What am I running from?

runningaway

I haven’t posted here for a long time.   The truth is that lately I’ve been losing interest in my therapy and haven’t even been wanting to go.   Since my sessions are never unpleasant or traumatic, I really don’t know why.  I know I’m not cured, though that thought occurred to me briefly.    Sometimes uncomfortable emotions come up in session, but I actually look forward to those, because it means we can work on them.  They’ve never been cause for me to want to run.

But recently, even while I’m in session, I keep talking about things that have nothing to do with therapy, or even with me.  My therapist correctly pointed out that he sensed I was avoiding something that’s coming up.

In our last session we began talking about an early childhood trauma involving my mother, when I was about 5 -7.  I skirted around the issue and told him I couldn’t give him details, but I was starting to get emotional.   It’s not something I’m able to talk about yet, even with my therapist.  Not even here.  It brings me too much shame even now, but I remember exactly what happened as clear as day.   He wants to explore this with me and I do too, but…I’m afraid to.   It’s too shameful.    But the avoidance started several weeks before this.

So I’ve been losing interest.  This week I felt too tired to go so I didn’t.  That hasn’t happened before.

I just had a dream that may shed some light on what’s going on, because the real reason is occluded even to me.

The dream involved a usual theme that occurs in many of my dreams. Somehow, in spite of my limited income, I had come into ownership of a vast house, so vast that I kept discovering rooms I never knew existed and had never seen before.  Exploring my new home was exciting, but in the back of my mind I knew I really couldn’t afford this house.

There were strangers in the house, as if it was some public place.    I walked through a doorway that opened out to a huge industrial kitchen with huge flat stainless steel cooktops lining an entire wall.  All these random people were cooking — bacon, eggs, steaks, you name it.    I turned to some stranger and told them I owned all this.   I told them that before, I had lived in a one bedroom apartment (my actual place has two bedrooms).  I admitted I wasn’t sure I could afford all this but that I would try.

One of the strangers I met was a very attractive man in his thirties.  (In my dreams I am always younger than my real age).    He seemed interested in me and kept following me around, trying to start a conversation.   I was interested but reticent, so I may have seemed disinterested, even though I wasn’t.   We found a room with tables that had numbers on them, as you might find in a restaurant.

The man invited me to sit down at one of the tables with him, Table #30.   Reluctantly, I did.  He was friendly and asked me many questions.  I was attracted and interested, but also afraid.   As I am in real life, I felt threatened by his interest in me.   But I was willing to get to know him better.  My attraction overrode my wariness.

I admitted to him I was afraid of relationships but that I’d be willing to give one a chance under the right circumstances.   He seemed understanding.

I got up for some reason that I can’t remember and then came back to Table 30.   He was gone.   A woman sitting at a nearby table told me she had seen him leave and drive away.  I was disappointed.  I wondered what I’d done.  I knew I’d never see him again.

I wanted to write this dream down before it fades from my memory, but I haven’t thought about what it could mean yet.    I’m going to mull it over today and if I figure it out, I’ll write another post later.  Right now my brain isn’t working and I just want to go back to bed for a few more hours.

Becoming real.

stone_cat

My subconscious mind seems to be revealing the most to me lately through dreams.

In my last therapy session, I was asked what my true self was really like.   I wasn’t able to answer very well.  I felt like I had to make things up.  Chair Girl is so elusive, and only comes out intermittently.  I know she’s shy and has the potential to be very loving, but sometimes it’s hard for me to capture her essence, who SHE is.

Last night, I had another beautiful dream that answered this for me.

I owned a strange object.   It was a cat made out of black stone.   But it wasn’t actually black stone.   The person who gave it to me explained that this object had once been a real cat, who had been killed during a plane crash (but whose body somehow remained intact) and whose owner, a man from China, had the cat’s body cryogenically frozen and sealed, much like those services that do taxidermy on dead pets and send your pet back to you stuffed and fitted with glass eyes.  But this cat wasn’t stuffed and it didn’t have glass eyes.   It was hard as a rock, heavy, and shone like stone.   Its eyes were sealed shut, forever sleeping.

I loved the cat anyway, and felt sad over what had happened to it.  I  liked to just sit with it and pet it, even though it was no more than an object and could never respond or give back any love.  I sometimes wondered what he had been like, and I named him Max.

One day something very strange happened.  I knew Max had been dead for years.   But on this one day, while I was holding it in my arms, pretending it was a real cat, I heard a small mew.     I looked down and saw that Max was trying to open his eyes.    I almost dropped him in shock, but instead set him down gently on a chair and watched in amazement.   I wasn’t sure what to do.   This was scaring me.  But I was frozen in place.   I couldn’t stop watching.

