An Imaginary Knife (Lessons Learned While Editing My Nightmares)

dream meaningsLast night, before falling asleep, I journaled about my struggle to let go of the illusion of control. I journal about this often, but last night, it must have been especially meaningful as it actually seeped into my dreams. The morning after, I didn’t immediately understand the meaning of my dream, but eventually, I came up with one possibility:  The dream is a reflection of how I am entirely convinced that I can control most circumstances and prevent calamities.

In my retelling of this dream, the names have been changed:

Someone is about to kill someone I love (Mary), but before he succeeds, I pull out a knife and kill him. Crisis averted. Later on, Mary and I pay a visit to some of my friends, and after telling them about my heroic feat, we decide to take our cats for a stroll. We take them to watch a horse race. Walking along the inner circle of the track, I feel a sense of control mixed with fear as I contemplate the fact that the poor kitties are located less than two feet from where they might be trampled.

Whether it’s a leash or a knife, I’m under the impression that I have ultimate power to protect the ones I love and outsmart the danger that threatens to disturb my perfect world. In real life, I’m under the impression that I have ultimate power to protect my reputation, happiness and comfort, and outsmart the disruptions that threaten to harm my loved ones (reputation, etc.).

During my dream, my semi-conscious mind somehow knew that I didn’t really have a knife – my imagination created one. While the whole dream was imaginary, the knife was more so because it was conjured by choice rather than independently existing like the other people and objects in the story. In this moment of semi-consciousness, I had the power to write whatever story I wanted. In the original script, I was never meant to have a knife. I knew that the control I was envisioning was merely an illusion, and I was actually quite powerless to prevent the impending danger – especially when Danger is a man with a weapon and its adversary is a girl with an imaginary knife who’s never brandished a weapon in her life.

Fans of Pixar’s, Inside Out, will appreciate the following illustration: Riley is having a nightmare about the uncomfortable experience she had at school. Joy and Sadness disrupt the dream by adding a dog. Riley’s brain is transitioning from simply experiencing the dream to controlling the dream.

My need for control is apparent, especially now that I’ve realized it’s in my dreams. As soon as I stop conjuring imaginary knives, I can learn to accept circumstances as they come and trust that God is near to the brokenhearted, even when He does not calm the storm.


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