We are born into Eden and then the world breaks, cracks open. Through the crack, or the gates if you will, oozes the
substance from which we make ourselves, our individual lives. From this comes our struggle, the development of our gifts; from it we lean into our becoming.
This blog is written for those who ask about those awful dreams in which they revisit childhood abuse. Sometimes the dream is in an exact repetition; sometimes the dreamer escapes, or almost does; sometimes he/she brings guns and dogs. Sometimes the dreamer is the abuser.
There are the obvious reasons dreams revisit childhood scenes of trauma, the places we were trapped in a double bind, couldn’t escape, couldn’t tell anyone or get help, or no one believed what we said. When things like this happen, the psyche can get stuck in a loop and we may continually relive the story in adulthood. We stay in the story trying to find resolution but can’t seem to leave the story itself. Into these dynamics the dream maker comes to lend a hand. The dream is not just replaying the childhood material, but, like the helping figure in a myth, the crone who shows up in the scary forest, she asks us to begin the journey, or to take the next step.
These dreams can become allies. They become a reference point speaking to us about what is currently happening in our adult lives. They tell us how what is happening now stacks up against the childhood abuse, are a yardstick so to speak. If there is someone now that persistently subtly diminishes us, subliminal messages below the threshold of awareness, if we feel trapped in a double-bind and can’t find the way out, are trying desperately to adapt and nothing works, we may have a dream in which the childhood abuser appears, or one whose stage is the same as where the abuse occurred. The purpose of these dreams is clear – the dream maker uses the abuse as a metaphor telling us that the current situation is, in some way, like it was then.
Of course the worst injury of childhood abuse comes from the messages implied, messages we may later repeat in our own voice, that take up residence in the psyche. They are as if – what is the old story? – as if a rattlesnake came to dinner and we forgot its nature, assumed it was one of the children. It bites over and over, creates grief and brings havoc. We bar the doors, shore up the walls. But the enemy has come inside.
Dreams help us ferret out the internal poison – that we are not good enough, don’t belong, aren’t wanted, will always… So when we have one of these dreams of abuse we look not only for whom or what is the current external replica of the abuser, but also for any internal message that has been set to ‘active,’ what the voices in the mind are harping about. Usually external events have triggered the awful internal mantra.
Childhood abuse, of course, was not the the victim’s fault, but once it has occurred it becomes the victim’s story, hers or his work to do. With time its dynamics can become the edge against which we – the victims – grow, have no choice but to grow or be destroyed; it is the sharp point that forces us toward healing, even toward the expression of gifts, living bigger, getting into a better story. It is like addiction in that way; recovery doesn’t favor comfort, but is always pushing.
When the dream maker sends dreams that in some way reference the childhood abuse, it is time for a second look, but also leave room for a note of congratulations.