Whose dream are you living?


Commercials full of happy-looking people
tell nothing about the products being sold.
But they tell everything about the fears, fancies,
and dreams of those who might buy them.
What the advertiser needs to know
is not what is right about the product
but what is wrong about the buyer.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

And we buy! We buy our inadequacy. 

Our authentic dreams are replaced with other people’s dreams to help us fit in and feel adequate. We easily give up the right to our own dreams to make us feel right.  

When we say the word dream, it can connote so many things. Our ideal world. Our fantasized life. Or something we really desire. Not the silly lottery winnings or the three wishes variety, but perhaps something concrete that you think is what you ought to be doing with your precious life.

Like so many words, dream has been lost in its commoditization and overuse.

“I’m living the dream!” is a pat response I get from a number of people when I ask how they are. A contrived and positive infused way of masking the truth. Are you living a fantasy of your best possible life? Sorry don’t buy it. If you are say you are doing the best you can and you are grateful—well then maybe. But this falsetto phrase of plastic positivity is silly at best. And a mean spirited “I am better off than you! at its worst.

Part of living the dream is actually living your dream. There’s a whole body of research regarding what is called lucid dreaming, where you become aware you are in a dream state while you are dreaming. 

How do we differentiate between this manufactured dream from our real dream?

Our minds are just chaotic, brutal and even violent places. Most of our thoughts are not kind or supportive. Inside our heads are battlegrounds of waves of attacks and defensiveness.  How do we hear our own dreams between the gunfire of our minds? Our dreams get buried in the rubble of the war. Buried beneath the blanket of comfort, beneath the oppressive pressure of the expectations of everyone else.

I’m talking about the voices, perhaps cries for help or just whispers, that you may hear from time to time, telling you that you’re really not on the right path. Not talking about career but about life. Realizing your own agency to be. To live your dream. Living your dream means freeing yourself from the shackles to other people’s dreams. Freeing yourself from what other people think is one of the most liberating things. Your dream needs space to emerge to live and grow.

Dreams are at the heart of our pursuit of happiness, our quest to find meaning.

These are mostly our private unspoken dreams. Most we have never talked about with anyone. The dreams about how we imagine things could be, maybe should be, for ourselves, the way we live, and the sources of our purpose and joy. Not just our “dream” job. But our dream life. Free to fully be and express oneself.

The battle of conformity and the razor ribbon expectations of others can hold your dreams hostage.

Or your dreams have been sabotaged by the practical material needs of living. “Your dream is so illogical or impractical!” We lose our courage. We give up on our dreams or even dreaming. 

What happens to our dreams? Do they die? Or do they get passed on to others who want them?

Many dreams are often quietly euthanized. Set aside to settle on the life that is fully achievable. Risk of reputation, comfort, and predictability, outweigh any reward—even happiness.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. Norman Cousins

Dreams that die within in us and without us are maybe the greatest losses of all.

We desperately need dreams!

Are there dream cemeteries, dream foster homes, dream rehab centers? Can’t I dream? 😊

Passion expressed can reveal the clues or even the great presence of a dream. I have seen and heard people unwittingly express their real authentic dreams. You see it in their eyes and their facial expressions in their body language in the way they conduct themselves. I say, “Wait, wait, wait. Say that again. Tell me that story. What is that about?”

I overhear things from the changing room at the Big Dream Store.
Where I hear dreams being tried on for size.

“I love this but it is way too big.”
“I think it looks good on me but it is really not me.”
“Way too expensive and might show too much of myself.”

We want easy answers, easy dream formulas to be happy that fly in the face of our individuality and uniqueness.

I am sure Chat GPT can develop your dream for you.  Just type in “How can I live my dream?” or “What is my dream?”

Just be prepared for some freaking crazy stuff. Why?, because the bots are taking in the entire internet. Yikes. And we know that the algorithms have already prefabricated your dream.

Neurobiologist Dr. Terry Sejnowski compared the behavior of Microsoft’s chatbot to the Mirror of Erised, a magical fixture in the Harry Potter novels. “Erised” is “desire” spelled backward. When people looked into the mirror, it appears to give them the truth. But it didn’t. It showed the deepest and often darkest desires. And some people go mad if they stare into it too long.

We are all going mad if we just look into the mirror of social media, click bait and what AI tell us what to be.

So how do we excavate and validate our own dreams?

Dream catchers are one of the most fascinating traditions of Native Americans. It became a fad and like so many things we misappropriate the tradition and its meaning gets lost. The traditional dream catcher was inspired by the spider web and intended to protect the sleeping individual from bad dreams, letting only good dreams through. The positive dreams would slip through, and glide down the feathers to the dreamer below. The bad dreams would get caught up in the web, and evaporate when the rays of the sun struck them.

How do we catch our dreams, our real dreams, our good dreams?

We all have to become dream catchers. In fact we need to become dream doulas.

Focused on the birth and well-being of our good dreams. That’s you and me. We need to help others, especially people we care about, pursue and hold onto their dreams. When we hear one, or witness the emergence of one, we have to become the dream doulas. It take real empathy, compassion, care and a holistic approach to not damage the dream. To not only keep the dream alive but to nurture it.

Is your dream living? Are you awake? It’s 12 o’clock, where is your dream?

I never knew it was to catch the bad dreams and let the good ones through. It makes sense and I think we need them more than ever. Bigger with finer and stronger webs!

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