In control, out of control, seeking control, being controlled, being controlling, making choices, having no choice, doing the best you can.
I’d been having bad dreams for a few weeks now, and have been telling my therapist about them. Even though I couldn’t remember the details (My brain is good at pushing things like that out of mind), there seemed to be a common thread. Control. At least, that’s what we figured out (or maybe she knew, but it took me a while to figure it out myself with her help) last Saturday.
While I have the occasional lucid dream, or dreams where I have some sort of say-so and self-determination, these bad dreams were bad dreams because I had no control over my situation. In these dreams, my mind was foggy, the surrounding events were muddy, and I was like a child with no real means of escape. I was trapped as dad raged at me. I was stuck, and in one dream I yelled back at him as my only real form of defense, and that only made him angrier. Which is why we never yelled back at him as kids, growing up. And in another dream, dad grabbed my arm and forced me to stay while he continued to rage. And in some dreams, the weather raged and I had no protection.
Growing up, these dreams were much more detailed, powerful, and very much traps. I was never free, I would suddenly find myself naked, or the walls were shrinking around me, or I was supposed to clean up the back yard as a tornado approached so that dad wouldn’t get mad that the toys were destroyed, but the storm came faster and hail pounded my back and I woke up, my back aching as if it really had happened. I would try to fly away, and sometimes I could, but sometimes the negative energy from my father, with my mother’s submissive assistance, would always drag me back down until I was trapped in a small corner and woke up screaming.
Over time, the dreams shifted. It began some months after I moved out and slowly began to feel safer, stronger. I slowly gained more control over the dreams. It began with mom. She would try to say, “Oh, he’s doing much better” or some other excuse for his behavior, but I knew it was not true–and told her so. She always seemed shocked I was no longer “buying into” the whole “we’re okay” story. And then I started standing up to my father. Sometimes it devolved into yelling matches as I sought to stand up for my little siblings. Sometimes my father seemed surprised at my strength.
So that’s why these entrapped dreams were so disturbing. It was as if I was regressing back to when I was still living at home. I had no idea just why I was having the dreams again. I sought to take control of my life. The kitchen, always a source of perpetual discord, soon became clean. I did the dishes promptly. I had recently started trying Clinique for my face, and with that, strove to not pick my pimples and dry spots and bumps to take control over my face so I’m not constantly trying to cover up big red wounds and deep gouges. I started tidying up the house. I took walks to take charge of my health. But still the bad dreams continued. My environment at home was not the culprit, it seemed. I told my therapist this.
She saw a different connection. I’m currently in a situation where someone is also controlling. (No, not my husband. Or in-laws. It’s someone else). There are other stories to share, but I can’t share them at the moment. Therapy has helped me to keep sane, and I will begrudgingly admit that I am becoming somewhat desensitized to some of the shenanigans. But the fact remains that this person very much reminds me of my father in terms of the control, and that has been difficult for me.
So, with that in mind, I have been looking for work to move up and out, to find opportunities that I’m well-suited for, things that will give me more (and different) experiences. There was one internal position recently that I applied for and was interviewed for. I think I saw that as my “escape” after frequently feeling trapped in this current situation. And that, in the strange workings of the PTSD mind, brought up old dream patterns, sending me into a circle of feeling on edge and anxious, which only makes the dreams worse, and so on. I was turned down as someone with slightly better qualifications got it, but I’m keeping it all in perspective–there are other jobs out there. Other opportunities.
My therapist told me to think about the similarities of control, and right now I am working on affirming to myself that I actually do have choices. Even though I am somewhat constrained by a few factors, I have the freedom to walk away. I choose to stay. I am self-determinant. Only I have the right to control myself, not others.
Last night, I don’t remember if I had bad dreams or not–so I’m presuming I didn’t. Thank goodness for breakthroughs and for therapy. Now my kitchen is getting messy again, and I’m counting that as progress.
Filed under: Abuse