Life is the only game in which the object of the game is to learn the rules.
-- Ashleigh Brilliant

I find that life is a series of lessons. As a psychiatric psychotherapist, I have been helping people for 40 years to sort out their issues that get them in up tight and in trouble.

I have also been exploring my own issues for 50 years. My experience is that this is like peeling an onion, with lots of layers and frequent tears.

Early in my self-explorations, I was bemused to note that all of my dreams occurred in the setting of a house or building of some sort. I came to realize that I felt so unsafe in the world that even in my dreams I had to put up walls around me for protection.

Gradually, I peeled layers of my onion that related to fears in childhood of being unprotected and unsafe. I was raised in a single parent family with a mother who provided for my physical safety but had periodic anger outbursts that left me feeling I was living on a volcano. As I released these buried fears, my dreams no longer were bounded by walls of self-protection and became more free-flowing.

Dreams are wonderful windows into the inner places where each of us dwells, particularly those with recurring themes and those with emotional intensity such as we find in nightmares. Dreams have many components. They often include:

- Characters and stage sets taken from our recent life experiences, particularly from our relationships with meaningful people and places in our lives;
- Similar characters and experiences from the past that are stored in the mental and emotional file drawers of our unconscious mind;
- Wishes, hopes and anxieties about the future; and
- Elements from the collective consciousness of the world around us.

Dreams help us to understand who is in charge in our lives. While we like to believe that we, as our conscious selves are in the driver's seat, with our hands firmly on the steering wheel of our destiny, our dreams often clue us in to the various automatic pilot programs that frequently take over in our lives - without our conscious awareness.

We develop these automated programs because it would be very tedious to have to sort out how to drive a car; how to walk; how to respond to various people and situations; how and when to express our emotions, or how to bury them so that we don't experience psychological pains and distress; and countless other repetitive tasks. The habits that seem to get us into the most trouble are those for burying feelings. While these habits help us to not feel stresses or pains in the short run, they leave us with buckets and file drawers and closets full of angers, hurts, resentments, jealousies, anxieties, fears and pains.

The defensive part of our unconscious mind, wanting to protect us, uses our buried feelings as guidelines for navigating through life. Its automated responses are to avoid similar situations to those that created the negative, buried feelings. So we may end up staying away from people with certain characteristics (e.g. loud voices, authority figures or those who resemble in other ways the people who hurt us earlier in life); from particular types of environments (e.g. motor vehicles, confined spaces or geographic locations) when these remind us of an auto accident we had.

The health-seeking part of our unconscious mind wants to help us live a carefree, happy, contented life. This is the part that gives us hints in our dreams about issues that are not sitting or settling comfortably in the filing system of our unconscious mind. Our challenge is then to interpret these hints.

Example 1.
Sue, a secretary in a law firm, dreamed that her father (who had been abusive when she was little) was in her office, scolding her severely for a minor typing error.

Reflecting upon her dream, Sue realized she was over-reacting to the corrections of her boss when she made minor errors at work. Her automatic responses to being criticized were overly intense, due to a closet in her unconscious mind that was still full of hurts and resentments towards her father from her childhood.

Example 2.
Bob, newly married, felt smothered when Ginnie, his wife, fussed over him. Ginnie was terribly distressed, as it seemed that Bob no longer appreciated her demonstrations of affection. She could not understand what was happening, as they had gotten along wonderfully well over the three years they had lived together prior to marrying.

After watching the film, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," Bob dreamed he was being railroaded into a marriage he really didn't want, by his fiance, a heavy-set, loud, domineering woman. (This woman in no way resembled Ginnie, who was petite, soft-spoken and very accommodating.) Analyzing his dream in therapy, Bob realized that he was projecting on Ginnie, whom he truly loved, feelings that originated from his childhood. His mother, who resembled the woman in his dreams, had been overly-attentive and smothering with her only child.

Once we have identified the sources of the discomforts in our dreams, we can then address the buried feelings and issues that are activating our automatic pilots to behave in unhelpful, inappropriate manners. Methods I find helpful include:

WHEE: Whole health - Easily and Effectively
Transactional Analysis
Muscle Testing

With these methods, it is possible to rewrite the programs in our unconscious minds, releasing the unhelpful automatic pilots that were developed before we had better tools in life for dealing with our stress and distress.

Author's Bio: 

My bio summarizes my ongoing search for ever more ways to peel the onion of life's resistances, to reach the knowing (with the inner knowing of truth which has the feel of rightness) that we are all cells in the body of the Infinite Source.

While my unique area of expertise is spiritual awareness and healing, my principal work is through wholistic healing – addressing spirit, relationships (with other people and the environment), mind, emotions and body. I am using WHEE, a potent self-healing method, with children and adults who are dealing with PTSD and other forms of stress, psychological and physical pain, low self-esteem, cravings and other issues.

Daniel J. Benor, MD, ABIHM, is a wholistic psychiatric psychotherapist who blends in his therapy elements from intuitive and spiritual awareness, spiritual healing (as in Reiki and Therapeutic Touch), WHEE - Wholistic Hybrid derived from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), transactional analysis, gestalt therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, imagery and relaxation (psychoneuroimmunology), dream analysis, and other approaches. Dr. Benor has taught this spectrum of methods internationally for 35 years to people involved in wholistic, intuitive, and spiritual approaches to caring, health and personal development.

Dr. Benor founded The Doctor-Healer Network in England and North America. He is the author of Healing Research, Volumes I-III and many articles on wholistic, spiritual healing. He is the editor and publisher of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Healing and Caring - Online and moderator of, a major informational website on spiritual awareness, healing and CAM research.

He appears internationally on radio and TV. He is a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine, Founder and Immediate Past Coordinator for the Council for Healing, a non-profit organization that promotes awareness of spiritual healing, and for many years on the advisory boards of the journals, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Subtle Energies (ISSSEEM), Frontier Sciences, the Advisory Council of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychotherapy (ACEP), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and the Advisory Board of the Research Council for Complementary Medicine (UK), Core reviewer for BioMed Central, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Online.

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