The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.
~ Sigmund Freud
What? Not everything he said was shite. Even a broken clock and all that, amirite?
I’ve written about my dreams a number of times (nice and vague, cuz i can’t be arsed to check), and the time has come ’round again. My dreaming life has generally been full and often intense. I was treated for night terrors when i was around 5/6, and i still remember the worst of them in stark detail. Knowing what i know now, it’s easy to see what my brain was trying to puzzle out, as my sexual abuse began before i could speak, and was frequent until i was around 6. Then it slowed down some until my mother’s on-and-off relationship with the man i called Daddy fell apart for good when i was around 8, at which point it became sporadic.
Once the regular sexual abuse stopped, my switching behaviour also slowed down dramatically, and my dreams toned down, too. I started puberty far later than average, but when i did, i was once again dealing with sexual abuse, and it’s my belief that the dual stress is what led to a return of brutal and disturbing dreams. The dreams persisted until i left home at 18, returning as i came back home briefly, and again faced sexual and physical assault. They’d come and go as i was triggered, or trying some new therapy. To this day they occasionally plague me; a red flag for which i’ve become grateful.
When i finally entertained the possibility that i was a multiple, and began the long journey of figuring out the who, what, where, and whens of my childhood, studying my dreams extensively, helped. It was there that i realised that i needn’t recover any memories – they were all there every night in my dreams. Their subject matter, the way they played out as i slept, how i felt the next morning looking back on them… I couldn’t know these things and survive my environment, so my brain disguised them as dreams; keeping them safe until i was able to process their content.
Home movies i’d hidden in my attic.
Confirmation that i wasn’t crazy without cause.
Once i knew what they truly were, they became a part of my daily experience of myself as a person, and the dreaming of these memories stopped.
I kept dreaming, though. My brain is marvelous, and takes as good care of me as it can. It still communicates to me as i sleep, dancing and singing for me, lovely and terrible. My dreams reflect where i’m at mentally and emotionally. They can alert me to the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes that may require my attention. Dreams are a great processing tool for my brain to help me figure my shit out. It keeps on grinding away at various problems while i’m recharging my body’s batteries.
I don’t hold with anyone else analysing my dreams for me. I can usually figure out my own dreams, thanks. (This is one of the places where Dr. Freud needs to back TF up.) I’ve done enough inner work to know myself, and so it’s usually obvious what my dreams are saying to me. On the rare occasion that i wake up nonplussed, i have a method for interpretation that works well. A nun taught it to me years ago when i was in a halfway house run by the RCC. I write out the dream in first person, then i read through it and underline any words that jump out at me. I then take the underlined words and give them a personal definition, one by one. Once that’s done i’ve usually found some clarity.
Over the course of my life my dreams have been highly thematic. When i was very young i dreamed of a house filled with death, being pursued by a faceless evil thing, and being covered in bugs. The bug dreams were so terrifying that bugs became a lifelong phobia, so intensely so that even thinking i might have seen a bug could trigger a petit mal seizure (now commonly referred to as an absence seizure).* My dreams during adolescence and young adulthood were mostly about getting lost, and becoming separated from loved ones. The worst though, were the ones that mixed sex and death. Those were guaranteed to be followed by 1 or more sleepless nights, depending on severity.**
The last 15yrs or so, my dreams are generally about 1 of 2 things: It’s either the getting lost/losing loved ones dreams, or cleaning house/taking care of children. That second one might sound innocuous, but i assure you that it’s not. They’re the most emotionally draining dreams i’ve ever had (which, admittedly, could be due in part to the fact that i’m not as dissociative as i used to be). I’m in someone else’s house –before my happy estrangement from my parents’ families– and it’s messy, so i start tidying up. Instead of things getting better, i keep discovering more and more clutter, and eventually there’s filth everywhere i look and nothing i do seems to lessen it. Anyone else in the house with me is either oblivious or uncaring. These dreams can involve children. I start out caring for babies and toddlers, and am quickly bogged down with cleaning them and cleaning the house.
