How Dreams Can Conquer Your Biggest Challenges

by Sara Avery on April 13, 2014

Dream work can conquer your biggest challengesWhat on earth was that about?!

How often do you wake up from a dream and ask yourself that?

Do you wonder why dreams are so bizarre, even when they make perfect sense while you’re asleep?

Do you wonder how they might impact your waking life?

What about nightmares? What are they about?

Maybe you’ve read dream interpretation guides, but you’re still not sure.

Do your dreams really mean anything at all?

Why You Dream

Dreams come in several different forms, and I’ll just talk about one of them here.

Your brain uses this kind of dream to renew your sense of self every night.

You can think of the sense of self as a rechargeable battery.

It stores how you feel about being yourself, and from those feelings, it generates every moment of your waking life.

That drains its energy each day.

Then, it plugs into your natural energy renewal mechanism—your dreams—to fill up again.

The fuel for your nighttime recharging sessions is the way you felt about being yourself during the day you just lived.

What Dreams Are Made Of

Dreams are pictures of those feelings from your previous day.

What do I mean, pictures of feelings?

How do you feel when you think of your best friend?

How about the co-worker who yelled at you last week?

The pool you swam in every summer day as a kid.

Your first car.

The history class you failed.


When you dream about a person, place or thing that triggers an intense feeling, your brain recharges your sense of self with that feeling.

The dream isn’t about the person or place or thing. It’s about the feeling it brings up for you.

Your Brain’s #1 Fuel Source

Five good things happened today. One bad thing happened.

Which feels most intense? Which do you dwell on at the end of the day?

It’s the thing that felt bad, right?

Guess what feeling your brain uses to recharge at night?

You guessed it—the most intense feelings you experienced that day.


How Dreams Impact Your Days

Ever found it hard to shake the feeling from an intense dream? It can color…or even cloud…your whole day.

That is only a tiny fraction of how dreams affect your waking life, because of the what they do to your sense of self.

Remember, your sense of self stores how you feel about being you, and it generates every moment of your life. Specifically, it uses how you feel about being you to create moments that feel just that same way.

Automatically. Without your conscious choice or control.

So, you find yourself in the same kinds of relationships and situations, over and over again. Your negative patterns keep repeating, despite your best efforts to change them. And, you keep feeling the same lousy way about being yourself.

Then, your brain takes those icky feelings and uses them to recharge your sense of self at night.

See what’s happening?

You’re on the worst merry-go-round ever, and no matter how hard you try to get off, your brain keeps you glued to that scary, wooden horse.

How to Jump off the Terrifying Carnival Ride

The good news is that you can run this cycle in reverse.

The same kind of dream that built up these horrible feelings can also remove them, layer by layer.

A researcher named Mimi Herrmann figured it out—how to tap into your sleeping brain’s energy renewal process to peel away layers of these negative feelings, which she termed Learned Distress®.

Early in life, we all absorb these feelings, which all narrow down to the sense that there is something wrong with us being just the way that we are. Learned Distress becomes the automatic, generating force behind all of our negative moments and situations.

But, there’s something else stored your sense of self. It’s the feeling that you are all good exactly as you are, and this natural well-being is the core of who you are as a human being.

Mimi developed a way to tell your sleeping brain to recharge with your natural well-being, instead of your Learned Distress. As a result, layers of the negative feeling peel alway permanently, and your core well-being becomes the automatic, generating force behind more and more situations.

As her research subjects tried her process, they said they had never experienced such joy in being themselves or such ease in their lives.

She and I condensed the process down to three integral elements that allow you to tell your brain what Learned Distress to remove while you sleep.

Engaging in these three Quanta Change elements produces dreams that show us that Quanta Change is happening…like watching through a window as your car is run through an automated wash.

The Anatomy of a Quanta Change Dream

Let’s walk through a dream that a client brought me, so you can watch a layer of Learned Distress being removed.

The Dream

He and his wife are in a dungeon-like room. There’s a long, skinny snake that is chasing them. My client wonders if he should be the hero and save his wife, but thinks that he might get sick and die, as a result. He realizes that he doesn’t have to do that. Instead, his wife could probably take care of herself, and she might even save the day.

Shift Theme

Shifting is the daytime element of Quanta Change, which tells the brain specifically what to unlearn during sleep.

