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Dreams of Sex, the Past, and Bob Barker January 30, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, inspiration, Sex.
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“Come on down! The price is right!”  What?  Me? The dream was so vivid I could feel the heat of the studio lights. There I was, on the Price is Right Show. Bob Barker holding the microphone in my face and asking me, “…and what do you bid Steve?”

What am I bidding on Bob?

Wait! … where are my clothes?

It woke me up instantly. That is the only way I can remember my dreams; when they are so intense I am thrust into consciousness with the dream scenario still embedded in my thoughts. There I was in bed, still hearing the theme music and wondering, what was that all about?

Some dreams are so bizarre (thanks Bob Barker) and make no sense to us. Others have a clear connection to what is happening in our lives at the moment. Some are from our past. Some are of our future. Whatever and whenever they are, we want so much for them to have meaning. We want our dreams to guide us to our future or give us understanding of our past. We want our dreams to give us the answers to our current situations.

According to Dr. Michael Breus, leading sleep expert, there are reoccurring dreams that we all experience that may have a common meaning. These Dreamscapes include; falling, being chased, visiting or seeing someone you knew who is now deceased, being back in school or college, or finding yourself naked. In general many of these dream scenarios indicate some current stress happening in your life.  However, it is important to understand that the same common dream can be interpreted differently between individuals. For example, let’s take the dream about being in high school. This is a reoccurring dream I have had for close to 25 years now. My dream focuses on the restraints of the high school environment; hall passes, bells, teacher authority, etc… I hated my years in high school and this dream reflects the restrictions I felt while attending. It may even extend to the limitations I felt growing up with an over-protective mother and under-loving stepfather. I find that I have this dream more often when I am in a financially or personally restrictive time in my life. Others who have this dream may interpret it in an entirely different light. If they found their high school years to be personally enriching and socially affluent, they may have this dream in times when their lives and relationships are going well.

Sex and being naked

We have all had this one. Having sex with a friend, your boss, your mother, past and/or present and/or future lover – you name the person, people dream of having sex with them. Think about what sex is. Yes, having sex normally reflects a mutual intimacy between two people. However, it can also be an act of dominance or power over someone. Some even associate sex with pain. Combine your meaning with the person you dreamed having sex with and you can come up with all sorts of conscious parallel meaning. Personally I have never dreamed about having sex with my mother or boss (ewww.) My sex dreams always are with past, current, or desired lovers. More important to my personal interpretation however, is the fact that when I am feeling overly stressed, limited, restricted, I don’t have sex dreams at all. It is in a time when I have hope and high self esteem that my dreams become sexual. Apparently for me, sex is about confidence.

Suddenly lose your clothes during your dream? You are not alone. This is a common one usually meaning that you are afraid of having something exposed, insecurity or low confidence. It can also reflect on the anxiety you are experiencing about an upcoming meeting, doctor’s appointment, presentation, or performance. Not many get naked in their dreams and like it. For the ones who do it can reflect a bit of a narcissistic need for attention, to stand out in a crowd, or a need to be noticed by work colleagues or a recent romantic interest.

The Price is Right

So what does this all have to do with dreaming about being on the Price is Right Show? I have not seen this show, let alone thought about it since I was a teenager. Bob Barker was a young man back then (and that is the age he was in my dream.)

What does this all mean?

It has been a few days since I had this dream and I have used this time to reflect on it. My belief is that this dream mirrors the doubts I have been having lately about pursuing some big dreams of mine. Maybe I am wondering if the cost is worth it. Is the price right?

It is natural to have doubts. It is normal to lose some self-esteem – confidence – as you challenge yourself with change. But what is the alternative? For me, compromising is not an option. “What do you bid Steve?”  Bob, I am not going to make a bid because what I am doing – what I am going after – is priceless.

As for being naked? If people can’t respect me for the challenge I have put before myself, then they need to step aside and let me pass. I have no shame in what I have started. I have no regret in the hard work I have done and am doing to get there. I have no remorse in what I have left behind. I have put myself out there. I have exposed myself and it feels wonderful.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become – Charles Du Bos

Resources:

Recurring Dreams and Their Meanings – Dr. Michael J. Breus

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It Takes a State of Mind, Not a Place in Time January 2, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Health, Holiday, Life.
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Happy New Year?

Are you sure about that? What difference does one evening, one day, make in your happiness? Will writing 2010 on your checks be that much more thrilling and exciting to you than writing 2009?  I doubt it.

I have been travelling the blogosphere in the past few days and reading everyone’s thoughts on how, in this New Year, things will be different. Losing weight, exercise more, quit smoking, do more of this-do less of that – Resolutions such as these are made only to be broken within a short time span.

