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Recovering From the Loss of a Dream

We made this point in my workshop yesterday:

One’s internal reality is the “realest” thing we have. We do, truly, live inside our own heads, and we experience the external world through the lens of the Self we construct.

So, when a dream dies, it’s just as painful and “real” to us as when a flesh-and-blood loved one dies.

And that same mourning process needs to take place. The denial, the bargaining, the anger…all of that…until, finally, acceptance sets in.

Our dreams exist, for real, in our brain’s circuitry. An important dream is built up through lots of repetitions of a cherished idea, which makes for very strong and sturdy neural connections.

Those connections don’t then easily disconnect as soon as we realize that our dream won’t come true. The disconnection and rerouting process is long and painful.

Tim Hardin wrote How Do You Hang on to a Dream?…because, of course, the desire to hang on is so powerful and the letting go is so agonizing.

We often don’t have sufficient respect for someone who is suffering dream-death. We wonder why they don’t just buck up and move on. After all, it was “all in their head,” right?

But that’s exactly the point: “In our heads” is where we live. That’s where the pain and suffering come from.

When someone loses a dream…

  • a career aspiration
  • a home
  • a relationship

…it doesn’t matter whether that dream was “deluded” or “impractical” or “a mistake.”

Dream-death is real death, and the sufferer needs sympathy and patience, along with the gentlest, most consistent support towards rebuilding a new reality inside their heads.

(dark water gradually smoothing the sand at LisSurMer)

Recovering From the Loss of a Dream


Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS is an educator, counselor, writer and speaker. She's been a tutor, test prep coach and home school teacher for over thirty years. Click HERE to visit Leigh's website and to subscribe to her newsletter, "Learning Something New."


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APA Reference
Cousins, L. (2011). Recovering From the Loss of a Dream. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 15, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/always-learning/2011/01/recovering-from-the-loss-of-a-dream/

 

Last updated: 31 Jul 2011
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