Max began to transform.   His cold stone body became a beautiful coat of reddish brown tabby fur, and his eyes, now opened, turned from black to brilliant blue.   He started to breathe.  He looked up at me and meowed loudly.  It occurred to me he must be part Siamese, with those blue eyes and loud, raspy voice.

I asked him if he was hungry, and he immediately jumped down and walked regally toward the kitchen, as if he understood what I was asking him.  He kept looking back at me, meowing.  I happened to have some cat food and he ate as if he’d been starving.    My shock having worn off,  I felt love overflowing for this tiny animal.   I picked Max up and held him and listened to him purr contentedly.    He was so tiny but so beautiful and I realized that somehow, it was my love that had woken him up and transformed him back into a living, breathing, loving cat.

One of my favorite stories as a child was The Velveteen Rabbit, and I think it’s because of the universal truth in that story:  that being loved is how one becomes real.

velveteen_rabbit3

Max is the real me.  By learning self-love and self-empathy, she’s waking up and making herself known. She’s becoming real.

Joy.

joy2

I finally saw my therapist after 3 1/2 weeks.   I hadn’t seen him since before Christmas.   It felt like coming home.   In fact, when I saw him I did something uncharacteristic of me: I blurted out, “I MISSED YOU SO FUCKING MUCH!” and ran into his arms like a 6 year old  girl runs into her dad’s arms when he returns home from a long day at work.   He thought that was funny and laughed.  I sat down sheepishly, my face turning red from my outburst.  But he just thanked me for being so open.

We discussed the dream I had a couple of nights ago, the one where I was swimming in the ocean with my mother.   He agrees with me that my mother in the dream wasn’t actually my mother, but the part of me that internalized her critical and disapproving voice — and a lot of her narcissism.

We talked about my nakedness and the fact I was deep underwater — and feeling happy about it.   Nakedness represents my vulnerability, and the ocean is deep emotions.  I was feeling happy being vulnerable and exploring the deep ocean of feeling that I avoided for so long, like  someone who’s afraid of the water and yet desperately wants to just let go of their fear and jump in the deep end.

Because I was swimming with my mother, and she was as naked as I was in the dream (we were both much younger in the dream but were approximately the same age, yet I knew it was my mother) and because I was feeling completely comfortable in her presence, this means that the  self-critical, judgmental, narcissistic part of my personality (which is really my mother’s voice which was internalized) is integrating with the vulnerable child-me.   I had already figured most of this out myself, but his agreeing with me validated what I already knew.

Something even stranger happened yesterday, and it’s directly related to the dream.    I was browsing through one of the Christmas catalogs I always get, preparing to toss them in the recycling.   But one ad caught my eye:  an ad for JOY perfume.   JOY is very expensive — about $80 for a small bottle.   It was always my mother’s favorite fragrance and I remember my dad always bought it for her on her birthday.   I suddenly had a strong desire to purchase a bottle for her for her birthday, which isn’t until August.

I thought it was strange that I had such an idea, because I’m No Contact with my mother and intend to remain that way.   I have no desire to see her, talk to her, or have any dealings with her at all.   For the past few years I haven’t even sent her a gift, just cards on her birthday and Christmas.  Why all of a sudden would I want to send her a bottle of her favorite, and very expensive, perfume?

I told my therapist about this and we talked about it.   I want nothing from her.  Buying her the perfume wouldn’t be to “buy her love,” because I know it would never work, and in fact, I don’t even want to talk to her when she receives it.  I just want to mail it to her and leave it at that.  I expect nothing in return.

I know my mother will cry.   She’s a high spectrum narcissist, but she gets emotional about certain things.   When I was a teenager, she cried all the time, but back then she drank heavily and usually cried when drinking — or when sober, to manipulate or get attention.  She rarely cried from genuine emotion.

But I doubt anyone has given her a bottle of JOY in many years, and I know in my heart that she will cry because it will touch her.  She’s like that.   She’s easily moved to tears when people are unexpectedly kind to her.  I also know that as hateful as she always acted toward me, there’s a part of her that is desperate for my love.   I know she thinks I don’t love her, but that’s not quite true.  I just don’t want to deal with her, because I can’t and because it’s very bad for me.   I love her; I just don’t like her.    I want to do something nice for her.

