At least once a week, I have a client who feels adrift, alone or deeply conflicted and asks, “Am I’m crazy?”

My answer – because it’s true, not because I want to placate them – has always been: No, you’re not crazy.

Too many of us have gone through our lives being told that we are. We’ve heard it (or felt it) from our families, our lovers, our communities, our magazines….and sadly, from each other.

It’s kept us in line. Conditioned us to tolerate treatment we should never accept, and stay in situations that take a hefty toll on our self-worth and creative energy.

When the world wasn’t ready for our tenderness, our longing for real connection, our insistence on integrity, or our huge dreams of what could be, we got the message loud and clear:  “Abandon yourself and lock away your wild, curious, honest, deeply feeling heart – or risk losing everything.”

Many of us have in fact lost a great deal for simply expressing what we felt. We’ve been ostracized from our families, abandoned by the men in our lives, ganged up on by women friends or publicly humiliated. We’ve been rejected as “too sensitive” by quick-tongued family members, called “crazy” by lovers who wooed us into bed then didn’t want to deal with our emotions afterward, been reprimanded at work for being too outspoken or questioning unfair decisions, or been snubbed by spiritual friends who saw our raw emotions as a threat to their bubble of “love & light.”

In fact, the history of female expression has been so fraught with danger that most women I know have a deep, visceral fear of winding up dead or in a straitjacket for sharing their true selves with the world.

It’s become so automatic to dismiss the legitimacy of our own personal experiences, override our feelings, and ignore our intuition that we may not even realize we’re doing it until it’s too late.

But this comes at a huge cost – and if we want a life that really works for us…if we want to experience all the good we know is possible for ourselves, we have to wake up from the fear of being marginalized or dismissed as “crazy” and actually take a stand for ourselves.

Doing that may involve calling B.S. when we see it, or it may be a simple, silent promise that from here on we’re going to acknowledge everything we feel as completely valid.

Our emotions are always giving us important information, if we’ll only listen.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we let our personal shadow run amok and go around telling everyone how they have to change to make us feel better. We definitely want to give ourselves and the situation a sincere reality check. What’s the view like from the other person’s shoes? What are our trusted friends reflecting back to us? How are we contributing positively or negatively to what’s happening?

The more clearly we see things, the less we’ll allow our fear of seeming crazy (or sensitive, or bitchy, or wild, or whatever) to keep us stuck, and the more we’ll make choices that align us with feelings of centeredness, aliveness and natural radiance.

The Dream That Changed Me Forever

I want to share a personal story with you as an example. In my twenties, I spent nearly four years in a relationship that made me feel totally insane. About six months in, our honeymoon phase officially ended.

My boyfriend had begun working unusually long hours at the deli/restaurant where he was head chef. At the same time there was a waitress who had been coming around a lot when she wasn’t even on the schedule. One Sunday afternoon, I stopped by unexpectedly and all the doors were locked.

After knocking loudly for a while, my boyfriend finally let me in. Well, guess who was there too? That waitress. And there was a weird vibe in the air, even though my boyfriend was trying to play it cool. When I brought up my concerns, he let me know I was just being paranoid.

Over the next year, similarly disquieting scenarios kept cropping up. And being young and naive, I kept giving his explanations more weight than my own inner knowing. After all, I didn’t actually see anything happen – maybe I was just being ridiculous.

Thankfully (although it wasn’t fun at the time), my unconscious mind stepped in.

I began having horribly disturbing dreams about rats. Being served rats at dinner, walking downstairs to a basement full of them, sleeping with a big fat rat on my belly. YUCK! The dreams left such a sickening feeling that I couldn’t shake the whole day.

Nothing I did was making them stop! I tried just accepting that the dreams were telling me that my boyfriend “was a rat”…I mean, how obvious could you get? There had been so many shady incidents that were getting harder to explain away.   

But even after I swallowed that interpretation of the dream, the rats kept coming. What the heck was I missing? It freaked me out enough that I began dreading nighttime.

So I began searching every dream dictionary I could find for an answer. And finally, I discovered a website that said, dreaming of rats can mean, “something’s gnawing at you.”

BINGO!

It was like my whole being snapped awake. As soon as I acknowledged the fact that something HAD been gnawing at me, and that I was legitimately sensing that things weren’t adding up to me, the dreams stopped. The message from my unconscious had nothing to do with who my boyfriend was or wasn’t. It was simply pointing out that my own intuition was trying to tell me something.

In order not to be that girl…that jealous, insecure, crazy girl, I’d ignored my own gut feelings and stepped away from my personal power and sanity in the process.

It took a relentless string of bad dreams to wake me up to the brilliance of my own guidance system. The guys I was dating didn’t need to be a good guy or a bad guy – I just needed to listen to the fact that I always felt insecure and uncertain in the relationship. And that was enough reason to end it, which is what I did.

So I want to encourage you to look at the places in your life where your feelings (and maybe even your dreams) are telling you that you don’t feel like your best self around certain people, or when doing a certain job, or when living in a certain place. And stop calling yourself crazy – it adds nothing positive to anyone’s life.

If you can take stock of what’s real and turn your attention to aligning with experiences and people where you feel more naturally like your best self, the future will be brighter than you can imagine.