I still remember my nightmare from a few nights ago, but I can’t recall the terror I was feeling.
That’s a good thing. I don’t need to feel that again, what I did want to be able to do was remember the dream enough to understand why it effected me the way it did.
In the nightmare Jon and I were being held hostage by two men. But the men would leave the house and come back. The first time they left, I asked Jon if we should call the police. He said we shouldn’t that we just had to do what they said.
When the men came back one of them asked me to sit next to him on the couch. I was terrified to sit next to him but even more terrified not to. I felt I had no choice. He showed me some pearls and I told him what kind they were. But he got angry and told me I was wrong.
I knew that I had made a mistake by telling him what I thought, that I had said the wrong thing and made him angry. My fear of what he would do to me was so intense, that I made enough noise in real life, to wake Jon up. Who then woke me up.
My heart was pounding and I was breathing so heavy it took me a while to catch my breath.
“You would call the police wouldn’t you?” I asked Jon. Needing reassurance. Then I explained the nightmare to him and asked him again. He reassured me he would. I was still feeling terror from the nightmare. It took, I think, about a half hour for me to calm down. And when I did, I said out loud to Jon and to reassure myself, that if we were really in that situation, I would have called the police myself. Then I knew I was okay.
I know what this dream is about.
A couple of months ago I read the book, The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman. It tells the true story of Sally Horner, who Vladimir Nabakov obviously based his character, Dolores Haze, on (even though he denied it) in his book Lolita.
I’ve been fascinated with the book Lolita for a long time. Reading Weinman’s story about Sally Horner, helped me understand one of the reasons why.
Because it’s about being held captive by fear.
When Sally Horner was 11 years old she was groomed by a pedophile then taken by car across the county by her kidnapper. They lived together posing as father and daughter in a few different states, him raping her repeatedly. She went to school and had friends, but she was afraid to tell anyone the truth because he scared her into believing that if she did, she’d go to jail. After almost two years of being held captive, Sally told a neighbor the truth and her neighbor called the FBI.
I was not sexually or physically abused, but I was held captive by fear.
My mother and my siblings did not experience growing up in my home the same why I did. This has been one of the most difficult things for me to understand. How I could feel so differently then they do. I understand now that even though we are all family, we can perceive the same experience in different ways.
My experience is no less real than theirs.
In my dream I was held captive by fear. I could have gone for help, but I didn’t. And the one person who I trusted in my dream, Jon, didn’t help me either. He wasn’t afraid for himself, and didn’t understand my fears, even though he was there with me.
I was terrified growing up. My father while, not physically abusive was a frightening person to me. It was in this environment that I learned it was better not to say what I was feeling or believed. This is where I learned to be silent, to hide my true self.
I didn’t feel safe around the people I was supposed to be able to trust.
Symbolically, the man holding me captive in my dream was my father and Jon represented my mother. As in my dream, my mother didn’t protect me from my father’s anger. She was either too afraid herself, or didn’t understand how frightened I was. So I never felt safe and was never able to trust my mother completely. I knew she would always take his side.
As a child, I was very alone in my fear. That fear stayed with me throughout my first marriage, keeping me from doing what I really wanted and being who I really am. It was only when I met Jon, the first person I ever felt I could really trust, that I started to emerge from my fear and begin to live my life freely.
The dream brought back the primal fear I experienced as a child, where I believed my life was in danger even if it literally wasn’t. I was too familiar with the feeling my nightmare evoked.
As a child I was dependent on my parents to keep me safe. As an adult, I can protect myself. That’s why when I woke up and I finally realized I could have gone to the police myself, that I didn’t need Jon to do it for me, I was able to leave the fear from my nightmare behind.
I think the nightmare was a way of my subconscious reminding me that this the is the reason I get triggered when I’m around anyone in my family. Because even though I understand that being around my family takes me back to a place where I feel like it’s dangerous to speak my truth and be who I really am and I regress to that fearful place I lived in for more than 45 years, there are still times I wonder why this happens and blame myself, as if I’ve done something wrong.
I believe my subconscious is telling me that there’s a reason I feel the way I do. It’s reminding me of the fear I used to live in. That my family wasn’t a safe place for me and still isn’t. Not because I’m in physical danger, the danger is psychological.
It’s when I feel that I don’ have a choice (like in the nightmare) that the fear overwhelms me. I need to know that I can leave any situation whenever I choose. And I need to stay away from people who make me feel unsafe, which is not always easy for me to do when those people are family.
Now, I’m actually grateful for my nightmare.
As scary as it was, it reminded me that I’m not a helpless child anymore. That as the adult I am now, I can make my own choices, and that I do make good choices. It reminded me that I can and will protect myself.