I am first and foremost a person who is fond of repetition.
I like my schedule. I like my routine. I drink the same number of cups of tea in the morning. I burn the same candle and do the same meditations at night. It’s not obsession; it’s pattern. And I live perfunctorily within it.
Patterns are what built my comfort zone. Even my subconscious reveals itself it neat patterns, as I have been experiencing repetitive dreams for my entire life.
Most dream researchers and psychoanalysts recognize repetitive dreams as your subconscious’ way of reminding you of unresolved emotional conflict. As a long time anxiety sufferer, I believe that.
When my anxiety turned into full-blown panic disorder about eight months ago, I realized I needed help in dealing with the physical and psychological symptoms. Having a B.S. degree in psychology would have seemingly prepared me professional counseling, but, I now realize that nothing really prepares you for good, honest therapy.
Though I have gone from experiencing almost daily panic attacks to weeks without an episode, being in therapy has exhausted and challenged me in ways that I never thought it could. I, mistakenly, thought I would talk to someone about my symptoms, they would give me some pointers — maybe a few breathing exercises — and I would be on my merry way.
I did not expect to lay my entire soul bare for another person to see.
I did not expect to admit things I had never even admitted to myself. But more than anything, I did not expect to have difficulty talking and expressing myself — something that I struggle with every month at my sessions.
I have to count myself among the lucky ones. My therapist is a good one: a genuine, bona fide, decent human being that somehow manages to connect with me, even while I hide in the dark chasm of defensive introversion, and draw me out of myself.
We don’t approach issues from strictly Rogerian, strictly Freudian, or strictly Jungian. We don’t discuss spirituality on a denominational basis – but on a spectrum which includes God, meditation, yoga, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Billy Joel’s Glass Houses album. We discuss my struggles and frame them with references to Pink Floyd’s “Your Possible Pasts” and Marianne Williamson quotes.
And when it came to discussing my reoccurring dream of a great, black wave — my therapist helped me discover its meaning.
In my dream, I stand elevated above an undiscernible landscape. In front of me lies a dark horizon. As I stand there, the horizon approaches me, soon turning into a towering wall of water, black and impenetrable. In my dream, I am unable to move. There is no sound, only the movement of the approaching wall. The fear I feel is incomprehensible. And just before the wave breaks over me — merely inches from my face — I wake up. The same, every time, for most of my life.
It is generally accepted that water, in dreams, represents your subconscious or emotional state. Very basically: my dream is an alternative way that I process feeling overwhelmed and afraid of being consumed by my emotions.
Interestingly enough, however, after researching more on the subject, I found that tidal wave dreams are a common dream theme — and one studied by the late Dr. Ernest Hartmann, Professor of Psychiatry at Tufts University. His theory suggests that reoccurring dreams that contain a powerful central image — such as a tidal wave — may be a product of a traumatic experience and the mind’s attempt to process that fear.
How comforting to know that our minds, our subconscious, takes care of us in these nuanced and unique ways. Working through our most intense and painful experiences in a way that, though sometimes confusing and momentarily frightening, is nothing more than a bad dream.
In the meantime, as I learn to process my emotions and experiences, I am comforted by the knowledge that I don’t work on these things alone. And I take comfort in my patterns. I will drink three cups of tea at breakfast. I will burn my sage moss candle and practice the Chamundi chant before bedtime.