I had a dream last night that I was alone and running from something. The first part of my dream I was sitting on the lawn of the house I grew up in, and the rest of my dream I was running through a make believe city. I think I was searching for a ride, as I remember looking for a bus or taxi. I was definitely running scared. Dreams like this used to drive me crazy because they bring back the feelings I had as a child. The feelings of being alone and scared and hoping that someone, somewhere would see my value and help me. This is how I spent the first part of my life on this earth. Because of this, I can make it through most any circumstances thrown my way, and I can do it calmly and efficiently. This is a skill that I was taught, without really being taught it. I adapted to my circumstances of being the youngest of 6 children and competing with my siblings for a place at the table, for affection, and for survival.
This was a long time ago though. I left my family when I was in my early 20’s and never spent a lot of time with them after that. So, why do I have these dreams still? I want to be done with that part of my life, and just relax in my life now of safety and security. I have control now, I am not running scared anymore so why don’t my emotions know that?
Are these dreams coming to warn me that the good things that are happening to me aren’t going to last? Or that people that are being nice to me do not have the best intention and are trying to take advantage of me? These dreams used to send me into a tailspin. It is how my brain was wired, and I would allow my dream to make me question everything. It came from living my life on the defense for so many years. If someone was nice to me, my first reaction used to be, what do you want from me? This protected me as a young woman out on my own. I felt more comfortable in conflict, in drama, with someone who was a little rude so I could spar with them and find out what they were all about. This was my way of being in the world, and it worked for me for a long time. Until I started to outgrow it.
I decided I didn’t want to live on the defense anymore. It was exhausting and I was getting tired. So, I worked hard on noticing when certain feelings came up for me. I would say to myself that these were just feelings or dreams, they were not reality. I worked hard on not being reactionary but taking a step back so I could see the reality of situations. But even after all the work I have done, these feelings and dreams still come up for me especially when things are going well.
This used to make me so angry and resentful towards my family. I felt like they had a part of me that I didn’t want them to have. They took it against my will as a child, and they still had it. I used to wish there was a surgical procedure available to remove them from my brain and heart so they could never make me feel small and scared again. But that is not possible. Emotions don’t work that way. My past, my family and the emotions that I experienced during that time will be with me forever whether I like it or not. A small part of me will always either be running from them, or trying to prove something to them. That is a fact I have learned to accept. And I learned it the hard way. I tried for years to fight against those feelings and erase them from my life. But fighting against them only brought them more to light.
As frustrating as it is to still have these dreams and feel my old childhood feelings, I have learned to see it as a process. It is an ingrained defense mechanism that comes up to protect me before I let my guard down and let people in. It is like all my emotions have to pass through my protective layer before they are allowed in. Now I try to relax and realize that these are feelings not from my present, but from my past.
It is in accepting my past, in all its cruelty, unfairness, and dirtiness that I can move beyond it. It is in this acceptance that I can appreciate my strength in surviving it. In this acceptance I see that my abusers actions came from a place of cowardice not strength. They exposed their weakness and vulnerability by trying to obtain power through picking on helpless children. These were not powerful people, they were broken people that didn’t get the help they needed. It is through accepting that they taught me to run scared that I can see that they were also running scared. I can feel sympathy for the pain that they never resolved in themselves. These were not happy people, they lived a life of feeling small and died the same way, and that is just sad.
I still dream about it, and it will forever be a part of me. I accept that. I accept that life is unfair, cruel and that sometimes cowards have power and do bad things. But I also now accept that I have power. I have the power to turn that darkness into light. And I also accept that if I reject that power and stay in the darkness that there is no one to blame but me.