Part Two in a Series of Small Steps for Sanely Dealing With Big Changes
By Jennifer Hathaway
For many years, I’ve done self-actualization counseling with various people in an effort to help them get through big changes in their lives and proactively turn what appears to be a meltdown into a miracle of rebirth- a Rennaissance. Nationally, we’re at a moment where we urgently need to do this. I’d like to think that the recent election shows that our national will is to take a serious change of direction, and work towards new goals.
Where we are now is apparent to anybody reading the news. How we got here is relatively easily seen as well. We’ve been in a terrible pileup with jackknifed semis littering the highway, many injuries, and no ambulance in sight. Some of us are just waiting for the road to be cleared, but there’s no way it will be anytime soon. The vehicles that got us here are broken and in need of repairs, and the guys who drove those semis into the ground and racked them up aren’t fit to be drivers, let alone mechanics. Furthermore, the machines that are broken can’t be fixed with the duct tape and bubblegum of stimulus packages, and those rigs are totaled. They can’t be salvaged.
We still need to get to our destination, with or without the broken machinery. We’re not going to get there by standing around gawking at the scene of the accident, waiting for a nonexistent tow truck driver.
Fortunately, a large part of the passenger-ship of this convoy- us- is standing around with nothing to do. We’re perfectly capable of figuring out a different way. Many hands, light work, as Grandma Thel, my Depression Grandma, used to say. We can all pitch in and clear the roadway, get the injured some help, figure out which vehicles are still working and which are beyond help, and get the passengers redistributed among the working ones.
But in order to make meaningful change, we have to plan the trip. In order to get the entire convoy moving in the same direction, we need to look around us at where we are and agree on where we want to go- and map the route together. We have to make certain that the drivers can all keep their rigs on the highway, that the engines of change will have enough fuel and are in good repair. We have to clear the road of obstacles, keep our communications open and clear, make sure we do not leave behind any of our passengers, and keep the convoy safe from predators. The mission priority is the safe delivery of the passengers to their destination.
So the first thing we each need to do as individuals- and later as communities and as a nation- is take a long look at our map and figure out a destination.
A physical map is a representation of the landscape, a means of orienting oneself to the terrain. A map of the future consists of ideas about things that do not yet exist, but which could conceivably be brought into manifestation. In other words, the map of the future is our dream. It is yours, mine, and our neighbors’ fantasies, all bouncing off of one another and either aiding or obstructing one another in their efforts to be born into reality. When we collaborate on a dream, we add great power to it- this is the nature of the human collective and one of our best things, when it’s put to good use.
We currently do not have a national fantasy- a national dream. Frankly, most of us don’t have individual dreams, either. This is an important gap in our society, which I attribute to the sociopathic and competitive atmosphere in the areas of commerce and politics, as well as the “programming” I discussed in “Part One: Ditch the Illusions”.
I used to do a workshop with at-risk kids, kids in drug rehabs, and some adults in transition- where I’d teach them how to envision a set of goals and then work backwards from those “ultimate” goals to where they were at the time. I was teaching them to create a dream-map. I had them do it in the form of a mandala- something beautiful they could hang on the wall as a reminder- but the new way of thinking was the most important part of the process.
Before talking about anything else, I’d hold up a bag of chips and a dollar bill- back then, you could still buy a bag of chips for a dollar- and I’d explain that the dollar bill was a tool that one could use for acquiring the chips, but that one couldn’t EAT the dollar bill. I’d explain that in the project we were doing, acquiring vast piles of dollar bills was not an acceptable goal, but only a means towards the actual things they wanted.
When money is removed from our dream-making process, we suddenly realize that it’s not the only tool in one’s tool bag. The dream-making becomes more open to creativity and improvisation. If I want a beautiful patchwork quilt on my bed, I can go work to earn money to buy a quilt in a store, or I can learn to quilt and collect the fabrics to build one myself, or I can trade my ditch-digging ability to a quilter who needs a ditch, or I can ask my friend who’s getting rid of an old quilt if I can have hers and fix it up. In any of the above cases, I get my quilt. In only one of them do I use money to get it.
A side note: in every case, from the “worst” inner-city kids who were in a drug rehab to the adults who were already relatively successful, the top of the wish-list was a loving family and a happy home. In every case.
Most of these kids had never been given permission to dream about their future before. They certainly weren’t encouraged to actively consider making their dreams a reality, nor were they given tools to create a map for themselves. These kids, given this process for making their dreams manifest, took the ball and ran. One young man in the drug rehab even went on to become a counselor himself. All it took was a way to wed hope to practical thinking processes. That’s what mapping the dream is about.
One other thing I explained is that we don’t often hit a bullseye in our efforts to reach our goals. Frequently life knocks us into new directions and changes our priorities. We can think of our ideal destinations as lights on high mountaintops, far in the distance, that ultimate destination we’re aiming for. We can then see smaller goals as mileposts along the way, and course adjustments as natural to the traveling process.