Cognitive Dissonance

Rationalization of bad behavior can be a powerful influence. A smoker will rationalize by thinking, “I won’t get cancer, other people get cancer.”  A dieter has thoughts of, “One more cookie won’t matter.” A couch potato will reason, “Running is bad for your knees.”

The psychological theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Leon Festinger, 1957) explains just this type of human rationalization. It is more difficult for a person to change behavior than it is to change their thought. Thus, rationalization is conceived and the behavior remains the same. In fact, the process of Cognitive Dissonance is so powerful that marketers use it as a basis to sell you products you don’t really need. They force you to make superficial decisions that make you believe that you must buy their product. “Oh! Chef Boyardee says my kids will be happier if I serve them mini-bites micro ravioli.” “Oh! I will get ‘girl-approved hair’ if I use Axe hair products.” These marketing techniques are banking on people not taking the cognitive energy to understand that these superficial connections are completely irrational.

Superficial Rationalization vs. Reality Perception

It comes right down to Ontology – the way in which people perceive their reality. There are two basic meta-theoretical perspectives on this: Determinists – the thought that prior conditions determine human behavior, and Pragmatists – the thought that people plan their behavior to meet future goals. Determinists believe that their life is all determined by fate. This is the “Forrest Gump” philosophy of “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” People who think within this paradigm are behaviorists. They believe that their world is just a series of events and awareness levels that are slowly unveiled throughout their lives. They have no control over the outcome. These people tend to rationalize more (they are more susceptible to Cognitive Dissonance.) The Pragmatists however understand that their whole world outlook is based on previous experiences and connections and their future is completely malleable through their actions. These people are interpretivists. They understand that for every action, there is going to be change and they have previous experiences to prove it. They learn from their past mistakes, they adjust future actions by assessment of prior events, they plan accordingly for long-term improvement.

The Transformational Learning Experience

How do we learn to think like an interpretivist? How can we gain the knowledge and experience that will give us the constructs to intrinsically understand consequential behavior? What do we need to obtain the cognitive complexity needed to think long-term benefits rather than frivolous unsubstantiated pronouncements of change that will be consumed by cognitive dissonance the next day?

I was fortunate to be involved in a research project on transformational learning during my last degree work. Transformational learning has three elements; the learning experience must be memorable, it must change behavior or attitude, and it must be continuously referenced within a person’s self-narrative (Wilson, Switzer & Parrish, 2007). Long-term behavior change begins with transformational learning. There must be a personal stake involved that transforms thought into entrenched action – action that will not be shifted by cognitive dissonance or any other external influences.

Specific examples might include:

  • Personal health scare or one of a close companion = healthy living changes
  • Birth of a child = value of life and need for longevity
  • Divorce/separation = broader understanding of long standing relationship values
  • Job Loss = value in acquisition of transferrable employment skills
  • International travel = understanding of acceptance and value of diversity

The list is limitless on the powerful learning possibilities and the long-term values that are gained by them. What is important to understand is that life change cannot be frivolously decided upon just because of a date on a calendar. True behavior change must come from previous experiential learning events that are transformational. Personal change comes from personal experience. Something must be at stake for you, or your loved ones. Use the New Year not as a reason to start a new behavior, but as a reaffirmation of your devotion to your journey towards life-long action. Action that is based on previous powerful learning which puts true consequence on change.

Long-term personal change comes from a state of mind, not a place in time.

References:

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Wilson, B., Switzer, S., & Parrish, P.(2006).  Transformative learning experiences: How do we get students deeply engaged for lasting change? Paper presented at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology proceedings, 2006, Dallas, TX.

The Finish November 27, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, running.
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Finish Strong

Wineglass Finish/Boston Qualifier 2008

The most difficult part of any race for me is when I see the finish line in the distance. For some reason, knowing I am that close after such a punishing pace only raises the anxiety. What if I come short? What if I don’t have what it takes to make my goal? Has the training been good enough to bring me there? Do I have enough experience?

I turn the corner and see it. Through the haze, through the masses of people screaming at me, “You are almost there!  You can do it! Don’t give up now!” I see it… and it scares the hell out of me.

I have been here several times before – very close to my goal. I can see it. I can taste it. It is invigorating to think I have come this far and all of a sudden the finish line is just in front of me. But I have been here before, and I have come up short.

I have done everything correctly. I trained hard and long. I planned and ran the race perfectly. I endured the pain through all the miles. Now I see it and I know I just have to hang on for a few more minutes and I will have my PR. All I have to do now is cross the finish line. Do I have enough? Will this be the finish that I have been waiting for?

