Let’s imagine for a moment that life is like a relay race. In a relay race, each person on the team has a leg of the race that they are responsible for. Each person is also a part of the larger whole—the relay team. If the team wins the race, the entire team wins, even if one person on the team has a slow leg of the race. On the contrary, even when one person has a fast speed and an outstanding performance, it doesn’t matter so much if the rest of the team performs poorly.
Life is sometimes seen by the psyche as a race, and we are typically not allowed to sit by the side of the track in the larger game of life. Just as importantly, like an athlete in a race, the psyche seems to want us to move faster than we think we are capable of moving.
A relay race, like the phases of our lives, depends on each runner and each leg of the race. If we view our lives along with our psychological development as a relay race, it is not hard to see how all of the different phases of our psychological development and process are dependent upon one another.
We can imagine the relay race as being a metaphor for our lives whether we examine our lives through a lens that looks within, or when we examine it through a lens that looks without. In other words, the metaphor fits whether looking at our inner lives and our psychological development, or our outer lives, and the events that occur there.
In either case, between the longer “legs” of the major phases of our lives, there are important, shorter, transitions that become crucial to our success and journey toward wholeness. This is where the metaphor of the relay race is even more fitting as an apt metaphor for the journey and the phases of our lives.
“Baton” dreams are a specific kind of running dream that requires us to access certain parts of our personality in order to “win the race.” During each phase in our lives, a different aspect of our personality is required of us. This will take the cooperation of the various parts of our personalities–like the cooperation it will take for all of the different runners in a relay race.
Perhaps just as important as speed for the runner in the relay race, is how she takes the baton that is handed to her by the previous runner. This important transition for each athlete is absolutely pivotal for the success and peak performance of the entire team.
I recall the importance of both the passing and accepting of the baton when I ran track and ran in relay races while in high school. We practiced passing the baton often and I remember just how vital the proper timing was to this part of the race and for this transition.
The baton is the only object in the relay race that travels the entire distance of the race. It will cross the finish line in the hand of the last runner, just like it started out in the hand of the first runner. In our lives and transitions, perhaps even the transitions that we don’t want to accept or take, sometimes we must take the baton anyway to finish the race or to progress to the next longer phase in our lives.
I sometimes hear from some of the psychotherapy clients that I work with that they are reluctant to take on a certain transition job, or accept a particular phase in their life (like taking a temporary job as a means to an end, or passing through grief, for example) because they have visions of something much larger, or more fitting to what they “should” be doing right now. And these are important concerns and decisions.
These important decisions and concerns, however, are usually best answered from within and not forced by an ego with a limited perspective and vision.
Interestingly, I have seen a handful of “baton” dreams from clients (from both clients with and without actual running/relay race experience) who were wrestling with transition questions. One person dreamt: “I had forgotten something, and I thought the baton could be passed to Bill.”
My client described “Bill” as someone who would typically not take a new challenge, even if only temporary and she thought that this attitude held him back. When working with this dream, my client saw that “Bill” was a part of her that maybe needed to say “yes” to taking the baton and risking the next step in her career, even though it didn’t fit into what she wanted to do in the long run.
In all of the “baton” dreams that I have seen, they came at a time in the dreamers’ lives that seemed to suggest that he or she needed to at least seriously consider accepting the baton. From a limited ego perspective, we don’t know why this is important for dreamers, but it seems to be true nonetheless. Accepting the metaphorical baton in our lives is really about an act of faith.
But often many of us think that accepting or taking on some new task, or transition phase, when it is not in line with a grander version of ourselves, our lives, is not the right thing to do. If we say “no” to taking the baton based on only our egos, we short-change ourselves in missing these important transition steps that may help to more fully prepare us for the next important chapter in our lives.
An athlete in a relay race practices and prepares himself as well as he can for his leg of the race. He also knows that each leg of the race run by the other athletes is equally as important. Furthermore, he realizes that the transitions in this race, the smaller distances where the baton is both passed on and accepted between runners, can sometimes make or break the final outcome of the relay race.
If we imagine our lives to be like a relay race, we can see that each step of the way, each leg of the journey, depends upon the leg before. And between these longer legs, or phases, we have shorter, transition steps where we must consider “taking the baton.” Even when we are not sure why and there are few good reasons for doing so according to our short-sighted egos, an act of faith may be required of us. It is at these moments with these “transitions,” that we ideally accept the baton and trust the runner behind us, the deeper Self and the source of the baton.
© 2013, Dr. Jeff Howlin. All rights reserved.