But I don’t want to see her tears.  I told my therapist I know she will cry if I do this, but I wouldn’t be able to handle her emotional reaction.   He asked me why and I said I didn’t know.   Maybe it’s because her tears are triggering to me because they were so often used in the past to manipulate, or just because I can’t stand to see her out of control.  Maybe seeing her like that makes me feel too vulnerable or is just too embarrassing.    I have no idea why seeing her shed tears of gratitude would make me want to run, but I know it would.   I told him if she called me to thank me, I would avoid the call.   All I want to do is give her something that would mean something to her, because she has had such a sad life and will never escape from her prison of oblivious, un-self aware narcissism.

My therapist said what he saw happening to me was that I was turning something negative and dark into its polar opposite.  From the crucible of narcissism, real affective (not cognitive) empathy is emerging, and that is why I suddenly want to give my mother something that means so much to her, without expecting anything in return.

He told me something else too, and this bothered me a little.   He said when I first started coming to see him over a year ago, I seemed angry and cynical.   I was a little taken aback by that, because I had thought I came across as friendly and funny.   I didn’t realize back then that this was a mask, and apparently the anger I really felt wasn’t that well hidden.  (I’m not a very good narcissist because I’m such a lousy actor, apparently).  It bothered me that I could have been so transparent, but of course it’s his job to see through to my real self.

But he followed that up by admitting he hasn’t been seeing as much anger lately.   Instead, he’s seeing a loving, gentle person emerge, a person who is capable of empathy and love.   I wasn’t even aware this was happening, but he’s seeing it.  I just thought it was weird that I wanted to splurge on a bottle of JOY for my mother, but it really means much more than that, so much more than that.

Hey, Mom, I know you lurk on my other blog. I don’t know if you ever found this one.  But if you did, and you are reading this, YES, you’re getting a bottle of JOY from me for your birthday.   Don’t ask questions; just accept that it’s something I want to do for you. My biggest wish for you is that one day you will become self aware.

Swimming.

underwater_swimming

Photograph by Enric Adrian Gener

 

I have to talk about this dream I had this morning, even though I can’t remember most of it.   It was absolutely beautiful, but I don’t understand it.

All I remember was that I was swimming, as naked as the day I was born, in what seemed to be a shallow sea or a coral reef in some beautiful, tropical place.   I moved like a fish, smoothly and swiftly, completely in the moment.   Feeling completely weightless, I turned somersaults over and over.  I grazed my fingers in the silt-like sand when I dove toward the bottom, and I could feel the weight of the azure water in my palm like a small ball as I moved along.   Schools of thousands of colorful, iridescent fish swam alongside me, glittering in the muted sunlight far above.   I worried about nothing.  I didn’t seem to ever have to come up for air and it seemed like I could just swim like this forever.   I never felt more happy or free.

Here’s the weird thing.  I was swimming with my mother!   That’s right, the same one who emotionally abused me my entire life and who will never change or even become aware of her narcissism.   The one who turned me into a borderline and a narcissist!  Not once have I ever felt comfortable or at ease with this woman and I intend to remain No Contact with her until the day one of us dies.

But in the dream, we were swimming together, and I felt this unconditional love not only for her, but for everyone and everything in the world.    And I felt like she felt the same way as I did, and we just swam together, naked, happy and free.

Maybe she represents the part of myself I’m rejecting, or my narcissistic inner voice that is really my mother’s nagging voice.    Maybe that part of me is learning to love and accept my true self and my mother and I swimming together means some integration is taking place in my soul.

I have to remember to tell my therapist about this dream.  I think it’s important.    I’m so happy I finally get to see him tomorrow, after three very long weeks.  It’s been near-torture not being able to talk to my therapist.

Brain in the blender.

brain_blender

I’ve fallen even deeper into the rabbit hole and my mind feels like someone tossed it in a blender and pushed the “puree” button.  That’s how confused and conflicted I feel at this moment.  So much to process and sort out.  I don’t know if I ever can.  But I must, because failing in this would be worse than death.

I’ve been having some recurring dreams involving my NPD ex.  Each of these dreams involves him being in a new relationship and becoming wildly successful financially.   The first dream I had of its kind I blew off, thinking it couldn’t be that important.   After all, in the dream,  I felt inexplicably jealous.    Since I want nothing to do with him in real life (and have been NC or at least VLC with him for three years)  and could care less if he meets someone new, I dismissed this dream as a fluke. The second dream had me puzzled and a little bothered, but again, I dismissed it.  I can’t stand this guy — where would these jealous feelings be coming from?

But last night I had the third dream.  This one was much more vivid and seemed to be screaming at me to pay attention because it had something very important to tell me.