Years and years of preparation, pain, study, more pain, miscues. Yes, I have been this close before only to come short of my goal. In this kind of race they only give out a first place ribbon. Finishing second or third only postpones the pain until the next opportunity, if there even is another opportunity.

My anxiety rises, my focus waivers. Seeing the finish line does this to me. To be this close yet so far away crushes me when I know this is where I need to be the strongest. “Push through the pain! You can do this asshole,” I scream at myself. “Don’t fuck this up, it is right there in front of you. Take it!”

I am again very close to my end. I have done everything right despite the pain involved. I went back to school. I finished top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. I took every opportunity afforded me. I have prepared for just this moment. I have been at this point before and faltered. Now I have another chance – another opportunity to cross that finish line. I must finish strong this time. There is no room for error. This one has to end perfectly.

I am almost there. The finish banner comes into focus. My chest is about to burst. My legs are numb. Every ounce of energy I carried is now gone. I am running solely on adrenalin. Time slows down. I see the crowds screaming but I no longer hear them. I am gasping for anything that will enter my mouth and nose. I am seconds away. I am so close now… so close…

The meaning of life November 3, 2009

Posted by jassnight in fitness, Life, Love, Relationship.
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just one thingRemember the movie City Slicker’s? That one moment when Billy Crystal asks Jack Palance the question, “what is the meaning of life?”  Jack holds up a finger and responds with this, “Just one thing…” When I saw that movie many years ago, I wanted to know. “What was that one thing Jack?  Tell Me!”

At that time I remember working hard toward that standard American dream. You know – the one that says that we all need a big house, two cars, lots of special gadgets and the best in services and comforts. With that mentality, I couldn’t understand why I would return to my standard funk even after buying the latest iPod, or renovating a room in the house. I just didn’t get it. Wasn’t this stuff supposed to make me happy?  “Jack, tell me what that one thing is!”

I will spare you the gory details about how I learned what the one thing is but let me tell you, it is true that money can NOT and will NOT buy you happiness. It is not about money. It is not about possessions. It is not about comforts and services. It is about LIFE itself.

I am currently working in a new career that I love and with people who are passionate about what they do – for 1/3 of what I use to make!  I am living in a back room with just a bed and a desk and feel comfortable, warm and secure. I don’t own the latest iPod or phone. I don’t get cable TV. I don’t buy the latest fashions. What is wrong with me? Nothing!  I have found that one thing.

That one thing is LIFE. This is heaven. This is the gift – here and now.

We have these bodies to touch, feel, and experience this world. We have these minds to understand, comprehend and remember. We have these hearts to connect, unite and love one another. This is it – this is the one thing.

I have made it a priority to take care of my body so that I can experience this world. I have seeked out more education and continue to do so in order to understand and comprehend. I have made wonderful relationships with others through my heart so that I can connect, unite and love with them.

I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Here is the extra bonus – The best things in life are FREE!  (Well, except maybe that last master’s degree 😉

This is my vision statement:

I feel great, happy, successful, prosperous, rich. I have terrific energy, since I cooperate with nature. Fresh air for the lungs, sound sleep for the nerves, wholesome food for the stomach, daily exercise for the muscles, great thoughts for the head, and close connections with people I love for the heart.

What Empowers You? November 1, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, fitness, Relationship, running.
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Empower YourselfThis morning was long run morning. Since I qualified, registered and I am going to participate in the Boston Marathon, I have decided that I would run nothing less than a half marathon for my long runs until I need to ramp up the mileage after the new year. I am committed and I am following through.

In the midst of a self-esteem crushing and soul-sucking job search on top of confusing and hurtful relationship problems, running empowers me. It seems to be the only thing that I have control over in my life right now. My decision to take on the challenge of winter training and run the Boston is a commitment I have made and a goal I will achieve. No one else made that decision for me and no one else gave me permission to do it (note – always discuss long distance running with your doctor before embarking on training. Have check-ups regularly.) I reap the rewards of good training and consequently understand the issues if I skip a training run or run stupid. I am directly responsible for my running and fitness success. Me – no one else.

Running is my source of pride, my base of identity, my constant, my life source.

Running Empowers Me.

I wish I could have been there with you… You were October 26, 2009

Posted by jassnight in fitness, Love, running.
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Running is many things to me. It has been with me for seven years now and continues to be a major force in my life. What I gain physically is limitless. What I learn is enlightening. What I discover emotionally is enormous.

