In Your Dreams is a clever inspiring movie about a commitment-phobic narcissistic playboy who encounters a self-absorbed princess on an obsessive husband hunt. When the two meet, an alternate reality clicks in which they are suddenly married. But because they are both selfish and immature, they hate each other and fight constantly.
The couple figures out that they have become enmeshed in a shared dream that has gone dark. They find their way to a marriage counselor and tell him, “We just want to wake up from the nightmare.” Then they have to work their way from what A Course in Miracles calls a special relationship, based on need and getting, to a holy relationship, based on connection and caring.
Lots of us have found ourselves in nightmare relationships and wish we could wake up. Not just romance, but friendship, family, and business. We try to escape in one of three ways: (1) Control the other person; (2) Get rid of the other person; or (3) Leave. Usually none of those attempts works because we have not graduated from the relationship by learning the lesson it is offering us.
If you are not complete with a past relationship, the next one usually picks up where the last one left off. In his book Why is This Happening to Me Again? Dr. Michael Ryce gives the example that you fly away from New York to escape a troubling relationship, and the person who meets you at the airport in Los Angeles completes the sentence the person in New York started.
While many of us seek relationships as goals unto themselves, they are more fundamentally transformational tools. We ascribe ego purposes, while Spirit has a higher purpose. Jewish theologian Martin Buber said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Relationships are a perfect example. You think you are getting together for one reason, but your soul has a deeper reason.
A Course in Miracles tells us that when you finally discover the true purpose of your relationship, you will be appalled. You thought it was about what you could get, but it was really about how you could grow. This is how relationship partners become our best teachers. You don’t have to travel far distances and pay lots of money to learn how to master your relationships. Just look across the bed.
We don’t defeat monsters in dreams by running faster or killing them. We are still stuck in the dream. It is just a matter of time until more monsters come along. We defeat dream monsters only by waking up.
When I was a boy, I used to fear that monsters were hiding under my bed, and one would get me while I was sleeping. One night I awoke to feel a cold clammy hand reaching toward me just outside the bed. I jumped up, screaming, and realized it was my own hand. I had been leaning on my arm and the hand fell asleep.
Like my hand “monster” was connected to my own body, the relationship monsters we fear are aspects of our own mind. We only encounter ourself, face ourself, fear ourself, fight ourself, and ultimately conquer ourself. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker battles Darth Vader in a cave. Luke cuts off Vader’s head, which rolls to Luke’s feet. Vader’s mask opens and reveals Luke’s face. He was fighting only himself.
We all have some nightmare we are trying to awaken from. While we may be tempted to run away and substitute one illusion for another, the only way to awaken is to heal. Then we can retitle our movie from In Your Dreams to Free at Last.