, instinctive side need to get more involved? What do you need in your life to allow the knife of discernment to cut cleanly through the mud that is keeping you stuck? Your dream, and your responses about the dream, illuminate some important attitudes that will either help you move forward or hold you back.
Everything that is possible within us has to be manifested through hard work. We all hold within us endless potential, but it is only through dedication, practice, and persistence that we can bring that potential into actual existence. Your dream highlights the image of labor, but only in such a way that also indicates reward. To go into labor, to be in labor, to labor… this is work, terrible, terrific, devoted work from which there is no escape. For the woman who labors, however, there is an extraordinary reward of transformation for herself, and of new life. New beginnings.
You are certainly pursuing the large questions of what you want in your life and how to get there. You are being asked to wake-up, terrified by the possibility that your world will be flipped upside down. But this is part of growing-up. At this stage of life, it’s important to mature certain aspects of the childhood ego that are hanging on for dear life: tendencies to be sometimes overly inflated and sometimes overly insecure (see this tension in your response to your relationship to the piano). The cure? Devote yourself, like a craftsman, to learning a task. Trust in detailed work. If you don’t yet know the big work towards which you are being called (the passion you seek), work on the meticulous learning of a smaller craft instead. Devote yourself to building a skill. Baking. Yoga. Cursive script. Choose something just to practice a detailed art and learn. Make a choice. Seek the pride of patience and devotion. Wax on. Wax off…
If you trust it, the inner development that results from this work will positively influence all other areas of your life. Whatever seemingly small, even mundane task that you choose to master will have bigger payoffs than you could have anticipated. Labor and you will find new birth.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their 20s and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com