If You Don't Know Your Brain, You Don't Know Jack

I’m a dreamer. Yes, the visionary kind, but also the nighttime kind.

For many years, I have been taught through what I have come to call my “dream teachers.” I have no idea who they are, where they come from, or why they started coming to me. I have a sense they may be two masters from the orient I've run into elsewhere, but I really can't be certain. All I know is that each time they visit, my life takes a leap.

The dream with Daphne and Jack offered a catapult like no other.

This complex dream of twists and turns begins with Daphne, a high school student from the HBO series Queer As Folk. I’ll make it as quick as I can, as there’s nothing more boring than someone else’s dream.

Dream Daphne is meeting with Jack, a guy friend in a college class, catching him up on the homework assignment he missed. They are to write a Shakespearian style play.

The dream segues, as dreams often do, into my then-teenage son on top of a roof with a superhero cape on, threatening to jump. I realize he’s not playing. He’s really losing it.

Next thing I know, I’m in the middle of nowhere trying to buy a car. I have $7,000 and the car costs $7,000. But I have no way to know if it is worth the money. What if it’s worth $2,000 and I’m getting screwed?

I jump to being in a bathtub with my best friend’s husband (both non-real people in my current life) looking over me. I’m challenging him: “You really want to do this? Have an affair on your wife with me? Seriously?” To which he answers, “YES.” To which I answer, “Damn, me too.”

I get out of the bathtub, pass him and go through a door only to find myself standing in a towel back in Daphne’s dorm room. I hear her talking to Jack about her Shakespeare assignment, and how she wrote this woman with a son about to jump off a roof, a car she didn’t know the value of, and a pending disastrous affair.

To which I, in my towel and wet hair, start to scream:

“You can’t do that! You can’t mess with people’s lives that way. You can’t mess with MY life that way!”

Daphne only points at me and laughs. “That’s the woman I wrote in my story. She thinks she’s REAL.”

To which I ranted and raved along the lines of “Hell, yes, I’m real!” until I woke up.

Or I should say, THOUGHT I woke up. That’s how it works when the dream teachers come. I am sure I am awake. But I’m not.

“So what was that all about?” I demanded to know.

They answered succinctly: “If Daphne is writing your life, maybe you ought to get to know Daphne.”

Then I really woke up.

I immediately thought of a small sheet of yellowed paper that had been pinned above my desk for nearly two decades: “Master the process by which you experience life and your lessons will have a framework for the cleanest possible learning.”

It was then I knew that this dream was about mastering the process. Daphne was a clue. A really, really big clue.

I’ve always been a self-hacker. You might even say I was hacking before hacking was cool.

Hacker (term): In programmer subculture, it is someone “who combines excellence, playfulness, cleverness and exploration in performed activities.”

In true brain hacking style, at key moments after my dream with Daphne I started asking myself who, exactly, is writing my life story? She had to be an inner figure, but why did she seem hell bent on making a tragic comedy of my life?

I took the question to the jungle in Ecuador where I had the help of a shaman and some very potent plant medicine. I won’t entertain you with the details of all the characters that live inside my brain, but let’s just say it’s a motley crew that surprised even me. And yes, I said crew. There’s not just one ME living in here. (I know, you’re thinking this explains a lot!)

I did, in fact, meet Daphne. But she wasn’t a college student. She was an endless, stunningly beautiful, rich dark mahogany staircase. She went in a thousand directions; chaotic and yet marvelously designed. I came away with a respect and awe for her that has never left me.

Back in the city-jungle of my more ordinary life, I began looking deeply into the patterns that move us all—from within. How exactly do the thinking scripts that seem so automatic in us get written? Where does the “broken record” syndrome come from? Why do some people get stuck but not others?

I didn’t turn to traditional psychology because—let’s face it—for most there would be little room for my dream teachers or my plant tripping shamanic ways. Instead, I intentionally went on a wild goose chase. Which is to say, I tediously and painstakingly went down any path that looked remotely promising.

Countless books and remarkable people later, I’ve learned a lot. But the best education still came from my own self-hacking.

From wanting to go left, but going right. WHY?

From reaching out with a vision I said was important, then quitting when the road got tough. WHY?

From being intuitive and astutely keyed in—except in specific, critically important moments. WHY?

The results? Life changing.

My “before and after” is not a matter of apples and oranges. It’s apples and elephants. I’m not watching Daphne’s movie of my life, I’m writing it. I’m not going left when I want to go right, I’m going right—at least once I’ve become conscious, intentional and have practiced. And when I don’t go right (because there will always be new layers and levels of Daphne to encounter), I know the process of change that works every time.

With this understanding, life isn’t random and it is not happening TO me. It’s mine to direct. The advantages and payoffs of this realization are so profound, it almost seems unfair.

Yet anyone can self-hack. Anyone can get to know his or her Daphne. And Jack. And Jerome and Letisha and Simone and the rest of the crew that are all inside there, waiting to be discovered.

Which leads us to you. What about your Daphne? Your Jack?

Have you hacked them? Do you know why you do what you do, why you don’t do what you wish you did, “who” is inside that thing called your brain and how those different characters work well together—or not?

This is not sideline work. And it’s not quick work. But if you don’t know how your brain works, and if you don’t know who is in there and how all the backstage shenanigans get started (and perpetuated), you might as well just turn on the tube for yet another night of semi-forgotten misery.  

If you’ve had enough of that, here’s my nutshell advice:

Master the process of life. Master YOU in all your complex glory. Master not a single task: Master the taskmaster.

Do that and all the seemingly unfair advantages of life are yours.