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Your Better Self with Akanna: Don’t Check Out from Reality

Instead of dealing with our raw, uncomfortable and sometimes painful emotions, we check out – maybe through drugs, through unnecessary laughter (like me sometimes), through work, through watching sports and TV series and through other addictions.

Akanna Okeke

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I had the weirdest dream last week. I visited a place where I was well known and very well liked. It was clear that I had not been there in a very long while. Crowds came to welcome me – very familiar faces, mostly female. Word was out that I was getting married too, so they came by to say congratulations.

I then sought to be some place quiet, so I walked over to a dormitory. It was empty. Just the bunk-beds, lockers and a lady whom I knew as well. A few minutes later, a cousin of mine came knocking there. She lived in that same dormitory and it was clear that she and the other lady routinely played pranks on each other. The lady refused to open the door for my cousin, who proceeded to scold her into opening it. Upon entering, she smiled at the lady and it was clear that the scolding wasn’t meant seriously. Just a response to another silly prank.

In the dorm, while my cousin was doing something else, the lady started talking with me. First congratulating me on my coming wedding and then recalling all the other people – mutual friends of ours – who were all either married or about to get married. All except her. She broke into tears as she wondered why it hadn’t happened for her yet. I got down from the top bunk where I was laying, to the bottom adjacent bed where she was sitting, to comfort her. While doing so, I was trying very hard to get my cousin’s attention so she could see that her dorm-mate was crying. She finally saw us in that embrace and came closer. She laid on that same bed, behind the crying lady, so I could see her face while hugging her friend.

There was a lot of sympathy on her face. Then empathy. Then tears. Then sweat – two droplets. Then her face started changing. She first looked like she was passing out but then her nose began growing smaller and her face contorting. I asked if she was okay. No answer. It was too late. She immediately transformed into what looked like E.T. the alien from the move E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Then her whole body started getting smaller and smaller until she looked like a toy phone with that green face still on. E.T. phone home, I guess? It was bizarre.

I jumped back from my embrace and the lady stood up to look behind her, at what I was startled by. I asked her what was happening. She didn’t look at all surprised as she explained that it was quite normal with my cousin. Everyone living in the dormitory knew about her situation. “Anytime someone is crying, she changes into this. Angela [her best friend in this dreamland] cries all the time and she always changes into this because she doesn’t like to see Angela cry.”

My response was “Hmm, this is psychological! She doesn’t know how to face real emotions.” And the lady replied with “Ah thank God!” Apparently, people in dreamland had labelled it a spiritual problem and concluded that the poor girl was possessed. But here was this guy – me – finally saying it was psychological and suggesting a workable solution: simply and courageously facing her real emotions.

I then started shouting her name repeatedly, asking her to come back. But of course she couldn’t hear me. She was trapped inside an object – that gross thing I couldn’t accurately describe no matter how hard I tried. I shouted her name some more, and then I woke up.

I hardly remember my dreams, but this one stuck with me all week. I couldn’t un-see the image I saw in the dream and each time I remembered it, I was irritated. Even writing about it now, I have goosebumps all over. Just like you, I have a little bit of Trypophobia going on. So I hate when I see something that’s not normal. But because the dream was on my mind all week long, I couldn’t help thinking about its possible meaning.

The only thing I could come up with is that many of us do in fact check out from reality. Instead of dealing with our raw, uncomfortable and sometimes painful emotions, we check out – maybe through drugs, through unnecessary laughter (like me sometimes), through work, through watching sports and TV series and through other addictions. So much so that when others around us shout out our names repeatedly, calling on us to come empathize with them, to listen to them, to share their burdens with them, to cry with them, to help make them feel better, to hold their hands through difficulty, we don’t hear them. We’re unavailable. We’ve checked out. We’re trapped inside our addictions, inside our bubbles that shield us from the ugliness of real life. And we slowly watch ourselves becoming isolated from people, becoming shielded from real life, becoming socially awkward and unable to blend in. That’s when it becomes too late. That’s when we seem not to have any real friends. When nobody seems to be able to understand us. That’s when we are out of this world – Extra Terrestrial beings longing to phone home. Only this time, while home may still be where the heart is, it is also where no one recognizes us anymore.

So I really don’t know why this weird dream of mine has vividly lingered in my memory for this long. Maybe it’s meant to be shared with you too.  Maybe it’s a call to us all: Let’s do life together. Let’s not check out from reality.

Akanna is an avid reader, writer, Risk Analyst and a budding Social Entrepreneur. He’s passionate about personal development, and influencing others to succeed!

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