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Tea and Dreams, Dr. Shelley Reciniello, The Three Tomatoes

Too many people come to therapy asking, “What are the goals in here?”  Sometimes they even ask me what their own goals are, and how long it will take to achieve them.  You can do therapy that way, you can live your life that way, but that is work and when you make your dreams like work, you lose them.

It is essential in our goal-oriented society to take the time to distinguish between goals and dreams.  I say to people, “Tell me your dreams first, then you will know what to do, then you will know what you want.”  Everything else will be movement for the sake of moving, buying for the sake of having.  We Americans are always whipping ourselves into shape, rushing around, and planning away our lives. We cross countless items off of endless lists and we expect that it will make us feel good when it only makes us feel bad.

As a psychologist, it is the unconscious mind I am after.  That’s where the true spirit of a person sits and it has to be warmed up, coaxed out, freed.  That’s where the true desires live that most people won’t admit to because they don’t believe they deserve to have them. In this achievement-glorifying world, so many competent people end up with other people’s lives.  They are so good at execution, following steps, that they don’t ask is this what I really want until they have it and they are unhappy.

What movies tell the stories of your would-be life, form the scenes of the film your inner self longs to make?  What is hidden deep inside you, buried from the light of your eyes?  What are you afraid to own – to say out loud?  What do you want and don’t think you deserve? You can’t tell anyone, but can you tell yourself?  What are your dreams?

For as long as we can remember, the world has had fairy tales.  Certainly, some of them have left us with very difficult messages but they captured the imagination and mores of the time.  In today’s world, there is a need for more personalized fairy tales – dreams and visions that haunt and inspire us, tailor-made from our own secret wishes.  Our hearts conjure up the pure images that our minds and spirits can make reality.  It is as if a seed gets planted and is left to nature for nurturance.  The universe participates in the fulfillment of the fairy tale but it demands one thing, that you do as Thoreau instructed and “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams – live the life you’ve imagined!”

Realizing the true possibility of one’s life, the unfolding of our own “Once upon a time”requires the participation of something else that is inside of us– our unconscious, visionary, uncensored selves; and make no mistake, it is our partner in our destiny.   If you leave it only to work and goal setting, your achievements may miss what you truly desire.  Goals are usually too small; they are what the conscious mind will allow and it doesn’t allow much.

As a therapist, I feel my greatest responsibility is to open my patients’ minds to the incredible possibility that could be their lives.  The real power and joy of life comes only when you believe in the fairy tales your heart has written.

When I was a young girl, my best friend Susan used to draw little people with big heads and yellow blonde hair and kewpie doll bodies.  It was as if she would draw curved brackets, add eyes and hair and turn them into these whimsical children.  When we became adults, I marveled at how her little son and daughter were incarnations of her drawings. They had the cherubic cheeks, blonde hair, chubby legs of her renderings from so many years ago.

As a graduate student, I clipped an advertisement from a magazine that depicted a young woman in a stylish suit striding confidently, briefcase in hand through the streets of New York. I would put it in the back of my scheduling book each September and forget about it.  Many years later as I was leaving my office one day en route to a client organization to consult with the CEO, I caught a glimpse of my scurrying figure in a mirrored storefront – there I was, almost an exact replication of the girl in the ad.

Are you living the life you have imagined or the one you have planned?  Do you see yourself following your dreams or doing what is expected? Are there images in your mind that linger, that invite?  Do you welcome them, embrace them?  Or do you ignore them, dismiss them, say no to them?  Have they stopped appearing? If the world says no to you, you can always move on, there’s plenty of world out there, someone is bound to say yes; if you say no to you, it is inescapable.  The only real way to have the life you desire is to convince the person inside.

How do you do that? By talking to yourself, by listening.  By slowing down and quieting down, having tea with you, and letting the emptiness and stillness give birth to a vision of what could become your world.

As you settle into this place you can create for yourself each day, a place between heaven and earth, you will be able to think not just about your goals, but your dreams.  You will be able to ponder whether meeting your goals will make your dreams come true, and if not, why not. Goals can be changed, they are temporal and of the earth.  Dreams never die, they are of heaven.

If you don’t drink tea, can’t or won’t drink tea, and I highly recommend that you do, then find some other way to create the peace and safety that this ritual brings. And begin therapy with yourself, or if there are too many obstacles blocking your path, if your vision is clouded with pain and the past and pessimism, work with a qualified person who will help lead you to where it may be too difficult to go alone. But whatever you do, don’t miss this chance of a lifetime – for that is exactly what it is – to get to know who you really are and who you really want to be.

From the book in progress, Dr. Shelley Reciniello’s “Ten Teas: The Power of Tea to Transform Your Life©”


  • Dr. Shelley Reciniello

    Dr. Shelley Reciniello has spent her 34 year career as a psychologist determined “to give psychology away,” by demystifying psychological and psychoanalytic principles, and providing people and organizations with thoughtful, practical information and methods to change their lives. She has provided organizational consultation, employee assistance programs, and executive coaching since 1982. Long-term clients included Morgan Stanley, First Boston, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, and Avon. Today Dr. Shelley, as she is popularly known, works closely with senior management, boards of directors, human resources, and diversity departments to provide organizational consultation, executive coaching, and senior leadership programs to a wide variety of businesses. Her book The Conscious Leader: 9 Principles and Practices to Create a Wide-awake and Productive Workplace was named a Finalist by USA Best Books of 2014. For more information visit http://www.drshelley.com

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