What could this dream mean?

I keep having dreams that people I need to communicate with on a daily basis, such as coworkers, can only speak foreign languages (such as Swedish) and they don’t understand me. What could this mean?

Rädsla för prat är rädsla ändå

Ah, the dream world. It is indeed a mysterious place. One that seldom makes sense, and often defies any of the reason or logic this world so adamantly insists we live by. The dream world is one of my favourite places to visit. When I close my eyes I am taken back to my childhood travels, full of magical talking cats, giant chess games, exotic foods, and tiny, tiny doorways. But these are tales for another time. You, my dear, have your own dream world that you do not understand.

If you are not familiar with the language of Morpheus, night time journeys can be confusing and sometimes terrifying. Fortunately I am fluent and so can assist you with unravelling these mysteries. Normally I would request a small token of three gold coins for the service, however the Baker insists I provide my time in exchange for endless cups of Oolong and a plate of pork dumplings, so you are, indeed, very lucky.

Like fingerprints and apple cakes everybody’s dreams are different. However, there are four basic kinds of dreams one can have. First, you can have the mundane dream that replays the events of the day. If you have these types of dreams, I am sorry. Though another mystic once told me that those who have dull dreams are true creatives. Their nights are so boring, because their days are filled with wonder. Secondly, you may be blessed and cursed with prophetic dreams that tell your, or others, future. I myself have these from time to time, though they usually involve advising me that my carriage driver will be late to collect me for an appointment the next day. Helpful, but not exciting. Third are the most fun, these are lucid dreams where you can control your dream world as much as you can your waking one and more. Finally, (the type of dream I believe you are having) are dreams that are sent to you by your inner self. They tell you of your deepest desires, your darkest fears, and truths that you have long since buried. These are often confusing, but always useful if you can figure out what they mean.

And so, now to your dream. As I said, this dream appears to be a message from your inner self. The little voice that lives in all of us, that knows all that is true, but often cannot speak loud enough to be heard… until you are asleep. Your little voice sounds like it is not the only one having difficulty being heard. You are likely feeling that people do not listen to you, or understand you. You are speaking in another language while you slumber because your words are not being understood while you are awake. Of course, dreams are seldom this literal. These are the place of emotions, of raw mental energy. This dream speak of fear of being misunderstood. Of not being able to communicate with those you need to.

Which leads me to ask you, my dear, how is your waking life with your co-workers? Are you feeling misunderstood? Out of place? Do you need to practice your Swedish lessons more regularly?

In my many years of experience, inner voice dreams raise more questions than they answer. The trick is to look at your life in your waking hours and see how it connects to the visions of your sleeping ones. Look beyond the actual pictures, and attend to the way you feel in the dream. This is the most important part. If you feel simply confused and frustrated in these dreams, perhaps you need to develop your communication skills more. If you are scared that no one understands you, this may indicate a waking fear you have of being misunderstood. I recommend spending some time with your little voice. Self awareness is the key to interpreting these types of dreams.

I hope that this interpretation has helped somewhat. If you would like a more in depth reading, come back and see me with those three gold coins. Don’t tell the Baker though, simply place them under your dish before you leave.

Until then, sweet dreams my dear.

– A. L. –

The Advice Fortune Cookie humbly thanks Mme. Liddell for her ageless insight–gratis–while we are visiting her home country of Australia. You can read all of her other Fortunes here.

What is the best way to handle pain?

Other than medications and stuff. I mean how to emotionally handle being in pain 100% of the time when meds haven’t worked.

Control what you can. Accept what you cannot.

When one speaks of pain, one focuses on the physical embodiment. Aches and hot knives and prickled skin. This is natural. Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong. But, my dear, you have hit upon another very critical aspect of pain - emotion. While many say that the mind and body are two separate beasts, they are actually very much intertwined. The neuronal tendrils that write your life experience wind together in many ways. Those wriggling vines inside your head that spell out “pain” are the same that stab you when your feelings are hurt. Physical pain and emotional pain are, in our minds, the same [1].

Because of this your long term pain is likely dragging your emotions down to its dark level as well. While dulling physical pain through medication is useful, it is equally important to look after your psyche. Many of those who suffer pain also descend to melancholia [2]. Part of this is due to those tangled neurons, but our minds have the remarkable strength to quell the physical symptoms of pain as well.