He was working on staying completely connected to what really matters to him, and on the idea that doing so benefits everyone around him. He has felt that the only way to survive is to disconnect from what is important to him, and instead just focus on taking care of other people.


You bring people, places, animals, things, situations, or time frames into dreams based on the feeling that they trigger within you. In a Quanta Change dream, it is these triggered feelings that are unlearned.

His wife: She tends to live in crisis, and he often feels triggered by that to drop everything important to him and just help her, often before she even asks for it.

The dungeon and snake: These don’t have any intense personal meaning for him, so they just represent a crisis to be overcome.

Points of Change

In a Quanta Change dream, each time there is something wrong and the dreamer does something about it, they permanently remove a layer of Learned Distress from their sense of self.

One: They’re in danger and he stops to think about how to address that.

Two: Instead of automatically assuming he should take care of it, he stops to think about what might happen to him, that he might get sick and even die. This is a huge point of change. In real life, he hasn’t been able to even consider the negative effects to himself when he jumps in to fix his wife’s crises.

Three: He considers the idea that his wife could take care of this problem, instead of him. This is another huge point of change, as he has often assumed that he would be much better at taking care of problems than his wife, or even that she wasn’t capable of doing it, at all.

The Result

Quanta Change outcomes are not planned, structured, or mapped out. Just like negative moments have happened, these good moments happen now without conscious input or control. This is the natural result as Learned Distress is stripped away and core well-being becomes the automatic, generating force.

Over the next few weeks, my client started to respond very differently when his wife had a crisis. At one point, he sat down and listened to what was going on for her, but said, “That’s really all I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like trying to fix anything.” He confirmed for me that it felt very different, almost bizarre, to not even want to try and fix things for her, much less try to do it.

At another point, he said that the need to leap in and fix things felt even more distant. For the first time, he asked her very directly to clearly define anything she might want him to do. He has often put his own projects on hold, guessing that she will need something and waiting for her to tell him what she needs. But, he’s now feeling and expressing how much he resents last-minute requests, and he’s not willing to work that way, anymore.

And, over the past few weeks, he has finished some important projects of his own and felt really good about staying focused on his own work.

Potential Bonus

When one person unlearns Learned Distress layers that impact a relationship, the other person is forced to work on their own part of it. While this sometimes seems like a negative to the second person at the time, wonderful change often happens for them, as a result. I’ll be watching for that possibility in the weeks to come. (His wife is also my client.)

So, Does This Sound Crazy?

I’m right there with you.

I guide people through this every day, and I’ve experienced it for myself for 14 years. And, some days, it still sounds crazy to me!

But, people take the Quanta Change leap, wondering if anything could change, and then they say things like:

“For the first time, I feel unconditional love flowing from me. It’s not just an idea or something I’m trying to do. It’s just who I am.”

“I usually hide away and drink or smoke when I visit my family. But, this time, without planning it, I found myself connecting individually with each one of them. I never even thought that was possible.”

“I’ve avoided cleaning out the garage for years. Suddenly, I felt motivated to do it, and I got half of it cleaned out in an afternoon. Wow.”

“I’m not angry all the time, anymore! Sure, I still get angry here and there, but it’s not that constant, underlying anger that’s ready to burst at any moment. I’m so much happier, and so is my family.”

So, as you might guess, my clients stop caring if it seems crazy to let their dreams change their lives. They just want more.

Their friends and family stop teasing them about the weird thing they’re doing, and start asking how they changed so much for the better.

Dreams really can change lives.

Dreams really can shift the negative patterns that you’ve been living with for so many years.

Dreams really can transform your relationships, career, emotional and physical health, and the way you express yourself in the world.

Are you ready to let your dreams work for you?

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The Truth about Unconditional Love

by Sara Avery on March 23, 2014

The truth of unconditional lovePeople say that love is a choice.

That it’s something you do.

Does this frustrate you as much as it does me? Are you exhausted from doing and choosing over and over and over?

Are there people that you just can’t love, no matter how hard you try?

Are there people who you would love only if they would change that one infuriating thing?

If they get their act together? If they stop being so ____________?

Are there people who you struggle to love? Are there people you have heaped love upon, only to be invisible to them?

If the truth about love is that it’s something you do and it’s a choice, shouldn’t it work better than this?

Does love have to be this grueling?

Where It Started to Go Wrong

Let’s travel back in time. . .to your early childhood.

