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What Do Dreams Tell Us About Obstacles And Opportunities In Our Waking Lives?

Lifestyle

Between deadlines, international travel, speaking engagements, and conference calls, Wendy Lewis, the President of WLCO beauty, an aesthetic marketing firm in New York City, doesn’t get a whole lot of sleep. When she does sleep, however, she often has the same dreams. “One is that I am lost and running endlessly in circles,” she says. “Sometimes I am cold in this dream because I am not wearing a coat.”


Liza Boyd Benson, managing director of a venture capital firm in New York City, also experiences recurring dreams. “I am always late for class or missed an exam,” she shares.

“These are very common dreams,” explains Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, a dream intuitive in Rensselaerville, NY, and the former dream consultant for People Country Magazine. She specializes in dream interpretation, symbolism and dream incubation—which can help harness the power of dreams and dreaming to overcome professional or personal hurdles.

Let’s take the dream of being left out in the cold without a jacket, she says. “This is a position that female executives often find themselves in during their waking life because of the old boy’s network,” she says. The coat—or lack thereof—likely symbolizes the absence of protection and warmth. “Female executives may find themselves under extreme pressure to perform and to perform better than their male counterparts which is why dreams of running around in endless circles may occur.”

There are multiple ways to interpret some common dreams such as being late for a class or missing an entire semester and then showing up on exam day. Some say these dreams undermine confidence, while others suggest they may do the opposite. “These dreams probably started back in school when you were worried about grades or attendance, but it became associated with emotional stress which is why it tends to recur in your adult life,” says Scardamalia.

The real question is how does this dream make you feel? “If when you wake, you feel better because you clearly didn’t miss class and know deep inside you would never miss a class, it can serve as an affirmation,” Scardamalia says. If, however, you wake and your heart is pounding and adrenalin is surging, it is because, on an emotional level, you are worried about falling short, she says.

Dreams are highly personal which is why the best dream dictionary is your dream journal.

Water, water everywhere

Briana MacWilliam is an author, educator, creative arts therapist, Rieki practitioner and an avid dreamer. She also runs an online school for continuing education for licensed creative arts therapists in New York State called CreativeArtsTherapiesOnline.com.

Water is an overarching theme in her dreams and always has been. “Frequently I am on the ocean or beach, but sometimes I am anticipating a tidal wave. I usually survive it,” she shares. “One time I was in the ocean on a boat, and a storm whipped up, almost like a tornado, and it tried to suck me off the boat, but I clung to the mast,” she says. “And then a figure appeared and told me the solution would be to let go. So I did, and I woke up.” Other water dreams involve her floating just above a black pool of water and cautiously dipping a toe into the darkness. “The water is warm, but I’m absolutely terrified of it.”

“Water has to do with emotions, and emotions are something that women may worry about leaving behind when they step into high power, high responsibility positions,” she tells SWAAY.

So what would dreaming about water mean? “These dreams come to tell us that we may think we left our emotions behind, but they are coming back like a tidal wave.”

This means different things for different women. “The tsunami is coming, but the question to ask is where and why,” Scardamalia explains. “It may not be the job. It could be a personal situation that has been shoved in the background,” she says. The bottom line? “Somewhere in your waking life, there is an emotional overwhelm and if you don’t do something about it you are going to drown.”

Snakes often slither into MacWilliam’s dreams. Snakes mean different things based on the dreamer and how they feel about them, Scardamalia says. “Symbolism is very personal,” she says. “The best dream diary you will ever have is your journal.” Look back and see when and how the snake appears to get a better idea of what it portends.

Harnessing the power of your dreams

You are not powerless, Scardamalia says. There are many ways to get to the bottom of the dreams that haunt or inspire you.

Journal

“Write with your dominant hand as yourself and then use the non-dominant hand as the dream to create a dialogue,” she says. “Have a conversation with the wave and say, ‘Where are you coming from? Why are you threatening me? What am I not seeing?’” This exercise has proven telling for many people, she says. It can also help us find closure from a bad dream. “We often wake up before we finish the dream and this will help us find the gift in the dream.”

Dreaming of people who have passed away is common. The meaning depends on the dream, the context, the emotion around it. “That said, my experience and that of other dreamers and dream teachers is that the dead come to visit, to bring us resolution to a relationship, to offer advice, assurance, love. Even if someone does not believe in a soul or life after death, the visits of the dead often offer healing and comfort,” she says. This is another scenario where journaling may help get at the true meaning.

Ask

If there is a question you have in your waking life and would like to dream about it, “write a question and place it under your pillow,” she says. "Make your question as clear as possible and allow yourself to fall asleep thinking about it.” This is known as incubating a dream. Be patient. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again in a few weeks.

Join a dream circle

Conscious dream work. There are basically two kinds of dreams, unconscious and conscious dreams. Scardamalia often runs group dream circles for female CEOS and executives to help teams develop a common vision. “This is a deeper, more magical way of building a dream around a vision,” she says. This group exercise involves a dream worker such as Scardamalia who plays a single-headed frame drum as she leads participants on a journey to common vision. “We set it up based on what the group needs such as the next image for marketing materials or how they see the company evolving.”

Look for the pun

“When I first opened my business, I kept having this random dream that all my former bosses were chasing me for some reason,” says Megan Driscoll, CEO of EvolveMKD, a New York City-based PR and marketing firm. “It was jarring at first, but then became kind of funny and I’d go to bed each night psyching myself up to outrun them.” This dream may be “punning” with the dreamer, says Scardamalia. “It’s the idea of out-running her competition (i.e., her former bosses) and may mean that she feels the need to do better than former employers, be smarter, more forward-thinking, and faster and going to bed at night psyching herself up to outrun them; it probably helped her motivate.”

The Iroquois Indians say we dream everything before it happens so if you are paying attention to your dreams, you can get a heads up and be prepared for what is coming There are multiple reports of people who dreamed about 9-11-2001 before it happened, she says. “Pay attention to your dreams as there is no area of your life that you can’t use dreams to get unstuck or move forward,” she says.

Scardamalia recommends these books for those interested in learning more about dreams and dreaming.

The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant

All About Dreams by Gayle Delayney

Man and His Symbols by Carl G. Jung

Conscious Dreaming by Robert Moss

The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker

The Tower in the Woods: Dreaming Your Creativity Awake by Paula Chaffee Scardamalia

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Health

How This CEO Is Using Your Period To Prevent Chronic Diseases

With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.


For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.

Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."

There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."

“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"

-Anna Villarreal

Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.

How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.

So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."

To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."

These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.

A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.

To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."

How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.

Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."