10 years ago I started having anxiety dreams. They would happen just once or twice a year, but they were always the same kind of dream. And, the residue from the dream would stay with me for days.
I’m in a class, high school or college. I didn’t realize there was a pop quiz. Or, I had signed up for a class but didn’t realize it and months had gone by…and I was way behind. Or, I had signed up for too many classes and I had fallen completely behind in one class.
I would often start to wake in the dream as the anxiety increased in its intensity. This would always be at the point where I realized that I was unprepared or had grossly overlooked something (missing tons of classes). I would awaken with overwhelming pressure across my chest (this pressure encoded with panic) which would soon settle as soon as I realized that I’m not in that situation at all.
I would remind myself that I’m older now…that that’s over now…that it’s ok.
The first time I had one of the dreams, I woke up with that same pressure and anxiety…and even tears rolling down my face. I remember quickly trying to recall my dream to see what had caused such a rush of emotional release. This particular dream was one of my first dreams to surface about schooling.
This dream, to my logical mind, did not warrant that amount of anxiety. But then, as I processed this dream over the years…I came to realize that my soul experience had just started to break through the protective shell of my logical mind.
The Honesty of Dreams
That’s what the dream time is about. It’s honest. It doesn’t censor. It tells you exactly what your soul experience of a situation is. It does this before your overly logical mind kicks in to say to your emotions, ‘hey, that doesn’t make sense.’
It’s this dismissive attitude of the logical mind which probably saved you in the first place. It helped you survive the situation your soul experienced.
When the psyche senses you are ready to experience the feelings of a situation — that you have capacity to do so — it will start revealing such things to you.
So, I began working with this dream. I would use active visualization to go back into the dream to soothe myself…to reassure myself…to tell myself ‘you did the best you could in the situation you were in’ and ‘it’s over now.’
I wanted myself to feel safe, seen, and understood. I wanted myself to feel loved.
I would even visualize myself walking over to my young self and giving her a hug.
I did this over and over, whenever I had one of these dreams.
From Overwhelm to Compassionate Spacing
Last night, I had another one of those dreams, but the narrative followed a different path for the first time. This is huge for me.
In the dream, I realized that I had signed up for too many classes and that I was behind and overwhelmed. In the dream, I calmly realized this and told myself that I would remove all classes except one so that I could digest and assimilate the information and experiences well.
I then found myself at a church in a circle of women. We were starting our day with each other and we opened our circle with a share.
I went first and my share was about moving slowly through the day…allowing myself to digest and assimilate my experiences. I wanted to give myself more space to breath and move through the day with rhythm and pace.
In the dream, it all just flowed out and I wasn’t sure how the women would respond.
When my last words trailed off, there were sighs of recognition from them and then they clapped for me!
I felt seen and understood.
When I woke up from the dream, I was actively creating a song that I would sing in that church. I can’t remember the words now, sadly…but it I remember it felt like an activist song with some political undertones.
Industrialized School Dysfunction
I’ve thought about this a good bit today.
It made me dwell, again, on the reality that our school systems are so incredibly dysfunctional when it comes to learning. I also realize that many adults carry this behavior of how they have learned to manage their time (from their school years) into their adulthood without knowing.
We tend to pile too much on our laps…become overwhelmed…and then frozen or wanting to flee the situation.
We do that over and over because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.
Industrialized education is an experiment. It’s only been around for 200 years or so, at most.
One thing to remember with an experiment is that we have to drop what’s not working and reach for new understanding and new tools. But, I really don’t see that happening.
Instead, we are medicating, labeling, and diagnosing our children into oblivion……while piling on more tests and more homework.
How crazy is that?
Since when, in our human evolution, did we learn about anything in 45 min segments? History is only 45 minutes a day? Science is only 45 minutes a day?
Bell rings (time to stop learning). Shove food in your mouth. Heaven forbid you have to pee and ask your teacher to go to the bathroom. Repeat.
If you are learning and interested in something…you may need to lay on the floor and study it… You may need to dive in for hours and then stand back for some time. You may be interested in it for 5 minutes or you may be interested in it for days upon days.
Learning it not mechanical. We are not robots.
When schools wake up to this fact, we will truly have a learning revolution in this country. And, all will be the better for it.
Raising a Daughter in the Midst of Re-imagining Learning
As a mother of a 5-year old daughter, I’m now watching her way of learning and when I get in the way of that process. Believe me, she lets me know (smile).
She is hard-wired to learn and she’s hard-wired to learn in her own way.
She is watching me, watching her dad, watching everyone and everything and learning all the time. She picks up materials and explores them. She turns a cardboard box into a car. She turns strings with shells hanging from them into loops she dangle on her ears like earrings.
Her imagination is limitless. She feels capable to create things.
For now, I have chosen to homeschool my daughter and she attends a local Self-Directed Education (SDE) program (links below). What I have read is that SDE’s are popping up all over the world. To me, they are a creative response to industrialized schooling.
Rewild the Mind
The take home for me on this topic of school-based anxiety dreams has a lot to do with my path of rewilding. There has been a narrow understanding of human consciousness for quite some time which impairs one’s instinct, intelligence, intuition, and creativity. It is deeply ingrained in all of our modern institutions.
We have to discern between what is useful and life-giving and what is damaging and make our way forward. We have to look at our modern systems and see what was born out of misunderstanding and dysfunction and what to do next.
Our children…our future adults…and our future ancestors depend on us to do this work.
Freedom to Learn by Peter Gray
A Thousand Rivers by Carol Black
Alliance for Self-Directed Education
Alternative Education Resource Organization
Raising Free People
Agile Learning Centers