Leave the Baggage Behind

clarity personal growth self reflection Nov 15, 2021

Anybody else out there have recurring anxiety dreams?  Yeah, I figured I wasn't alone on that front.  But let's see if we can at least get some good insight out of our subconscious minds, shall we?  

I’ve had this recurring dream for much of my adult life—it is time for me to catch a flight and my bags are not yet packed. I scramble around, grabbing items, trying to determine what to take with me. I struggle to discern what I’ll need-- how many tops, which jacket, which shoes. My belongings are all over the place, and no matter how much I try to quickly accomplish the task, how franticly I move, all of my effort is in vain. The bag refuses to be packed. 

Another recurring anxiety dream features me showing up for what I think is the first rehearsal but it is actually opening night and I don’t know my lines. In one version of the dream, the director has written my lines on PostIt notes and placed them all over the stage, and I’m trying to figure out when to say each one.

Both dreams usually result in my waking up in a pool of sweat. 

I had the unpacked bags dream recently, and woke up sweaty, my heart pounding. And then, in a moment of both clarity and confusion, I thought, “forget the bags, leave the stuff behind, just go!” I laid back down and visualized myself walking calmly out of the room with my scattered belongings, walking out the door without any bags in hand, walking toward the adventure that awaited me, unburdened.

I opened my eyes and wondered if finally found the cure to my night sweats. 

A few nights later, I had the opening night dream—we had only moments before the audience would arrive, and we were still creating the set and costumes, and there was a page of rewrites to the script which I would need to memorize immediately. But this time, instead of bumbling around on stage making a fool of myself, in the dream, I told the cast that we would just have to improvise and that as long as we worked together, we'd be fine. I opened the door and let the audience in. A dream that typically ended with the director telling me how disappointed he was in me, for the first time ended with me deciding to trust my ability to deliver a performance without perfectly rehearsing every moment.

All of which leaves me wondering if writing different endings to my anxiety dreams is akin to rewriting the limiting beliefs that shape my thinking and feeling.  

Nonetheless, I think there are some interesting metaphors in these examples too, that lend themselves nicely to coaching questions:

  • What part of your future are you about to miss because you are obsessing about what to take with you?
  • What would happen if you decided to move forward without everything you might need?
  • Where might you be able to go if you could move freely, unburdened?
  • What would happen if you trusted your ability to improvise, to be responsive in the present moment to obstacles and opportunities that arise?
  • Where is the fear of disappointing someone keeping you from taking charge of your own performance?

So there you have it.  I'm adding "anxiety dream annihilator" to my skills on LinkedIn. Feel free to leave me a review. ;)


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