But first, let me say that love is a two-way street, and each person bears some responsibility. However, you only have any say over your own stuff, so we’re going to focus on you.

Are you thinking, “Oh, no! It’s all up to me?”

Don’t worry. I have some good news about how you can affect the people around you, so keep reading.

The Way It Should Have Been

Saint Paul summed up the path to unconditional love 2000 years ago. Even if you’re not a Biblical scholar, you’ve probably heard it.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Quanta Change founder Mimi Herrmann once got a burst of inspiration about the real meaning of these words when she heard them at a wedding.

This progression is how we were supposed to develop early in life—faith, then hope, then love.

And, if we had, unconditional love would just be who we are, effortlessly.

A Crucial Part of Our Early Development

Do you need a little more explanation? I did, too.

Mimi spent years studying how the brain develops early in life. She focused on the fact that we absorb the way people around us feel about being themselves.

She realized that those absorbed feelings become the way we feel about being ourselves. And then, they generate every moment of the rest of our lives.

When she heard the Bible verse, she saw the direct correlation between Paul’s concepts and the brain’s stages of development. . .or, at least, how our feelings are supposed to develop.

In an ideal world, these stages unfold this way:

Stage 1: Faith

Faith comes from our time in the womb and during infancy.

We are given absolutely everything we need on every level—physical and emotional.

From this nurturing cocoon, we absorb faith:

“The way it is to be me is to have everything I need.”

Stage 2: Hope

Through our toddler years and beyond, we start to move into the world and act on our own.

The faith gained through Stage 1 sets up hope:

“Since the way life is for me is to have everything I need, I will always have everything I need.”

Stage 3: Love

The hope generated by Stage 2 brings about complete self-acceptance:

“Because I have everything I need, I am OK exactly as I am.”

Every interaction of our lives is generated from how we feel about being ourselves.

When we greet another person, that feeling of self-acceptance radiates from us. They feel unconditional acceptance, which is the same as unconditional love:

“You are OK exactly as you are (because I don’t need anything from you to make me OK).”

Did You Catch That?

Unconditional love is not supposed to be something that you do.

Unconditional love is supposed to be who you are.

But, if you are like me and everyone I’ve ever met, this is not your experience of life.

Am I right?

How Did It Go So Wrong?

A wrench got thrown in the works.

Early in life, your brain was a sponge, and it’s job was to absorb how people around you felt about being themselves. Your brain turned all that absorbed feeling into how you feel about being yourself.

You had no choice in the feelings that you stored. Your rational brain hadn’t even begun to form yet, so you couldn’t make any decisions about the feelings that would be bad for you to take in. Just like a sponge, you absorbed everything.

From negative moments back then, you absorbed the feeling that there is something wrong with you being just the way that you are.

That horrible feeling is called Learned Distress, and it is the monkey wrench.

Let’s insert Learned Distress into the three stages and see what happens.

Stage 1: Lack of Faith

Because of their own Learned Distress, the people around you didn’t feel perfectly capable of giving you every little thing you needed on every level—physical and emotional—when you were in the womb and as an infant.

From this less than nurturing cocoon, you developed a lack of faith:

“The way it is to be me is to lack what I need (some or all of the time) to survive and feel well.”

Stage 2: Lack of Hope

As you moved into the world, the lack of faith set up a lack of hope:

“Since the way life is for me is to lack what I need, I probably won’t always have what I need to survive, feel good, or succeed in life.”

Feel familiar?

Surviving with the lack of hope takes some different forms.

You might feel this hopelessness only when you are very tired, stressed, or sick, and then you snap yourself out of it.

Or, you might feel like you’re drowning in it.

Stage 3: Lack of Love

The lack of hope brings about a lack of self-acceptance:

“There is something wrong with me, and I don’t have everything I need within me to survive, feel good, or succeed in life.”

That Learned Distress drives relationships with other people. They feel your survival mechanism as some kind of condition on your acceptance of them:

“I need you to be a certain way in order for me to be OK.”

Conditional acceptance takes some common forms:

  • I need you to fit within my ideal way of being in the world and viewing it.
  • I need you to have yourself under control.
  • I need you to like me or support me in some way.
  • I need you to do things my way.
  • I need you to not be so perfect, capable, or successful.
  • I need you to not point out my Learned Distress or trigger it in any way.

So, Are You Doomed?