I’m not much for kids, to be frank. I love mine, i love my grandchildren. It’s not that i don’t like kids, although i used to think that’s what it was. It’s that being around children is one big triggerfest for me; i spend my time with them bracing for the next unintentional potshot. When i’m actively working with my system to improve my life and level of daily functionality, it’s worse.
In my dreams though, i love all of them. I’m happy to take care of them, even when they’re crying or covered in crap and needing a bath or generally running wild and misbehaving. I’m filled with love and i can feel how invested i am in their care. If there are other people in the house, they never help with the kids – i’m on my own. Sometimes i lose track of them and i’m running around the house frantically, trying to find them. In my dreams, once i lose someone i never find them again. Sometimes they grow bigger as i’m caring for them, which is fine, but other times they morph into something not quite human, and those are the worst dreams. No matter what the children are doing, anyone around me that’s adult gives precisely zero fux.
These dreams may not be nightmarish, but they’re exhausting. I wake from these feeling like i haven’t slept at all. I’m wrung out emotionally, mentally, physically.
And knowing myself like i do, it wasn’t hard to understand why i was having such dreams, and why they’d affect me in such a way.
The doctor who treated my Night Terrors as a child taught me a skill that instantly became invaluable, one that’s saved me countless times since. He taught me all about lucid dreaming. He told me how to figure out if i was dreaming or awake, which is what led to my realisation that some of my dreams were actually memories. He showed me how to wake myself up. Ms T (my therapist) says that a multiple’s mutant superpower is her imagination, and i think she’s correct. Everything that doctor taught me i understood with little to no explanation. When he told me i could fly away from the bad things in my dreams, i did it the very next time a night terror gripped me; i flew away and woke myself up. The ability to recognise that i’m dreaming ebbs and flows according to how i’m doing mental health wise, but once i know i’m in a dream, at the very least i can pull myself out of it. Sometimes the best i can do is pull myself into another dream, but at least i got out of the one i was trying to get away from.
And lately my ability has drastically increased.
I’ve been doing and saying things that i never have before, and some of it isn’t even a lucid choice i’m making. I see it as confirmation that this work i’m doing is taking root, it’s becoming a part of me and how my brain works.
I AM HEALING.
Some cool dream stuff i’ve been doing lately:
I’ve stood up for myself to people who were treating me badly.
I’ve told my mom NO, and even told her off a few times. My mom! /mouth agape
I found my way back when i got lost in a mall. (Once i’m lost i’ve always stayed lost, wandering in maze-like places, never getting back to the place i wanted to be.)
And the children… I’m not losing them, they’re not getting dirtier or changing into something scary/gross. They stay with me and we have a good time. I’m suffused with love for them. Knowing i’m dreaming changes it not a whit.
Estranged/dead family members still pop into my dreams, but they don’t ruin me. Nothing they do goes unanswered. (I’ve always just taken it – in real life and in dreams.)
I know this piece is a bit off the beaten path, even for me, but the way i see things, this is a big deal. My dream life has always been a huge part of who i am, and i find this change significant. It makes me feel good about the work i’ve done, and emboldens me to continue.
My dreams steadfastly refuse to forget what happened to me.
My dreams assure me that i’m not crazy for no reason.
My dreams keep telling me when there’s something terribly wrong, and t’isn’t me or my fault.
My precious, precious, marvelous, fantastical brain. I love it so.
Yes, it’s weird how i treat it like it’s my best friend and not quite me.
It’s weird and accurate.
Maybe one day i’ll be able to explain that, but for now, my brain art (dreams) is telling me i’m helping and all of me is feeling better.
They say that dreams are only real as long as they last. Couldn’t you say the same thing about life?
~ Waking Life (2001)
This freaky, overthinking weirdo wishes you the best of everything.
Hang in there.
Love and Peace,
*I was epileptic as a child; it’s now considered dormant.
**I’m not including the memories that came to me as dreams.
PICTURED: “Having a moment” in the movie, Waking Life.
4 thoughts on “Mindful Dreaming”
YOU ARE HEALING. And that makes me smile. Love and skishes.
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Thanks, monkey. Back atcha.
It’s great to hear that those dreams that have disturbed you for so long are changing into something less stressful and leave you with less anxiety.
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