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Transforming Anxiety

Like a seed, your anxiety may contain designs for new life. Your dreams may be telling you about those designs.

A case in point is a woman in her 50s who entered therapy with intermittent, unexplainable anxiety that repeatedly gripped her in psychological paralysis and left her feeling incompetent about her own life. She had the following dream:

A large stag followed me when I was walking in the woods. The stag swaggered and seemed drunk. I felt threatened, and the stag continued to pursue me. I hid behind a tree. He stumbled to the other side of the tree and then collapsed from exhaustion and malnourishment. He pleaded for my help.

The dream portrays the dreamer’s distrust of her own undeveloped masculine side (the stag). She grew up in the 1960s, and on the advice of her parents she didn’t pursue an education or career. In her marriage, her husband wanted her to be more of a feminine caretaker than she was. She ended up divorced, raising two children as a single parent, and working as an executive assistant at a publishing firm. Colleagues and supervisors focused more on her exceptional physical beauty than her skills. She believed she’d never have the opportunities her male counterparts enjoyed. Because of her childhood conditioning, she didn’t know she had a masculine side of her personality on which to rely.

In response to the end of her marriage and disappointments in her work life, she developed a bitter and jealous attitude toward masculinity. Her unused drive to achieve turned into aggression veiled in politeness. This aggression damaged her relationships. As a result, she sank farther into bitterness and jealousy. Then her abundant, frustrated energy began emerging as anxiety, containing a potential for new life.

Her anxiety propelled her to seek therapy with Carrie. Through working with the above dream she discovered a desire to develop self-discipline, take risks, struggle, and undertake adventurous projects. She began to explore and value her gifts for writing, art and leadership. A series of further dreams guided the healing of her bitterness. With a newfound balance of femininity and masculinity, she began to see men as colleagues, not as barriers to her success. Today, she is in the process of three experiments with entrepreneurship.