The way I would describe the internal journey over the last three years includes words like integration, death, rebirth, letting go, shedding layers. It involved two main aspects: 1) releasing pain and toxic patterns and 2) integrating aspects of myself I had previously disowned or ignored. Dreams are really amazing reflections of this internal process and there are many subconscious symbols of transformation that show up in dreams.
Death in dreams is about letting go of an aspect of yourself that you no longer need (i.e., the ultimate change). Pregnancy and giving birth is about the recognition or emergence of a new aspect of yourself. Any type of transportation or trip is also about change. This can be represented by a plane, helicopter, train, bus, car, boat, or even spaceship. All of these vehicles imply different speeds and ways of maneuvering change. Some symbols show up over and over again in my dreams but it’s always fascinating when a new image emerges, signaling I’ve arrived at a different phase of change.
Most recently, I dreamed that I was performing surgery on a man, representing the masculine part of myself that takes action in the world and manifests material reality. I had already successfully performed the surgery on the right side, removing a strip of cartilage from underneath the collarbone. Now it was time to remove the same strip from the left side.
The left side represents the feminine aspects of self and removing something through surgery implies a need to get rid of what is no longer needed. In the dream, I was very nervous to perform the surgery. The location at the collarbone is just above the heart and just below the throat, in between the fourth and fifth chakras.
It’s interesting to me that even though we often want and need to let go of a painful or harmful aspect of ourselves, it’s also a challenge to let it go. From my experience, I believe this is because pain often becomes part of our identity. Although we will be better off without it in the long run, it is part of our story and we feel we are losing part of ourselves by getting rid of it. Who will I be without this pain, without this story I’ve been telling myself (and others) for years or even decades? Paradoxically, healing can be scary.
Even more interesting, I can feel the pain physically as if I actually had surgery on my left shoulder/collarbone area. It’s there to remind me that I am undergoing a major healing and to honor that as I would a physical healing. I believe strongly in energy medicine and that all physical, mental, and emotional problems originate in our energy fields. Within our energy fields we have traumas and patterns embedded from past lives, from traumas in this life, emotions we haven’t dealt with or are stuck, painful memories, ancestral patterns, energetic hooks and cords. It’s messy! Clearing these traumas, patterns, and wounds can free us to step into the present moment, free from toxicity and recurring negative patterns. It’s a long process, and probably a lifelong journey, but highly worth the investment.
There’s a particular negative energy on this planet that manifests as power dynamics in relationships. The way this dynamic showed up in my life was as a negative power monger out to stop me or force me to submit to their will. I encountered this three times: in graduate school, with a boss, and with a client in my last job. In all of these relationships, I left the situation because I felt the only options were to escape the power or be enslaved by it.
This kind of darkness is embodied in the tarot as the Five of Swords. In the Celtic Tarot by Kristoffer Hughes, he describes the keywords as, “betrayal, conflict, war, and destruction.” It’s about “conquest and of something precious being taken away from someone else”. It asks the question, “When everything is taken away from you, what on earth is left? Who are you when all those things that you believe define you have been stolen or ripped away from you against your will?” The author then goes on to explain that, “Usually the pain and crisis of this card is because someone’s mind has been so poisoned by situations they find themselves in or by past relationships that the only action left to them is to cause pain.”
The truth is that we all have these aspects and potentials within us. This is why we need to release the pain from our past and clear the toxic beliefs we hold about ourselves and others. Our fears about losing the things that we build our identities around can bring about these crises. What I learned from leaving graduate school, a job where I built a team and a department that I was passionate about, and then leaving another job (which by that point I was grateful to do), is that these paths were not meant for me. Even though I enjoyed them and enjoyed some success, it wasn’t what I was meant to do.
Letting go of these identities freed me to see other possibilities that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise and that are more aligned with my soul’s purpose. In this way, I can thank those individuals for the role they played in freeing me to pursue my true path even though it was a painful process.
The tragedy and beauty of the Five of Swords is that we all hold the potential to be this cruel if we are deeply wounded. I believe nearly every human on the planet at this time is wounded. A certain percentage are so wounded that they inflict their pain on others. I also believe that we have the power to heal ourselves by acknowledging our pain bodies, a term coined by Eckhart Tolle in his beautiful book, A New Earth. While we cannot heal the most cruel among us (they have to do that themselves), we can acknowledge that they are only acting out of their own woundedness and forgive them. We can also acknowledge that we are all inter-connected and have the same potential for inflicting pain and for healing.
My “surgery” took place between the fourth and fifth chakra. The fourth chakra represents the heart, and our ability to love and live from the wisdom of the heart, and the fifth represents the seat of truth, our voice, and our ability to manifest things in our lives. I have been working to clear and heal my fifth chakra for some time. It was one of the last chakras to heal and is directly related to my ability to release pain stuck in my heart.
Just this morning, I woke up crying as I was releasing pain in my heart from a sudden friendship break-up. At the time of the break-up, I was so shocked I couldn’t process it, and it’s been stuck ever since. When I woke up crying, I remembered in the dream feeling like I might actually die from the pain; I didn’t think my heart could take it. This is a powerful indication of release and healing, letting go of the pain so I can move forward and love again.
Overall, the suit of swords in the tarot is a challenging suit. In addition to the Five of Swords I often pull the Two of Swords. The image in the Two of Swords is a woman, blindfolded, with two swords crossed at her chest, protecting her heart. She has a tumultuous relationship with her own mind, which can be used for creativity or destruction. In this card, she is indecisive, sitting on the fence, scared to move forward.
I’ve been scared to speak my truth, afraid of what I might lose or what horrible consequences might befall me if I were to reveal my true self. The Two of Swords shares this wisdom: “Your heart does not need protecting; it needs to be set free.” I’ve been protecting my heart for too long, afraid it will continue to get hurt as it has in the past. Today, I am ready to set it free.