A second reason pain is so hurtful to our psyche is the impact it has on our lives. Pain strips us of control. It dictates when we sleep, what we eat, where we go, and how long we venture out of doors. Pain is a selfish companion who demands all your time. It robs you of the activities you once loved and drives a wedge between you and the people you are close to. And through all this, pain plays a very talented sleight of hand. It waves its right hand wildly, keeping you focused on the aching, the piercing, the burning in your flesh and bones. Meanwhile, it’s the left that steals from you and controls your life. It is not until you are well into pain’s show that you realise he has successfully picked your life’s pockets.

There are ways to play pain’s shell game with your eyes wide open. Medication will dampen the right hand’s rapid gestures by reducing your physical symptoms. But you already know that. You want to know how to pay attention to the left. You want to keep control of your life and stop pain from taking from you. Here are some suggestions, in no particular order:

Maintain your lifestyle–as best you can

We are happiest when we spend our time doing what we choose. Pain loves to take this control. It is the first thing he looks for in your purse. Bury those things deeper, inside hidden pockets. Continue to do the things you still can as often as possible. This may be as simple as having a cup of tea in the sunshine or reading a book in a hot bubble bath. If you cannot do something you once loved, try adapting it. If you loved hiking in nature, go for a drive in the countryside. If you can no longer stand for the length of time required to bake, bring your cooking implements to the kitchen table and work sitting down. Search for new activities that you may enjoy - Pain cannot steal something that you haven’t got yet.

Seek support

Have you noticed you don’t see your friends as often as you used to? This is another common theft that pain engages in. He wants you all to himself, and is very adept at convincing you to stay at home and restricting what you can do. He grins to himself as he watches your friendships drift apart. Often friends don’t understand what you are going through. You may even have kept your chronic pain a secret in order to feel normal. Talk about it. Tell your friends about pain and how it affects your life. If they are good friends they will understand and work with you to sidestep pain, so you can remain close.

Practice mindfulness

You said that your medication doesn’t always work. This can make it hard to keep your emotions in check. Recall those intertwined tendrils of neurons? When you physically hurt, your mind is also feeling emotional pain. But all is not lost. Mindfulness has been found to be useful at reducing the intensity of pain and the melancholia that often comes along for the journey [3]. To be mindful:

  • Place yourself fully in the present moment.
  • Pay attention to the details of what is around you without judgement.
  • Take in everything that is happening - The sounds your house makes while settling in the cool night air. The smells of night jasmine drifting in through the window. The texture of your linen dressing gown brushing against your leg.

This intense focus allows you to control what thoughts enter your mind. And when you control your thoughts, you control your lived experience. That is a very powerful thing. There are many books on mindfulness available to you. This has some techniques you may find useful. But as always, it is best to seek a psychologist to work with on mindfulness techniques and acceptance therapy. Many psychologists are very experienced in helping with the negative emotional impacts of chronic pain.*

Accept what you cannot change

I’m guessing that you would dearly love to banish pain entirely from your world. To get back your life before the pain, or the life you dreamed of having. Unfortunately life is often unfair and never entirely in our control. If you learn to accept the ways pain impacts on your life that you cannot control, many negative thoughts will unravel from your mind [4]. Acceptance is closely tied with being mindful. When you live in the present moment, you understand it is only a moment, there is only now, right now. The pain you felt a moment ago is gone. The pain you may feel later has not yet come. Everything passes. This moment too will pass. And you will be okay.

Living with Pain is difficult. But I believe in you, my dear. Remember - control, talk, attend, accept. Follow these words and you will be a step closer to keeping pain’s tricky fingers out of your purse.

Good luck, fortune seeker.

– A. L. –


[1] Eisenberger, N. I. (2012) Broken hearts and broken bones: A neural perspective on the similarities between social and physical pain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1); 42-47. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/10.1177/0963721411429455

[2] Williams, L. J., Jacka, F. N., Pasco, J. A., Dodd, S. and Berk, M. (2006), Depression and pain: an overview. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 18: 79–87. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5215.2006.00130.x

[3] Reiner, K., Tibi, L., Lipsitz, J. D. (2013) Do mindfulness‐based interventions reduce pain intensity? A critical review of the literature. Pain Medicine, 14(2); 230-242. doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/10.1111/pme.12006

[4] Veehof, M. M., Oskam, M, Schreurs, K. M. G., Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2011) Acceptance-based interventions for the treatment of chronic pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain, 152(3); 533-542.doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/10.1016/j.pain.2010.11.002

Once again, Mme. Liddell humbles the Advice Fortune Cookie with her well-researched expertise. Exploring the wondrous lands of the mind since 1865, her words are no less timeless. You can read all her other Fortunes here.

