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ZERO SUM

Dreamed 1996/5/29 by Chris Wayan

Dream: I'm lecturing in a huge shadowy hall with endless stairs.


The lecture hall's long and deep and narrow and steep; in fact, it's a gigantic, surreal Winsor McCay staircase, receding up into a shadowed infinity. And the endless stair is jammed--people fill the steps and hang off the banisters.

And they're all waiting for me. It's my turn--time to tell my chapter in the long story.

My old math teacher, Mr. Mahaffy, introduces me. I don't want to speak. Stand there frozen... until I realize it's not just shyness, but reluctance to recite my prepared speech. It feels wrong now!

So I throw my notes on the stage, and whisper: "say what you want, dream!" And begin speaking, slowly, steadily... and coherently. As if I'd planned this all along.

Whoever "I" am...

"My specialty's the psychological results of abuse. There's no point in assigning blame to yourself OR OTHERS. Game theory is useful, when looking at love and hate. Love's not a zero-sum game: everyone wins. Hate's not a zero-sum game either: everyone loses. But... blame IS a zero-sum game. You're apportioning limited resources: innocence, responsibility--good and evil. You're slicing the pie of blame--who's responsible for how much? Blame isn't really a feeling. It's a MATHEMATICAL judgment.

"Abuse itself... abuse is not a zero-sum game either. It may seem to the abuser like it has winners--you hit your kid to get back the power you lost when your parents abused YOU... but in the long term, it's like nuclear war, where ALL sides lose! In fact, so much loss is actively created, you can never neatly apportion the resulting guilt and victimhood, because the percentages add up to more than 100. It's a mistake to even try. Better to see it like a flood or a fire--just a disaster to rebuild after. Though of course you may not want to rebuild on a flood plain... and some abusers are flood plains just waiting to flood again. But that's just self-protection--not blame."

I keep it brief. I want them to focus on that central question: which emotional games are zero-sum and which aren't.

But the infinite stair and the rapt crowd fade, and I wake in bed... and feel my clear-headed analysis slipping away, dwindling into a single line:

"Love is good, hate is bad, blame is, uh... pie?"
Feel dreamier awake than I was in my dream. Takes over an hour to painfully reconstruct my lecture, recalling it bit by bit. Such clear thought while dreaming, so stupid awake!

NOTES

And maybe you too have been playing zero-sum games. Or worse, lose-lose ones. Playing oh-so-carefully, micromanaging, slipping down so slowly, clinging, gaining a bit only to fall back... The wrong game! Go somewhere else. Look for win-win. Because anything less is bad math.



LISTS AND LINKS: shamanic dreams - healing from abuse - dream advice - math - Xanthe dreams - twelve-step programs - tests and ordeals (for me, public speaking's about as ordealish as can be) - rants

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