In the dream, I was sitting in my ex’s brand new corner office.  It was huge, with a floor to ceiling window that overlooked some city-scape far below.   The furniture was expensive  and dark and manly, lots of leather and brass.   And everywhere — on his huge empty mohagany desk, on the bookshelves, on a high credenza — were dozens of priceless glass and crystal sculptures.

He was telling me (arrogantly) his new fiancee whose father owned the company had given him this job — which paid in seven figures.   The photo on his desk showed a beautiful young brunette, smiling hugely with perfect teeth and her perfect hair flying in the wind, the ocean behind her.  Sailing?  Had he been with her on that sailboat?    Had he taken that photo?

How stereotypical: the sailboat, the model-gorgeous girl, the corner office, the perfectly manicured nails, the casual but expensive businesswear.   He looked like an advertisement in GQ.  I almost laughed.  But I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

I was too consumed by envy and rage. I wanted to take a sledgehammer and break that picture, break all of those glittering pieces of glass that were mocking my failure of a life — and break his head while I was at it.  I wanted to go on a rampage and destroy all these things that had come so easily to him, while I still had to struggle at a dead end job to pay for the necessities and would probably remain alone until the day I died.

Hell, I felt like Betty Broderick.

I woke up upset by the dream, because of a truth I’d been avoiding that I could no longer avoid.   Even though there are no chances of this man ever becoming that successful in reality (my ex is a pathetic sociopathic bum living on disability obtained at least in part fraudulently, on my dime, but that’s another story), my intense envy indicated that I was as much of an abuser in my marriage to him as he was to me.   In some ways, perhaps I was even worse.

How could I make such a connection from a dream like that?  After all, he was the one with all the creature comforts and the world laid at his feet, while I had nothing and no one.

But that’s actually the whole point.  It’s my envy and feelings of worthlessness compared to others that fuel my narcissism.  Even during my marriage, even when things were going well for us and he actually worked, it created huge problems.  I was never my husband’s friend and partner; I was always in competition with him.   I couldn’t stand it if he was somehow “more” or got more recognition than I did.   It’s not that I wanted him to be miserable, but I only wanted him happy if I had something to do with it or if that happiness were shared with me.  I couldn’t stand it if he had outside friends, outside interests, recognition from others besides myself, money he’d earned that might not benefit me directly.  And deep down, more than anything else, I feared the possibility that he might leave, and with the means to do so….well, he could.  And why wouldn’t he? What did I have to offer?  No, I’d rather have him hobbled and dependent.

Did I cause him to sink into codependency on me and eventually become entitled and expect me to support him?  Did I make his NPD even worse than it was?   There were always red flags; I saw them in the beginning but I ignored them.  But he wasn’t that bad, not at first.  Did I send him even farther up the N spectrum, into malignancy, because of my own insecurities, my need to peck away at his self esteem so that I could feel more “equal” and less diminished?

“I remember how bitter and painful the envy I felt was.  I couldn’t contain it; even if I tried to hide it, it oozed out of the seams and smeared everything it touched.”

 

I used to hate it whenever he’d have a success of any kind that didn’t have something to do with me or something I had done.    I remember raging and then sulking for days in self pity when he got promoted.  Most wives would have been thrilled.  But not me.  I couldn’t stand it when he got recognition at work and I hadn’t.     I couldn’t stand it when he’d be invited places by friends (even if I was invited along) because I had so few friends.  I knew this wasn’t normal behavior of a wife toward her husband, but I remember how bitter and painful the envy I felt was.  I couldn’t contain it; even if I tried to hide it, it oozed out of the seams and smeared everything it touched.  I didn’t know where this monster came from and had no idea what to do about it.  I knew it was wrong, so wrong, but I couldn’t change the way I felt.  I had no mindfulness tools and would just take out my frustration and envy in passive aggressive and covert ways, such as making snide or cruel remarks, giving the silent treatment, making left-handed “compliments,”  or grousing about how *I* never got any recognition.

He could have left me.  He probably should have left me.   Of course, we were both abusers, abusing each other like partners in some hellish dance.   His abuse of me has been covered extensively in other blog posts, but I never acknowledged (or even realized) how much I abused him.  The abuse I inflicted though, was far more passive aggressive and covert than his was.  I used codependency and helplessness as a way to make myself look more virtuous and more like a victim than I really was.   That doesn’t mean I wasn’t codependent  and didn’t feel helpless; I did, very much so.  But I absolutely believed I was not at fault.     I told myself so many lies I believed they were the truth. I painted this man I had married out to be a monster while I was a helpless victim.  But I was doing my own share of picking away at what little self esteem he might have had.  Neither of us had much, if any at all.

