In a dream one night, I was with some friends at an ocean coast. The weather was beautiful, sun shining, a light breeze tossing our hair.

I was looking at the ocean when I realized that a huge wave was coming. And when I say huge, imagine a gigantic wall of water. It was slowly building up, growing taller, majestically approaching the shore…

Since our belongings were at the shore and we were afraid our cameras and smartphones would get wet, I felt a little nervous. Other than that, I was in awe. The story line of the dream (irrelevant now) unfolded, but it would always come back to the waves, which would come and go.

I woke up thinking „Whoa, those waves were absolutely amazing!” and I wanted to know more about their meaning.

Dreams carry important messages. They are not just a side effect of synapses firing while we are unconscious, as it was thought it the scientific world for many years. From an evolutionary point of view, dreams were (and still are) a way of rehearsing difficult situations, so that we can test various behaviors and reactions. Cognitively, sleep and dreams are an important agent of memory consolidation. Emotion-wise they help us process what we have been through during the day.

Dreams also tend to show us that which is hidden from our everyday self, since the self is usually preoccupied with its own narrow point of view. A dream is like a good friend, who comes and tells us: hey, what if we looked at the issue from a different perspective? Our mind is processing a lot of data beyond our awareness and we don`t have access to that process (see unconscious thought theory for example), dreams are a way of presenting us with the results.

For most people, the problem with dream interpretation lies in their irrationality and lack of real-life logic. How to translate these surreal stories into something meaningful?

There are various theories and methods, here I want to show you how does process oriented psychology approach the realm of dreams. I did my work with the ocean dream with some help of a process work facilitator/therapist, which usually makes things much easier, but it is possible and fun to explore dreams on your own as well.

When I described my dream, it quickly became obvious that the waves were THE THING. They were the most energetic element in the story. I was even showing the waves with my hands, as in:

this big
this big!

I let my body lead me, to shapeshift into a great wave. I had to let go of the regular „me” and become the wave. It took some time, I had to find a way to really get a feeling of the wave. I ended up standing on a sofa with my arms up in the air to get a feeling of how it is to be so high. A distinct internal „wow” effect at some point indicated a shift in perspective; I left my normal identity and became something else.

The Wave

Things look much different from the height of a huge wave. The world seems small, tiny people with their little issues, that seems almost funny. I could see my everyday small self looking up at the wave. I felt caring and compassionate towards it, but at the same time, not really that much concerned with that figurine’s world.

I have also discovered a specific motion of the wave growing and then decreasing and receding into calm and shallow waters caressing the shoreline. I found the same motion in my breath — accumulating energy of the in-breath and a release into a relaxed state of the out-breath. Feeling the wave/breath inside me was a very deep experience that conveyed a very important message for my everyday self. It all comes in cycles. A huge wave of energy, potential to work, to do things, to act. And then: release, time off, calm waters. And then again, and again.

Because you see, our culture makes me and most of us disconnected from this natural cycle. We want to be productive all the time. We don’t respect these kinds of cycles, we want to dictate our own. When I’m not on the „high wave” all the time I feel guilty for not doing enough. I tend to not take enough time off to let my energy regenerate. I try to remember that not working hard all the time is OK, but I sometimes forget about it and beat myself up for not doing that. It is a problem of our times. We concentrate so much on being productive that we forget how to rest.

I have also realized that my natural pattern of doing things is exactly like that wave. I get excited about something, I spend hours and days on it and then it just stops. I listen to a genre of music obsessively and then suddenly need silence for many days. I sit long hours creating a text, a website, looking for the perfect design, learning a new language, watching movies with the new favorite actor and then, one day, it stops. No more. Hours and days of not doing all that. Until a new wave builds up and I’m all revved up again.

I used to think about it as lack of self-discipline. Short-lived enthusiasm. It’s against any advice on productivity and goal attaining: show up every day, be disciplined and systematic, be organized, create good habits, have a routine. Haven’t I tried to establish all that? Haven’t I beaten myself up for not being able to do so? All the tricks in the book. To no avail.

Come to think of it, no wonder it didn’t work out — it wasn’t my way, it was someone else’s way. I guess I need to come to terms with my own cycles of work.Squeeze out the best out of the periods of activity & engagement; ride the wave to the fullest. And then just rest, relax and slack off. A new wave will come. This is my balance and I can take advantage of this pattern instead of fighting it. Through an embodied experience of being a wave, I found the dream’s message. A liberating one.