There’s a scene in the 1971 musical Fiddler on the Roof where Tevye feigns a nightmare in order to manipulate his extremely superstitious wife, Golde, into blessing the love match between their eldest daughter, Tzeitel and the penniless tailor, Motel Kamzoil. In the middle of the night, Tevye sits bolt upright in bed and lets out a scream. Golde jerks awake and after a lot of slapping and “shah-ing,” she settles back with a yawn saying, “Tell me what you dreamt, and I’ll tell you what it meant.”
On the one hand, as Tevye would say, interpreting dreams doesn’t hold much credence for me. I rank it right up there with predicting ones political future from studying the entrails of dead chickens. Or tea leaves.
But on the other hand, as Tevye would say, our dreams seems to express the machinations of our feverish minds… whether conscious or unconscious. As I progress further and further down the path of recovery and healing from Narcissistic Abuse, it’s been amazing to notice how my nightmares have given way to a new kind of dream. Organically, Without trying, my nightmares ended, replaced by dreams where I am strong and my abusers have lost their power.
Think about your dreams. Did you used to have nightmares? Are they gone? Is your recovery from narcissistic abuse reflected in your dreams?
Dreams During Narcissistic Abuse
Just one nightmare. Always the same nightmare. It started around 1996 and continued for the next twenty years.
I’m standing, looking up, screaming at the top of my lungs. Trying desperately to be heard. To be listened to. Above me float the faces of my parents, their expressions fixed in the condescending we’re-allowing-you-to-speak-but-we-are-NOT-going-to-listen-or-believe-you-or-give-an-inch smiles of serene superiority. They never make eye contact with me in the dream. They don’t even seem to be hearing me.
And the dream never changed. It was the same at age sixteen. It was the same twenty years later. It never changed.
But, last year, it stopped.
Dreams In Recovery
It took a good three years of concentrated, single-minded focus on recovery for the “fever” of pain to break. Seven journals filled from cover-to-cover with feverish cursive journaling. Over one hundred and fifty articles. And lots of professional counseling before the nightmares stopped.
In their place, I now have a new kind of dream. Dreams that never happened in real life…but they should have happened.
In my new dreams, I have personal power. I make decisions for myself. I have an “out.” I can leave if I want to. I even have a new home waiting for me. My family sit down, shut up and respect me. It makes a nice change.
Two nights ago, I dreamt that was issuing an ultimatum to my mother. Either things change…or I leave. And I meant it. I even had my new home ready. She smirked and simpered in my dream, as if to say, “But I’m cute, so I can get away with anything.” In real life, I was much too terrified and cowed to issue ultimatums and too brainwashed and submissive to walk out the door without permission..but I wish I had.
The new dreams are eminently satisfying. As though, in a virtual way, I’m rewriting the past. Living it properly this time. They don’t change anything, but they sure feel good.
What do you dream at night? Do your dreams reflect your progress in recovery? If your unconscious mind reflects your recovery…congratulations! You must be making great strides indeed.