He didn’t leave me because some part of him needed my codependency and helplessness, even though I was never very supportive or empathetic, toggling wildly between borderline rages and sulking, narcissistic depressions.    He knew I was “weaker” and could be forced to do his bidding due to his strength of will and more glib way of communicating.   He was codependent himself, and I think the difficulties I created for him were a convenient excuse for him to self-sabotage, since he never seemed all that interested in being successful anyway.   In many ways, we were mirror images of each other, abuse and codependency intermingling and feeding off each other and reflecting back ever-uglier images.

Subconsciously, I was re-enacting my relationship with my mother, who would never have allowed me to outshine her on any level.    During my childhood, she constantly reminded me how much better she was at everything than everyone else, including me.  “Don’t even try to compare yourself with me,” she would gloat.  “We’re not in the same league.”  I always knew which “league” she had placed me in.   I wasn’t allowed to succeed in anything, was never given any opportunities or encouragement.  My small successes didn’t count.  Yet my failures were punished.  I couldn’t win.  I was a sitting duck.  The only skill I learned to be good at was learned helplessness.

With him, I had become my mother.  I diminished him for any successes the way she diminished me for mine.  But I thought of myself as a nicer person just because I lacked her arrogance, grandiosity, and over the top demands.

I played the learned helplessness skill well.   I learned to play the “victim” and of course I attracted bullies.  My father told me I was bullied because others were jealous of me.  I knew this was bullshit.  But I still internalized that message, and although my self esteem was non-existent, there was a part of me that felt contempt and rage toward those who refused to recognize how special and superior I really was.    I didn’t dare express this though; I hid it behind a mask of meekness and weakness.   Anger wasn’t something I dared show, but I was like a pressure cooker, and every so often I’d blow up and scare the daylights out of everyone around me, including myself.   I think the unexpectedness and intensity of my sudden rages was made them so scary.

I never developed any real skills.  I never finished college. I didn’t stick with anything for long enough to become good at it.  I never had a real career that I didn’t happen to “fall into.”   I’d give up whenever anything became too difficult or proved too much work. I know now that this wasn’t laziness; it was a real fear I had that I might fail.    My motto wasn’t “if at first you don’t succeed…,” it was, ” if you never try, you never fail.”

Even harder to admit is this.  All my life, I’ve surrounded myself with people I regarded as being “less” than myself.   I resented the hell out of anyone who was doing better and would usually avoid them to avoid feelings of envy and shame.   But at the same time, I was filled with contempt for those “underlings” for being the only people I could be around to avoid those feelings of envy and shame.  I felt like I had nothing in common with them and would pretend to be interested to get them to like me and give me the admiration I never seemed to get from anywhere else.   But they were never friends because I didn’t really care about them at all.   I know I must sound like a horrible person.   I feel like a horrible person for admitting this.   Fortunately, I don’t regard people this way anymore, but it’s still difficult for me to be around people who I know are successful in life, even if I don’t actively dislike them the way I used to.    I no longer feel contempt for those who are not successful, but I do feel more comfortable around them than with more successful people.

Narcissism–both my own and that of those closest to me–has ruined my life.   It was my narcissism that kept me from applying myself and succeeding in anything.   It was my narcissism that kept me constantly comparing myself with others, even my own husband, and feeling diminished if they outshone me in something.  Which meant they weren’t allowed to shine at all, because I didn’t shine.   It was my narcissism that kept me locked in a toxic cycle of mutual abuse and codependency.  It was my narcissism that kept me so closed off from anyone else and emotionally stunted.

“I wanted them to be happy there, down at the bottom of the barrel, with me.    Anything else would mean I’d lose them…”

 

I also realized something else.  Since I’ve mostly identified myself as a victim and not as a narcissist myself, I always thought the reason I avoided relationships was to avoid the possibility of falling in with another abuser.  And while that’s true,  it’s not the whole story. I also avoid relationships because I don’t want to hurt anyone and I’m afraid I still could.

I never wanted to hurt anyone.  I never thought I was an abuser.  I was horrified at the idea I could ever be one.   Even when I knew I was hurting those I loved (and often I didn’t know), it wasn’t because I wanted to see them in pain.   It was a compulsion to relieve my own pain of “not belonging” or being “less than” by bringing them down to “my level.”  I wanted them to be happy there, down at the bottom of the barrel, with me.    Anything else would mean I’d lose them, and losing anyone was the same as death to me.

