Rewriting the Dream by Ruth Landis

Aura Self Portrait (c) Lorraine Moretti

Aura Self Portrait (c) Lorraine Moretti

What if you could imagine that your life is a dream? What if you could imagine that just as you can wake yourself up from a dream you are having at night, you could wake yourself up and rewrite your life’s dream?

Sometimes when I am having a disturbing dream I wake myself up, sit up in bed, and say “I don’t like how this dream is going. How do I want it to go?” And I think of a way to rewrite the movie I am dreaming so it doesn’t disturb me so much. And I go back to sleep and the movie/dream changes…since I am the writer. Sometimes my unconscious will take hold again and veer me back to those disturbing images or scenes, and I get to wake myself up again, rewrite, edit, perhaps even recast the characters if necessary, and close my eyes and dream into something that feels more in alignment with where I want to be in the dream.

I remember when I was a little girl and would have a bad dream and go wake my mother up for help. I would stand next to her sleeping self and say “Mommy I just had a very bad dream.” In my mother’s sleep she would first say, “That’s nice dear.” I would stand there and wonder, “Does she mean that, or is she just still asleep?” Quite an interesting moment. That’s nice dear. Maybe it was nice. Why not? Even though I was very scared and upset, perhaps she was right. And sometimes I would be persistent and say, “I’m scared to go to sleep again because I might dream it again.” Then she would say, still with her eyes closed, “Go back and choose what to dream. Dream about dancing in the Nutcracker, or something wonderful.” And I would go back and do what I was told. After all I was a very good girl.

Yes, I might have enjoyed a little cuddle, or having her walk me back to my bed and hold me until I fell back asleep. But in some amazing way, I built a resourcefulness for myself around my dreams because my mother did just what she did. I became the master of my dreams. I was in charge of my dreams. I was empowered around my dreams. They were my stories after all. I believe that translated into my waking dreams as well. How do I dream my day? What costume will I wear tomorrow? What’s the storyline going to be?

Over the years, as I have worked with my dreams consistently, I have developed a narrative voice that will speak aloud to me as I dream. It will say “Oh, this is happening in this dream because you need to look at this or that.” Or it will say, “This death isn’t real, it’s just making you face an ending of….”. It is a very wise and reassuring voice, and has amazing perspective. I believe we can all develop that voice, whether we are asleep at night or awake in the day. It’s all the same.

I have not always lived my life with this truth. Sometimes I forget that I can wake up from the dream. Sometimes I feel held captive by the dream. But the fact that I let myself forget is a dream I have written also.

Sometimes when I am dreaming something disturbing, I choose to let that dream unfold because I feel I need to experience its nightmarishness for a reason. At those times I choose not to wake myself up and rewrite or edit. I choose to have the nightmare and then mine the gold of the experience of it in the morning.

Why do that? I suppose a part of me feels the need to learn something from that particular movie, and doesn’t want to mess with it. It’s like, sometimes I am in the mood for a tearjerker, and will choose to go to a very sad movie so I can cry and move the sad feelings within me.  Maybe I just need to have a pity party for the character in the movie and myself simultaneously. And why not? Or I might want to see an action film because that mirrors something in me that needs to be aggressive. Or I may need to go to a very silly, inane comedy because I have been holding my life too tightly and need to lighten up and be childlike and goofy. It’s all available. I can watch a movie. Or I can dream the movie, by day or by night.

And then there are the recurring dreams. The dreams I have revisited again and again. When I was little, I had this dream where King Kong had come to our neighborhood. He destroyed some houses but he didn’t destroy ours. He peered his one giant eye into my bedroom window and put his finger through my window. Somehow, though I was terrified of him, I knew he didn’t really want to harm me. After all, I cast him in my dream and there was something lovable about this big beast, even to my 5-year-old self. In time that dream became less scary. I kept rewriting it until he was truly my friend. And then I never dreamt that dream again. I didn’t need to.

So how does this apply to my life?  Can I dream the changes I believe I long for? Can i budge the status quo of my life if I truly believe I must and am ready to do so? Of course I can. Why not?

The questions I must ask are: “Who is the Dreamer of this dream? Who wants this dream to be different? Who longs for the change? Is all of me ready for this dream to change? Is the cast of characters within me on board to develop a new script and production?”

Different parts of ourselves have differing ideas about change, about rewriting our dream script. Some parts want to cling to the story they know, and they are very powerful in holding us in the status quo. They are afraid to rewrite the dream, and in their powerful resistance they will keep the dream going the way they know it to go. Sequel after sequel. These parts need to be seen by our narrative voice, and exposed, then befriended.

I always loved that scene in the Wizard of Oz when the great Oz turned out to be just a sweet little old man, wise and dear, with his own self-doubt and good intentions. It took little Toto, the pup with no ego, to sniff him out and pull back the curtain. When he was seen as he truly was, small, beautiful and human, his best self came forward and he helped Dorothy and her gang while he helped himself…and he changed. He went home to Kansas in his hot air balloon with a new vision. He could have returned before but he wasn’t ready to rewrite his dream.

Before we can rewrite our dream script we must know all the characters well. We must see the saboteurs, expose them kindly, and get them on board for the rewrite. We must understand them and befriend them, like my little girl’s King Kong, until we don’t need to keep dreaming that same old dream. We must develop that strong all-seeing narrative voice that knows all aspects of our dream production well. Then we can look at the old dreams of our lives and say, “That’s nice dear. Now dream about…” And so we will.

Ruth Landis (http://www.ruthlandis.com/) is a certified Body-Psychotherapist, certified hypnotherapist, Enneagram teacher, and Reiki Master, utilizing body/mind techniques, visualization, and guided imagery for greater awareness, presence, relaxation, and stress reduction, as well as working with trauma, chronic disease, and anxiety.  Ruth also synthesizes all of her skills to create greater joy and ease in all modes of performance, public speaking, and group dynamics. Ruth has been a private coach for actors and performing artists for over 20 years.  She is an actress, writer, director, and teacher, having performed at all of the major professional theatres in Chicago and in regional theatre, as well as having worked extensively on-camera, and as a voice-over artist for radio, TV, and film.  She has taught acting at Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, Columbia College and Victory Gardens Training Center. Ruth has presented several workshops at Life Force Arts Center

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