If you’re like me when I first heard this, you’re thinking, “Oh, no! I didn’t have the perfect childhood, and I’m pretty sure I missed out on a lot of that ‘faith’ stage. Help!”

Good news—you aren’t doomed!

Learned Distress isn’t the only feeling that you stored back then.

In fact, your very core is made up of the feeling that you are all good being just the way that you are.

Hard to believe? That’s because your Learned Distress is greedy. Over time, it overwhelms your natural well-being. So, it becomes the predominant generating force in your life, and it’s what you feel in many of your moments.

You’ve felt the Learned Distress taking over, right? Over time, things have either gotten worse, or it has gotten harder and harder to make good things happen.

So, you feel more and more that you need people to be a certain way in order to help you survive.

But, no matter how inaccessible it feels to you. . .

No matter how much you believe that it’s not even there. . .

Your core well-being is still there, waiting for you to uncover it.

What Effortless Self-Acceptance Does for You and Those Around You

I’ll let my clients tell you. They say:

“For the first time, I actually like myself. I love myself! My family and co-workers can’t stop talking about how much better it feels to be around me.”

“I usually get really irritated at one friend. He talks non-stop about his own successes and it triggers my Learned Distress. But, we went on a trip, and we had a very balanced conversation the whole time. Not once did I feel the usual triggers or go to my dark place. It was a shock to just feel good around him.”

“Out of the blue, 70% of my clients have said in the past 2 weeks things like they missed me when I was on vacation, that I’m helping them so much, and that I’m the best therapist they’ve had in 20 years of therapy. Clients have complimented me before, but I’m connecting and helping them on a whole new level without doing anything differently.”

That last bit is important—”without doing anything differently.” That is the difference between overcoming your Learned Distress by doing or choosing, and uncovering your well-being, so that unconditional acceptance is just who you are.

I remember when this shift started to happen for me. Babies and kids had never disliked me, but suddenly I was a magnet for them, and parents said things like, “My baby is really shy. She never likes strangers, but she loves you!” And, people of all ages started to say something I had never heard before: “I don’t know why, but I just felt better the moment we began to talk.”

What Unconditional Love Is Not

Feel a little overwhelmed?

If you open yourself up this much, will your life be overrun by needy people?

Will you abandon your principles and blindly accept anyone’s bad behavior?


Unconditional acceptance of someone is not unconditional acceptance of their actions.

In fact, the more your core well-being generates your interactions, the more you are able to speak up clearly, kindly, and effectively for the real good of all.

Sometimes, that includes telling people that their behavior towards you is unacceptable. Sometimes, it even includes ending a relationship.

But, the more you come from a place of unconditional acceptance, the less you will blame or judge them, and the more you will be able to focus on the real good you can do.

You still may feel angry or sad, but the feeling that someone must be a certain way for you to be OK will keep decreasing.

How to Unlock Your Source of Unconditional Love

Removing layers of Learned Distress allows your core well-being to expand and become the generating force behind more and more of your situations.

Sounds simple, right?

But, it gets tricky. Learned Distress is tenacious.

You absorbed it before your rational brain formed. So, your brain doesn’t even realize these feelings are sabotaging you!

Like a young child clinging to an abusive parent, your brain clings to your Learned Distress for dear life.

Your rational brain puts up a wall of resistance to change, in order to protect this “precious” survival mechanism. So, in order to unblock your well-being, you have to get your rational brain out of the way.

Sleep makes that possible, because it’s the only time your rational brain is entirely shut down.

The three integral elements of Quanta Change give you the way to access your brain while you sleep and tell it exactly the Learned Distress you want it to unlearn.

As layers peel off permanently, your core well-being expands to take its rightful place as the automatic, generating force in your life.

Are You Ready for Love to Be Easier?

Are you ready to feel really good being yourself around other people?

Are you ready to let people be themselves, without all those conditions? Without all that work?

Are you ready to move beyond survival in your relationships and interactions? To a place of more ease and joy?

Are you ready for a deeper connection with the people you love most?

No matter how wonderfully you have loved by choosing and doing, loving from your core well-being is always better, deeper, and stronger. Clients always say, “I had no idea anything this good could come from within me!”

Have you ever opened a present that was a complete surprise and better than anything you could have imagined? That is what uncovering your well-being feels like, over and over again.

You deserve to discover this gift within you.

The people you love deserve it, too.

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