Narcissism is the gift that keeps on giving.  It’s going to stop with me.  But, as much as I want to hate that part of me that brought others down to make myself feel better, I know hatred–especially toward myself–won’t work. It was self-hatred that got me here.   The only way out of this mess is fostering compassion (NOT the same as self pity!) for the wounded child within.    I’m working on it, but it’s going to take awhile.  Right now, I just feel like my brain’s been through the blender.

2 childhood dreams and a spot-on interpretation.

steel_wool

Once in a while, it takes someone who doesn’t know you well or at all to be able to see things the way they really are.

Last night, on my other blog, Lucky Otters Haven, I posted an essay about two weird dreams I had as a young child. All these years, I never thought of them as much more than those random, humorous dreams that all kids have (and maybe, in part, that is all they are).

But a commenter on that other blog who is familiar with my background (from reading my background story and other posts there) offered an interpretation that just sort of hit me upside the head with its accuracy. It just felt right.

Here was the post I wrote about the two dreams:

I was a weird, sketchy kid who had weird dreams. When I was about 5 I had a dream about something called a “clout” that looked like an oversized steel wool pad. It was sitting on the small rug in front of my bed and I was too scared to put my feet on the floor because that clout thing was evil. It just sat there on the rug, in all its black malevolence, not moving, but I knew it was alive and meant to kill me.   I knew if I put my feet on the floor the clout would suck me down into the Hell-portal it must have come from.

When I was around  the same age, one morning I woke up doubled over with laughter.   My dad asked me why I was laughing, and I remember saying, “someone was throwing mud at my door.”   I pointed to the door of my room and globs of gooey mud were sliding down its painted surface. I couldn’t stop shrieking with mirth.   I kept pointing but he couldn’t see the mud and told me to stop making things up.  “Look!  Look! There! There!” I screamed in frustration, but I was still laughing.   Then I woke up for real and was almost afraid if I looked at the door, mud would be on it. I was really awake this time, so there wasn’t. Relieved, I went downstairs for my Cap’n Crunch and orange juice.

mudsplat

Here is the interpretation the commenter (Little Shepherd Girl) wrote in the replies (the comment has been edited):

If I was to venture a guess Clout was the mental disorders, the sharp tangles that afflicted your family. The mud was how the dark side was going to smear you with it and smear you, but you were laughing because you knew it wouldn’t work. It would slide right off.

GOD held you safe in the palm of His hand all along. In childhood we fear evil but also know trust. I think Heaven is blissful trust and a ground ecstatic True Reality free of all anxiety.

I think she nailed what both of these dreams were really about.  The tangled steel wool pad-thing definitely represents the toxicity of my family and probably also represents the state my mind was in — already hopelessly knotted and tangled and full of sharp edges.      Ages four and five were around the time I began to dissociate (something my mother hated and caused her to call me “spooky” and angrily order me to snap out of it) and become symptomatic in other ways suggestive of a child developing an attachment disorder.

It was evident to most people that something wasn’t right with me.   I remember sitting in the family room in our split level house banging my head against the wall and telling my mother who was screaming at me to stop that I was doing it because it felt good (she probably cared more about damage to the wall than to my head).   I think doing this was actually a way of distracting myself from the evil that was beginning to infect my mind from the toxic family atmosphere.  Maybe I was trying to drive out the “demons,” who knows?  All I know is it was a compulsion and I couldn’t NOT do it.   I was also beginning to show signs of being unable to regulate my emotions appropriate for my age level and not adjusting well in peer situations.

But even that far back,  some thing inside me knew I was going to be okay in the end.   I never lost my sense of humor or sense of hope.

Maybe those are the things that kept me from crossing the line into malignancy or sociopathy.

Part Two: My HeartSync experience, including The Dream.

aqueduct3
Watching the sunrise off the back porch of the main building.

Part One described how HeartSync works and the theories behind it, so I won’t get into that much in this post, which is more about my personal experience.

This post describes the intense cathartic experience I had on the second full day, so there’s no need to describe that again.  However, that experience–which was both excruciating and awesome–opened me up to some odd and wonderful new discoveries about myself to come in the following few days.

First of all, the place where the HeartSync seminar was being held, at the Aqueduct Conference Center in Chapel Hill, NC, reminded me of a classy sleep-away camp.     It was basically a compound tucked deep in the woods consisting of a large rustic main house  (with all the modern conveniences) where all meals were served and where the bookstore and offices and general recreation areas were located;  and two smaller “cottages” each with a large living room with a fireplace and a kitchenette.  Each cottage (which were quite large) could house up to 16 people.    Gravel walkways connected the buildings to each other and also to the parking lot down at the bottom for easy access.

