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"When I see pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King delivering speeches with his handsome face and powerful finger pointing out at his audience, I dream of the privilege to be able to listen to such a great speaker…He must have given so many people hope…[I would have told him]…Please never give up... I love you and what you are doing for our people. You are truly an angel sent down from the heavens to preach your dreams…Many things that I am able to do today I attribute to the contributions of Dr. King."
- Felicia H, Student, Fitch Senior High, Mystic CT.

Mastery requires inspiration. In this chapter we discuss internal as well as external sources of inspiration, including attachments to heroes and role models. There are guidelines for discovering one's "hidden dreams", the goals and aspirations that lie below the surface of everyday awareness. These include an innovative method of dream analysis as well as methods for interpreting the deeper meaning of past achievements and disappointments.

Related issues covered in our book

  • Inspirational sources: How to extract inspiration from within, as well as from the outside world
  • Mastery through attachment: Examples of inspiring role models
  • Inspiring others: The qualities that can make you an inspiration to others
  • Hidden dreams: Three powerful tools for detecting your calling in life and the amount and type of hope residing in your unconscious mind

Here are a few excerpts from this chapter on inspiration:

[From the introduction]

In this chapter you can learn more about the nature of inspiration and how it relates to hope. You will learn about various sources of inspiration and different ways of tapping these spiritual veins. In the course of this chapter we will touch upon the role of personal values as well as the need for heroes and role models. A final section explores four different methods of uncovering your hidden or unconscious dreams.

Mastery requires inspiration. Without it, musicians struggle to compose and painters freeze, confronted by an empty canvas. Writers cannot write and actors cannot portray their roles. Lacking a muse, politicians hesitate before crowds and corporate leaders flounder. Aware of the great need for inspiration among creative souls, Emerson observed how they pursue it any cost, "by virtue or vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine."

Science has pretty much ignored this topic. We will have to look elsewhere for answers, beginning with the word itself. "Inspiration" suggests that something has been taken inside the individual. Plato believed it was a piece of divinity that came bursting into the soul. Philosopher Ignacio Gotz calls it "one of the most mysterious moments in any one's life, the instant when things "click" and fall neatly in place, or a new idea flashes in the dark." According to Gotz, there are many metaphors relating to one and the same experience.

"The mysterious instant goes by many names: inspiration, enlightenment, illumination, intuition, insight, vision, revelation, and discovery… Religious mystics speak of ecstasy and satori; poets, painters, musicians, dancers, and historians invoke their Muses; while scientists and mathematicians, parsimonious and prosaic, claim only hunches and intuitions."

[From the section, "Hidden Dreams"]

We have been focusing on the traits and skills that an individual must develop to achieve mastery and to reach specific goals. The advice provided in this chapter is broadly framed and applicable to any life endeavor. However, it does assume that one has a direction in mind. However, we also understand that it is common for people to develop and revise their goals as they move through life. We are also aware that sometimes the greatest obstacle to hope is clarifying the nature of one's dreams.

Fortunately, for many people the process of discovering one's true needs and desires is part of the joy of life. Rather than experiencing a painful inner chaos there is a satisfying sense of integration when an individual finds their "voice", "higher calling" or "mission in life".

Perhaps this is what Aristotle sensed when he referred to hope as "a waking dream."

Sometimes a person makes the conscious effort to awaken their soul from years of mindless slumber. They set out to "find themselves". They sense that something is not right and initiate a search for meaning and transformation. They may quit their job or relocate to another city. They might decide to end a long-term relationship or feel the need to spend some time alone. In other cases, an individual may be hit with a sudden realization. In a flash, they learn something new about themselves.

Whether actively sought or suddenly felt, self-discovery is a process that involves a venture into the unknown. Unlike a planned trip or vacation, your final destination is uncertain. This is perhaps why all of the great epic myths and legends depict a grand journey. Both Homer's Odysseus and Virgil's Aeneas were displaced and thrust into battles on foreign lands. Only in this way could they find inner peace. Siddhartha wandered across India searching for wisdom and the truth. After 44 years and encounters with loss, famine and disease, he was shocked to find the answers lay within himself.

The life journey can bring individuals into contact with their greater self. It is "greater" in the sense of adding something new to one's identity. Once dormant thoughts and feelings, as well as unexplored desires and talents, are brought into the field of conscious awareness. We are "more" than we were before. The self is also "greater" in power because new resources and capacities have been added to one's ego.

Are we stuck with this paradox? Do we really have to travel long and far to find parts of our own self? Yes and no. We do have to respect the importance of time and sufficient life experience in the process of gaining wisdom and greater self-awareness. Moreover, certain parts of the self need time to incubate or grow before they can be discovered. At the same time, there are other hidden aspects of your being that await discovery even as you read this book. They may have been suppressed or never explored as a result of early social programming or artificial limits imposed as a result of gender expectations or racial bias. Perhaps your own inner need to deal with disrupted attachment or survival issues interfered with mastery development.

The psychiatrist Victor Frankl once wrote that you cannot create the mission of your life but you can detect it. The rest of this chapter will focus on several ways of making this detection process a little easier.

Hope Tip #13: Unconscious hope

In Hope in the Age of Anxiety, we describe three different strategies for discovering your hidden dreams (an exercise for clarifying values, 7 ways to learn from the past, and a technique for analyzing the hope content of your dreams). The dream analysis section will help you unearth the amount of hope residing in your unconscious mind (and whether it is balanced in terms of the mastery, attachment, and survival motives). After introducing you to some of the dream symbols associated with mastery, attachment and survival, we present a table of expected percentages of dreams involving these issues. You can then begin to keep a dream diary and compare your results with this list.

Here is part of the section on dream analysis:

Learning from dreams

"The un-interpreted dream is like an unopened letter"
- Wisdom of the Talmud

Dreams have long been a source of mystery and fascination. Some of earliest "bestsellers" were dream books put together by ancient Roman philosophers or Egyptian scribes. In the Old Testament, we learn that Joseph wins the favor of a foreign ruler through his uncanny knack for interpreting dreams. More recently, Carl Jung devoted his life to analyzing more than 80,000 dreams. Freud considered "The Interpretation of Dreams" his most important work, declaring "such discoveries occur but once in a lifetime."

Dreams can offer a gold mine of personal information and can help you to achieve greater mastery. They often reveal how you truly think and feel about yourself. They can uncover acts of self-sabotage that might arise from a fear or success. They can detect coercion or attempted derailment by others. They can provide greater insight into problems and offer creative solutions.

Many dreams serve as a window into your true sense of personal effectiveness. Take for example, author Patricia Garfield's influential list of dream scenarios. They include such themes as "driving well" or "driving poorly", "falling down" or "flying high", "performing well" or "performing poorly", "missing the boat" or "traveling well."

The following list of mastery-related symbols and themes should be given special attention in your "dream world." Try to recall the nature of your emotions as these dreams occurred. Were you feeling strong or week, bold or frightened, successful or unsuccessful?

Self Mastery: (decision time) exiting or entering a cave, standing at a crossroads; (goal pursuits) running or chasing something; (ego strength) planes, trains, cars or other vehicles, horses, eagles, hawks.

Environmental Support: kitchen, dining room; garden; father; mother; money, milk, refrigerator.

Values and Principles: jewels, judge, jury, courtroom, lawyers, police officers, scales of justice, church, temple, home, compass.

Time: (causal) father time, hands of time, sunrise, sunset; (medium) river, road, sand in an hourglass; (substance) clock, watch, sundial; (direction) long and windy road, one-way street, going around in circles, déjà vu within the dream, renovation projects, redemption centers.

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