Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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Barbara Platek is an author living in Ithaca, New York. She has been listening to people’s dreams as part of her Jungian psychotherapy practice for seventeen years.
Dreams tell us how we really feel about something. Let’s say we are in a job that we hate: our dreams may tell us that we are dying in that situation. Dreams use a lot of hyperbole. As I said, they are like ancient Greek plays: the characters wear big costumes to make sure we see them. But if we are willing to find the truth in those exaggerations, our lives open up. We become more authentic and less the product of social constructs.
When I used to teach Native American studies at Berkeley, I would offer an A to any student who could come up with a Western model of health. No one was ever able to do it. The West developed only a model of disease. Therefore all of its treatments are based on a negative model. They are all “anti”: antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, antibiotics, and so on. And we are constantly being told that we have to “fight” this or that illness. This is a dualistic way to look at healing. The Native American model is a model of health. It is about the restoration of balance to body, mind, and heart. It assumes that we sometimes go out of balance, and good health depends on restoring that balance.
Grief is a teacher. It tells us that we are not alone; that we are interconnected; that what connects us also breaks our hearts — which is as it should be. Most people who allow themselves to grieve fully develop an increased sense of gratitude for their own lives. That’s the alchemy: from grief to gratitude. None of us wants to go through these experiences, but they do bring us these gifts.