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There were four full days of training, starting on Monday morning at 9 AM after breakfast and ending at about 5 PM.  Lunch was served at 12:30 and was for an hour.   The food was excellent, much better than camp food (in spite of the camp-like feel of the place).

I was nervous about meeting Kate, the woman I had never heard of until two weeks previously, who first told me about HeartSync and so kindly offered to pay for me to attend.

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Knowing she was more well off than I was made me afraid my feelings of envy or inferiority might be triggered or get the best of me again, but what happened was only some slight envy that nearly disappeared by the last day.  Kate and I got along great and she seemed to like me as much as I liked her, and even told me so.  (That gave me a little more confidence about associating with people who “I perceive” to have more than/be more “successful” socially or financially than I am.)

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Each day was divided into two parts:  Learning, in which we read over the materials, watched audiovisual presentations, and listened to Father Andrew Miller (who developed HeartSync) lecture.    He’s a riveting and lively speaker, who is very good at engaging everyone’s attention.

The material is emotionally intense and can be very triggering (as well as extremely spiritual and often you feel touched or moved by the presence of the Holy Spirit) that it’s easy to get emotional even during the “classroom lecturing.”   Even though I didn’t actually get “HeartSynch’d” (there are separate seminars for those and there are people trained in this who can work with you individually), it’s still extremely powerful stuff and you walk away a changed person with a whole new insight into yourself.

There are exercises you are taught (such as the Immanuel Approach) and other prayer methods that you can do on yourself that help you release trauma and re-synchronize some of your “core parts.”   I was shocked by how well these techniques work, but I think the spiritual aspect and connection with God has a lot to do with that.     You have to be careful though.   A complicated resynchronization or a full self-resynchronization should never be attempted without a trained practitioner present.

Each afternoon after lunch, we’d gather back in the meeting room to watch a live demonstration (for a total of four)– a “guinea pig” was picked out of the group to be given a 2 hour live Heart Sync session by Father Andrew.   They’d both sit up in front in comfortable armchairs, and Father Andrew would start asking them questions.   It was fascinating to watch these; they were just like watching therapy sessions, which of course they were–only Jesus was invited in to intercept between the “client” and the therapist.

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View of the back porch of the main building at sunrise, looking back toward the building.

Two men and two women got to be guinea pigs (I didn’t because I didn’t sign the list to volunteer — I’m nowhere near ready to be given therapy and possibly cry in front of 50 people!).  All four had emotional/cathartic breakdowns (intense crying), followed by a feeling of cleansing/healing/lightness, and even laughter.   Their faces changed from the beginning to the end, seeming to attain a sort of inner glow .  In two cases they appeared years younger.  Certain of their issues were resolved, and their faith in God was strengthened too.

Watching these was both fascinating and emotional.   I found myself becoming extremely empathetic, feeling the emotions of these four people as if they were my own, laughing and crying with them.    That’s never happened to me before.    But that all happened to me after my own emotional meltdown, which is described in the linked post in the second paragraph of this post.

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Sunrise on the last morning, just before leaving to return home.   It was like leaving summer camp.

The last night, which was Thursday, was not followed by dinner as usual, since so many people were going home that night (Kate and I stayed through until Friday morning since I cannot drive at night) but was followed by an outdoor liturgical service held on the large back porch of the main building, in which Communion was given.   Hymns and camp-like worship songs, and a few Christmas carols were sung,  and a lot of people hugged and tears were shed.   By then, I was pretty much out of tears and my eyes remained dry.   But the whole feel of the event reminded me of those poignant last nights of summer camp, when everyone is singing camp songs around a crackling fire, there’s a crisp undertone of fall in the evening air,  and there’s an unspoken knowledge that you may never see any of these people again once they load onto the buses or cars that will come for them first thing in the morning.

These kind of moments–where our paths cross briefly but intimately, like passengers at train stations or airports who confess their most cherished secrets to each other precisely because they are basically strangers who will soon be on opposite sides of the country or even the world and will never meet again — are always so lovely and bittersweet.

Afterwards, Kate, me, and three older attendees (who are all HeartSync practitioners in the Chapel Hill area) went out to a nearby Mexican restaurant in Carrboro.   I didn’t contribute much to the lively conversation; I was too exhausted, and when we returned, I conked out very soon after getting back to our room.

