I had a bad dream last night. A really bad dream.
I was in a town or a city that was unfamiliar to me. It was a winter night. I left a place I had visited and walked out into the darkness to find my car where I had parked it on the street. But it wasn’t where I thought I’d left it. I started wandering up and down the empty streets, going up to any white parked car that I saw. None of them were mine.
A familiar sinking sensation of feeling lost and helpless enveloped me. Submerged me.
Next thing I knew, I was inside my car. It was full of stuff, which I wasn’t thrilled about, but I kind of accepted. I had a hard time finding the right key to start it up. And then A MAN appeared at the front passenger door, which he then opened to get in. To get me. I was terrified. I yelled “Fuck off! Fuck off!” at him and kicked out towards him with my legs.
That’s when I awoke, to find my bedclothes askew. I had yelled and kicked in real life, which woke me up. Still shaken and foggy, I straightened out the bedclothes. Just before slipping back into dreamless sleep, I thought, “At least the dream is over and I can stop looking for my car now.”
With the luxury of time endowed upon me by the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, I reflected on my dream in the morning. I realised that even when I was inside my car, trying to find the right key to start it, I still had inside me the fear and the insecurity of when I couldn’t find my car. In my dream, I wasn’t aware and didn’t recognise that there had been a shift. There was no moment of, “Oh goody! I’ve found my car!” 😀 I still carried the energy of, “OMG, what am I going to do? I’m lost. I’m in trouble. What am I going to do???” So it wasn’t surprising that something else bad happened.
“Isn’t that interesting?” I mused. The realisations didn’t end there.
I saw that I tell myself negative stories about myself, and I don’t recognise that situations have changed and so have I. I continue to tell myself that I don’t have certain positive qualities, because of past events I experienced. (For example, yesterday while doing EFT Tapping, I realised that I believed, “I’m not powerful enough,” because as a kid and teen I was never listened to by the adults around me. I just had to do what they told me.)
And here’s the main point: We breathe a kind of radioactive half-life into our past experiences by re-membering them, and reliving how awful they were. These events are dead. They’re gone. They no longer exist. But we breathe life into them, effectively creating zombie memories, phantom memories, which we use to haunt and frighten ourselves.
Back to my revelatory dream. The qualities I tell myself I don’t have are already inside me. Just like I was already inside my car. My circumstances changed, but I hadn’t let go of the old, frightened energy. So the new circumstances then became something frightening. Even when awake last night I couldn’t grasp that I had found my car. (It’s an interesting Freudian slip that I keep wanting to type “car” as “care”!)
And the thing about having difficulty finding the right key to start the car? My system was flooded with fear and foreboding. I had a troubled mind, the exact opposite of a calm and clear mind. No wonder I couldn’t sort through my keys successfully.
And the “stuff” that filled the car? That I wasn’t thrilled about, but I kind of accepted? I wasn’t too sure about the meaning of that until I did my Buddhist practice of chanting this morning. That shapeless, amorphous stuff that left me little room inside my car (life) was my own negative conclusions and judgements about myself, based on old bad memories and stories. Of course!
Having lived through some truly awful experiences, I fully recognise that it can be no easy feat to overcome the effects of trauma. But it is possible. Here are some resources you might want to explore to help yourself:
- Spiritual practice that includes a community
- Emotional Freedom Technique (a.k.a. Tapping) preferably with a certified practitioner if you know you have deep issues
- Nature therapy (especially being around trees)
- Exercise, preferably outside (moving your body, even if it’s washing your windows, moves your mind too)
- Talking with a good friend you can trust
- The work of Dr. Gabor Maté — books and YouTube videos
- The work of Dr. James S. Gordon, founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine — books and YouTube videos
- Improving your diet — seriously. It’s impossible to eat badly and feel good about yourself.
Each seemingly small step forward you take will accumulate over time. Trees don’t grow overnight and neither do human beings. So please be patient with yourself. There will be days that you slip backwards. Never mind. Get back up and start again. Because there will also be days that you have great breakthroughs.
You can find your strength inside.
You can conquer the giant. ❤