I dreamed I was sailing a fully rigged tall ship. I felt the wind in my hair and watched the sails billowing. I was content, in control, captain of my own destiny. I picked up my spyglass and saw another vessel not too far away. That boat was sailing in sand—beached. The captain waved at me—oblivious that he was stuck and going nowhere. I wondered why he wasn’t conscious of his predicament and considered how I could inform him.
Suddenly, I looked down. There was only sand beneath my ship as well, and the water was several hundred feet behind the stern. I was distracted by the other captain’s conundrum and didn’t realize my ship had left the water and was now also sailing on sand. I awoke, panicked.
The lesson of my dream was quickly apparent: When focusing on other people and their perceived difficulties, I fail to sail my own course. Instead, I work out problems in my head that are not my own. Moreover, in my experience, people find a way through their own dilemmas. They only need a compassionate, listening friend.
As I lay in bed contemplating my dream, I realized that both the other captain and I were confident–and had run aground. I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) do anything about his problem; however, my problem was another story. My dream was telling me that my subconscious knew where I was stuck in life, and I was anxious to make a course correction. I grabbed a pen and began journaling. Within a short period of time, my writing revealed the problem. I said a little “Thank You” to that part of me that keeps me focused on my own issues and immediately turned my attention to the real source of my concern.
There are several reasons we sometimes obsess on the uncontrollable. First, it is often easier caring for others than caring for ourselves. (That is especially true of me as a mother.) Second, obsessing on the uncontrollable can be a way to circumvent pain. Third, it can be a way to avoid change. Still another factor for me is my over-developed sense of empathy as a sensitive, which in many situations is a good thing, but can be taken too far.
I learned much in this dream and writing exercise. Concern over another person is a good thing. Compassion requires it, and we need more compassion in this world. However, if I find my thoughts turn from concern to excessive worry about people and things I have no control over, it is a red flag—an indication of the need to divert my attention to what I can control.
To accomplish our goals in life, to stay on track, to be whole people, we need to spend time focused on our own issues and life path. I know that when I do this, I can avoid dreaming about problems with another’s ship while I overlook that my ship has run aground and I am sailing on sand.