* Note from the AFC Science Adviser: Ask your GP for a referral if possible - they should be aware of the vast body of research showing the effectiveness of psychotherapy on pain management. And check with your insurer - you won’t know if therapy is covered unless you ask.


Why not?

Because there was a coin that spun in cosmic air and landed with the head of an unknown monarch facing up instead of down. Because cause leads to effect and effect to cause. Some of these effects were as small as tiny flecks of dust colliding together. And some were as large as entire solar systems falling into gravitational step with each other.

Because it is neither too hot nor too cold. Too hard nor too soft. Because cells split and multiply and mutate and keep splitting and multiplying and mutating. Because a fish can become a lizard, become a bird, become a wasp, become a cat, become an ape. Because copies are imperfect, and imperfection is creative and creativity is opportunistic and mistakes are forgotten.

Because people need other people. Because those people made sounds that were shared and understood. Because this kept them alive. Because children watched and copied. And copies are imperfect and imperfection is creative and mistakes are rarely mistakes. Because stories are more useful than facts. Because memories are important and words create memories. Because drawings left on walls and spidery lines left on old paper open doors to other times. Because you can understand this sentence. And create a completely new one of your own - that has never been said before - and possibly never will again.

Because blue light scatters more than red light. But also because we know the word blue and by naming things we make them.

Because humans grew up together. Because we are a mirror that lifts a hand when you lift a hand, that furrows a brow when you furrow a brow, that yawns when you yawn.

Because “my land is my land”. And “your land should be my land”. Because “my god is my god”. And “your god is inferior”. Because money. Because lust. Because power. Because hubris.

Because the odds of two people finding each other and being compatible are a single number with long string of zeros after it. Because these odds are defied every day. Because dopamine, because adrenalin, because serotonin, because oxytocin. Because lust. Because friendship. Because a team of two people are better than one.

Because everything dies. Sometimes it is big and meaningful and the world stands by in awe. And sometimes it is meaningless and forgotten and too soon. Or not soon enough.

Because we are alive and aware and capable of experiencing great happiness and equally great heartache. Because we can read and teach and know and ask and laugh and dance. Because we are alone and because we are not alone. Because we are here on the flip of coin. And because tomorrow we may not be.

Because knowledge is power and learning is enjoyable:

Probabilistic origin of the universe - http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-origin-of-the-universe.html

Big Bang Theory - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang

Goldilocks Planets - http://science.howstuffworks.com/other-earth1.htm

Evolution - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgqVPFiMhA0

Origin of language - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_language

Principles of light - http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/sky_blue.html

Mirror neurons - http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/blog/contagious-yawning-and-empathy-and-mirror-neurons-and-you/

Brain chemistry - http://www.youramazingbrain.org/lovesex/sciencelove.htm

Mme. Liddell once again graces The Advice Fortune Cookie with her secrets of the universe. Divining visions since 1865, there is little she hasn’t seen. You can read her previous Fortune here.



How do you deal with the fear of losing a loved one?

A difficult time lies ahead, but this too shall pass.

Greetings fortune seeker,

The thing that makes life so precious is that it ends. It is difficult to say goodbye. We often don’t get the luxury of doing it how we want to, or we are selfish and want to postpone that goodbye forever, but we can’t. If you are fortunate enough to know you are losing a loved one, take the time to appreciate them and go through the emotions you need to with them. If it came as a terrible surprise still take the time to spend with your memories. While it is difficult to face that you will never make any new memories with that person, it can be comforting to know you will always have the memories you made with them. If it helps, solidify these memories by writing them down.

Everyone deals with losing a loved one differently. Some people make their peace with religious or cultural ceremonies. Others will find it helpful to spend time doing an activity that meant a lot to them and their loved ones. You can talk to others who are going through the same loss, or you can spend time alone with your thoughts about your loved one.

Most importantly, it is okay to grieve. It is okay to laugh. It is okay to feel whatever it is you need to feel. It is okay to feel one way one minute and completely the opposite the next. Sadly there is no short cut around dealing with death. You go through it. Be comforted in the knowledge that every human that has lived or will lived has shared this experience with you.

Until next time.

A. Liddell


Madame Liddell graciously prepared this Fortune for you while the Advice Fortune Cookie is entertaining guests. She has been interpreting visions since 1865. At an early age, she wrote about fantastic journeys in two books of nonsense children’s tales. To this day, there is debate as to whether she had actually been on these journeys or not.