Let me tell you a story about stress (and a cat)

About 15 years ago, I had a dream that has stayed with me – in vivid detail – ever since.

It was a dream about a cat. A big black scratchy cat.

This cat was friendly enough at first, but every time I tried to walk past him down a darkened hallway, he’d jump right up into my arms and demand to be held. Because I was trying to ‘do the right thing’, every time he jumped, I’d catch him. But as soon as I caught him, he’d scratch and hiss at me until I set him free only to jump right back into my arms and start the cycle all over again.

On and on it went with the cat jumping and scratching and releasing until I heard a voice delivering one of the most important messages of my life: ‘Stop catching the cat’.

And sitting bolt upright in bed, I knew in a split second what this dream was all about for me.

It meant stop choosing the difficult path … stop being anxious … overwhelmed … in chaos. Stop ‘embracing’ what doesn’t serve me and start making better choices to protect myself against the inevitable ‘scratches’ of life.

It meant being kinder to myself.

Being calmer.

Looking back, I reckon it also meant recognising that I am in control of my life, that I get to choose whether to pick up the ‘scratchy cat’ of worry and doubt and anxiety and chaos (or anything else that doesn’t make me feel a million dollars) or to finally put it down once and for all and move forward in a kinder, freer, gentler way.

Now, there are a lot of ways to interpret dreams and especially ones featuring cats it seems, but to me ‘stop catching the cat’ meant choosing a better way to be in the world. Choosing what best suits me in any given moment – across health, happiness, home, family, self, career, friends, finances.

I believe my ‘stop catching the cat’ dream was about moving forward and feeling better. Because, after all, isn’t that what we all truly crave?

Can you see yourself in this dream? Do you constantly catch the cat of chaos instead of choosing the calm? And what do you think about messages in dreams? Had any good ones lately?

Natalie Bartley