I knew the value of my relationship with running when I decided to go back to school for a second master’s degree. As a side note, actually deciding to go back to school was a direct result of my running experiences. When I entered my degree program I made a pact with myself: Running will remain priority and I will never give up a run because of my coursework.  Why would I do this?  Because I knew what running does for me. It gives me the confidence to take on such a huge commitment. It maintains an energy level that allows me to stay alert and productive for long hours at a time. Most of all, it levels me. Running calms me down when I am excited. Running brings me up when I am depressed. Running keeps my head clear when I am confused. During my runs back then, I found myself writing outlines, conceiving projects, organizing presentations, creating strategic plans. The benefits during that time were huge.

Lately, during my recent difficult times, running has been there for me as well. Running seems to be the only thing that I have control over in my life right now. I can always count on it to be there for the reasons stated above as well as allowing me to work out personal problems. The past few runs, yesterday and today, were no different. I have been pretty upset lately and again, running has been there to level me. It is getting me through this.  There is something to be said about a solitary run with nothing but the rhythm of your breathing and the pulse of your heart beating. It brings you deep into your core and allows you to touch your soul. It reminds you of who you are.  This morning’s run was that and more. An early morning run with the sun rising above stunning fall foliage, mist hovering over fields, a spectacular view down through the valley after cresting the hill. It was a moment of pure connection with Self moving through this heaven.

I am reminded of a specific scene in the movie, Forrest Gump. Not many movies make me cry but this specific scene does it to me every time. Every time! Jenny is on her deathbed and Forrest describes some of his most beautiful visions while he ran across the country. When he is done, she says, “I wish I could have been there with you.”  He responds, “You were.”

Grab your box of tissues and watch…

The World is a Waiting Lover October 25, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Love, Relationship.
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Waiting Lover

Loving someone who doesn’t love you back is more common phenomenon than we would like to admit. For centuries, unrequited love has been the main staple for sonnets, poems, art, music and literature. Just go to the movie theater. There will be at least one movie playing that centers around one-sided passion. Turn on the radio. I will bet you that you will hear at least one song within the first three played that explains the pain of loneliness at the hands of another.

Trebbe Johnson’s, “The World is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved” is an artful and thoughtful rationalization of pain and subsequent resolution of unrequited love that both William Shakespeare and Carl Jung would both endorse. Johnson, using personal experiences and reflection, uses colorful and descriptive narration as the brush for infusing Jungian psychological philosophy into this emotionally riddled topic.

The basic lesson that Johnson continuously accentuates in her literary journey is that unrequited love can be a mirror to find a new and unique affection for Self. Self is defined by Carl Jung as the inner spirit – what we would more commonly call the soul. Jung explains that the Self is the “regulating center of the psyche and the archetype of wholeness.” Johnson, for reasons you will see as you read the book, calls Jung’s Self, the “Beloved.”

If allowed, the pain associated with this experience can cloud our immediate lives. It can manifest in lack of sleep, stress, loss of productivity, withdrawal from family and friends, weight loss or weight gain and much more. However, Johnson explains that when we struggle with the phenomenon of unrequited love, the longed-for person actually serves as our “Escort to the Beloved.” In loving someone who is unavailable or unwilling to return the same type of affection, one can find a reconnection with Self through that person.

Johnson takes a step back at one point in the book to explain that throughout history there have always been references to a spiritual guide. Socrates taught that a semi-divine guardian called a Daimon accompanies us all. He argued that the Daimon knows exactly why we were born and continuously nudges us into making appropriate choices to fulfill our destiny; our path to heaven, so to speak. The Ancient Christian church, true to form, was not liking the idea of having such a helpful hand to heaven since that was solely the job of the sanctioned priest. So the propaganda from the church twisted the idea that the Daimon was not the guide to heaven but indeed the leader to hell and renamed it the Demon.  The Daimon lived on in the secular world however, as the Muse, the personification of artistic inspiration.  Artists to this day talk about their Muse and the different forms in which it appears.

The experience of unrequited love is powerful. It drives people inward to search themselves and find who they really are. It makes them think deeply about attraction, connection, and passion. Johnson, in alluring personal experiences and thoughts, grabs this two-dimensional struggle and morphs it into a three-dimensional spiritual journey. I strongly urge anyone currently struggling with the un-affections of another, to read this spiritually provoking and powerful guide.

Related readings;

Brehony, K. (1996). Awakening at midlife. NY: Riverhead Books.

Stein, M. (2006). Jung’s map of the soul: An introduction. Chicago, IL: Open Court Publishing Company.

How do you perceive your world? October 23, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Uncategorized.
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From which lens do you see from?

From which lens do you see from?

In my last blog entry, I touched a bit on life-perception and influence. Today, I thought I would go into greater depth on this topic.

