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Written by: David Sapper
Date: October 9, 2015

Me-Catching-the-SunSome years back, I accepted a promotion and with it came a transfer to Zurich Switzerland.  The job was a stretch for me and, in addition, I agreed to do the job in German.  The company sponsored my German education and set the expectation that within a month, I’d go from no ability, to speaking well enough to conduct meetings with our most senior executives, auf Deutch. 

I wanted the gig, was adventurous and really didn’t want a little thing like learning a new language to get in the way.  I think this is an example of conscious naivety.  My wife, three children and I moved to Zurich and began our new life.  The transition, I was told, would be easier for me than for my family.  Wrong.  I was stressed, had culture shock, and was overwhelmed on many fronts.

I had vivid and odd dreams during my first year in the new job.  I remembered them because I often woke up from these dreams and wondered how my mind could come up with such unusual plots.  Zurich was the hometown of the famed Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung.  The C. G. Jung Institute is based in Kusnacht Switzerland, just 20 minutes down the lake from Zurich.  It was through the institute that I met Melanie Starr Costello and hired her to become my dream therapist.  My task was to write down my dream recollections and pick one or two of the most interesting to discuss each week.  We used my dreams to help make sense of my waking life. 

Starr and I met weekly for about 18 months.  One particular dream and an interpretation from it, continues to guide me today.  In that dream, I was visiting a castle… It was Kyburg Castle, one that we had actually visited when I was awake.  I dreamt that there was a festival outside the castle and I was in line waiting for food.  A large heated blower was gutting chickens and simultaneously cooking them for people to eat.  I’ll spare the graphic details of the dream and simply note that I was waiting to eat one of these chickens. 

Starr and I discussed the dream as well as my work-life challenges.  These had much to do with navigating organizational politics, building key relationships, and doing so in a different language.  Rather than saying, “this is what your dream means,” Starr would pose possible interpretations and invite me to respond.  In this case, she asked me to think about elements of my waking life that fed my energy.  We then explored elements that, like the chickens being gutted, gutted me. 

For me, the key take-away from this dream, one that still guides me, is to be conscious of what feeds my energy and sparks my soul and to seek ways to let these things nurture me.  On the flip side, I continue to be aware of what and who guts my energy and have been more mindful of choices I can make to minimize such interactions.  I invite you to also think about what and who feeds you.  And conversely, what and who guts your energy?  Are you able to invite more of what nurtures you into your life?