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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

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.