Without going into a full lecture of meta-theoretical perspectives and the paradigms involving epistemology (the way people learn) and axiology (the way people perceive their world,) let me just state that people will perceive their reality through two possible lenses.  These lenses are either interpretivism or behaviorism and there is a big difference between the two. Behaviorists believe that their world perception and learning is determined by a slow progression of awareness of a pre-determined existence – objective awareness.  It is the well-known Forrest Gump paradox: “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” Interpretivists believe that their life perception is shaped by previous experience and influentials (such as parents, peers, teachers, and religious leaders.) They “interpret” their existence through these parameters – subjective awareness.

The argument is this; is there only one, external reality that can only become aware to us by growth in perception (Behaviorist viewpoint)? Or, are there multiple realities that are conceived internally through individual interpretation of external events and connections (Interpretivists).

There are arguments for both of course, but think about this. If we were all destined to believe that there is only one reality, wouldn’t we all be voting for the same candidate in an election? Wouldn’t we like all the same foods? Wouldn’t we all drive the same cars?

While I was a student during my last degree work, I was on a research team. One of our discussions centered around which type of research tool to use to capture information. Being an interpretivist, I argued that a qualitative tool would best serve our needs. My colleague, a behaviorist, saw a quantitative tool as being more effective.  One day I finally said to him, “just the fact that we have two different viewpoints about this subject suggests that reality is subjective and not objective.” He had no choice but to agree with that statement.

How do you perceive your world?

Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson October 17, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change.
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Who Moved My Cheese

Who Moved My Cheese is a short but meaningful tale meant as a tool for organizational change. However, it spoke to me on a personal level. The story is about two mice and two little people all on a quest every morning to find “Cheese.”  Cheese, of course, being a metaphor for what we think makes us happy in life.  For some it is money, others power, love, security – the list goes on depending on personal values and ideals. Each character dealt with change in a different way and as a consequence realized success (or not) at different times and through different channels.

My story is also about change. I found that the Cheese I was going to every day did not taste as delightful as it should. My Cheese became old, even moldy. Some of it was disappearing quickly. Some of it was long gone.  I longed for new Cheese and unfortunately, like the little person named Hem, I accepted that there was nothing I could do about it. Even moldy, old cheese was better than no cheese at all so why go through the pain of change. However, like the characters Hem and Haw, after a while it became clear that I was losing strength and slowly dying because of it. At that point I became more like the little person, Haw, who ventured out into the maze in search for new Cheese. The following passage really spoke to me and made me shake as I read it since it described where I found myself;

During the next several days, Haw found a little Cheese here and there, but nothing that lasted very long.

But Haw didn’t feel confident enough yet.  He had to admit he found it confusing in the Maze. Things seemed to have changed since the last time he was out here.

Just when he thought he was getting ahead, he would get lost in the corridors. It seemed his progress was two steps forward and one step backward. It was a challenge, but he had to admit that being back in the Maze, hunting for Cheese, wasn’t nearly as bad as he feared it might be.

As time went on he began to wonder if it was realistic for him to expect to find New Cheese.  He wondered if he had bitten off more than he could chew. Then he laughed, realizing that he had nothing to chew on at that moment.

Whenever he started to get discouraged, he reminded himself that what he was doing, as uncomfortable as it was at the moment, was in reality much better than staying in the Cheeseless situation. He was taking control, rather than simply letting things happen to him (p. 50).

I am getting nibbles now and then.  I am hitting roadblocks constantly. Yes, it is a consistent process of two steps forward and one step back. On many occasion I succumb to fear and it takes me on a ride to nowhere.  There are so many obstacles in front of me. I have been lured down destructive paths. I have taken desperate, fear-driven leaps. I have landed in awkward situations. However, every step whether good or bad, has been a learning experience.

At the very least, I have found out that even the journey to find new Cheese is better than staying where there was moldy or no Cheese. I just have to push fear aside once and a while and continue looking up and down the Maze.  Another passage explains this very well;

Even before he found what he hoped would be a great supply of New cheese, if ever, he knew that what made him happy wasn’t just having Cheese. He was happy when he wasn’t being run by his fear. He liked what he was doing now.  Just realizing he was not letting his fear stop him, and knowing that he had taken a new direction, nourished him and gave him strength (p. 61).

Many of my friends have told me with confidence that the Cheese is out there, just be patient. Many of these same people have walked with me for a spell as I navigated through this Maze. Some are still with me. Others have found their own path to travel. It is all part of the journey.

I will find my Cheese but in the mean time, as the book states, I need to enjoy the adventure.