Monday Motivation: The drama of dreams
By now you might have realised that I’m a dreamer. I return to wakefulness most mornings with the shreds of dreams falling about me, like confetti on a groom barely conscious of his duty. Now, I begin retailing these thoughts to you with the knowledge that other people’s dreams are boring. But bear with me, because I think the point of this dream is worth considering.
In a dream last night I was climbing a steep flight of stairs out of a large auditorium. I was surrounded by other patrons also departing the venue. I was, as usual, on crutches – but standing behind me were two men, whom I was vaguely aware were there as bodyguards or to assist me up the stairs.
I was happy to make the ascent without help. But at least one of my entourage insisted on grasping me by the elbow to support me.
“Leave me,” I told him curtly, “I’m quite happy on my own.”
But my rejection seemed to spur him to increase his insistence that I should accept his help. His grasp on me tightened. The crowd around us surged.
“No,” I said, over my shoulder. He didn’t respond. I was angry by this time and determined to shrug him off. I brought one crutch round and stabbed at his foot on the step behind me. It made no difference.
I then somehow succeeded in using the crutch as a lever, managed to wedge it beneath some part of him – events passed in a rush, so I wasn’t precisely aware of what happened next – but suddenly he flipped off the step, rose into the air and crashed back into the crowd behind him which dissolved into a confusion of bodies.
And I was free. Unaided, I continued up the stairs.
But I worried that I’d be condemned for taking such precipitate action with such potentially lethal consequences. However, in the period that followed I heard of no injuries suffered either by the man himself, or by those that, on his descent, he’d collided with. I was nevertheless concerned that I’d be pilloried for what I’d done.
In the event, though, I discovered that generally people sided with me. My action was understandable, they said. I should not be condemned.
Then I woke up.
The dream offered me two insights.
Firstly, it is true that I reject offers of help more often than I welcome them. I think this is simply the legacy I inherited from having had polio as a child and learning in the months and years that followed to manage without help. My father was my cheerleader in this regard. His fierce insistence that I learn to become independent had this unintended consequence: that I reject help even when it would make much more sense to accept it.
The other insight concerns story. There is, after all, a story to be found in the journey of a character who learns to accept help and that – I’m generalising here – mutual dependence is much more important than independence at all costs; and that this acknowledgement extends beyond the personal to the world at large and, indeed, to most if not all natural systems at work on the planet.
Themes do not a novel make, of course – but they can be inspirational. The challenge now would be to build a character who refuses help and to seek out situations in which his refusing to ask for help has consequences…
In short, seek, to understand your own psychology – and you’ll find a treasure trove of material for stories for the rest of your life.