*****

The Dream

I woke up from a dream this morning which did not fade away upon awakening the way my dreams normally do.

It started with me finding myself at my own wedding.  I wasn’t sure who the groom was, and I remember feeling slightly apprehensive about this second marriage (having been married to an abuser in my first one).   I don’t remember if the groom had a face–I couldn’t even identify who he could be — but I was going through with this and was nervous and only slightly excited.

I looked down at my shoes under my white skirts and noticed they were black.  I took them off and put on a pair of white shoes.

Then I met my guests, including a sour-faced school-marmish looking woman who looked me up and down disapprovingly.   She looked like she’d been sucking on Atomic Fire Balls or lemon wedges without sugar.   I didn’t know who she was, but somehow I knew I knew her intimately and she was a very important guest.   Her cooperation meant everything.

I asked her why she looked so disapproving.  She just said she never liked me much or thought I liked her much, and was afraid that this time, we still wouldn’t get along because we hadn’t gotten along the first time.   (I’m not sure what “this time” or “that other time” referred to but I think it means “now” and “before I changed.”)

But she reluctantly agreed to try, and I remember shaking her hand and feeling its papery, cool, callousy skin.   She wasn’t the type you’d hug, but her agreement “to try” meant the world to me and meant I could get on with this wedding.

My Interpretation.

I think the emotional release I experienced on Tuesday prepared me for this dream, which I think involved one of my main Guardians (the disapproving school-marm) agreeing to change their role in my life from one of negative judgment to a more positive one, but who was not able to do this until after a lot of the corresponding childhood trauma behind that Guardian’s creation  (abandonment, feeling inferior, unworthy, and incompetent) was released.   I think this Guardian is the same one I previously called The Judge.

This Guardian’s role in my life had been to defend me against having to take risks that might lead to me feeling the pain of failure or rejection.  She did this by criticizing my competence or just throwing out all the negative reasons why such a thing shouldn’t or couldn’t be done. She was basically an internalization of my mother’s nagging, disapproving voice.  This Guardian was negative, judgmental, punishing, disapproving — an old lady with a pinched, mean face — generally not someone anyone would like much.

When I released all that emotion on Tuesday, it had been triggered by old feelings of worthlessness, incompetence, and the certainty that I would be eventually rejected by everyone, all coming to the surface at once.    The emotional release lessened the charge of the underlying trauma just enough to allow the presentation of this Guardian (in the dream), who had already kindly stepped aside long enough for the underlying trauma to be released.  Now she was finally showing herself to me, and agreed (although reluctantly) to try to cooperate with me in this “new marriage”, which I think represents a merging of one part of myself with another.  (I’m not sure which parts though).

The changing of the black shoes to white ones seems obvious enough – changing from a dark and negative way of thinking to one with more lightness and joy.   Also “being in the shoes of” a person about to merge with someone else for life.  But that other “person”–the one I was marrying– seemed mysterious and unknowable.  But the disapproving Guardian provided a clue:  by deciding to cooperate with me “this time,” this seemed to mean she would try to stop being so critical of me (remember, she had told me we never got along).  This seemed to indicate to me that this Guardian was about to “flip her role” from one of negative judgment to one of wise discernment; that in my new marriage (to myself) she would stop being so critical and making me afraid to take any risks, and instead allow me to proceed forward and take a few smart risks, heeding her wisdom instead of her fear (the wisdom of better choices being made possible by faith in God). So the “other me” that I was marrying is the more competent, functional, confident Me who isn’t afraid to take some calculated risks, which includes reaching out more to others without fearing judgment, derision, or rejection.

Dream tsunami.

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I just woke from an interesting dream.   I’m going back to sleep after I write this (I had to take a “mental health” day today), but I don’t want to forget it so I’m writing this now.

I’ve often dreamt about tidal waves, tornadoes and tsunamis.   I know these things represent my sometimes overwhelming emotions that seem to want to pulverize me.  Somehow in these dreams, I always survive them — or wake up.

In this dream, I was on a boat — maybe a cruise ship, I’m not sure.   It was very spontaneous.   I hadn’t planned to be on this conveyance, and was excited to going to wherever I was going.    I was talking to some older woman in one of the rooms, who was showing me a lot of old family pictures.  I wasn’t dressed or made up, then I looked out the window and saw people walking by on the beach outside laughing.    Because I was on a boat, I don’t know how that was possible but it was.

I decided to get dressed and go outside and join the fun.   Instead, I wound up in some food court where lunch was being served.    My table mate was none other than President Obama!  We just chatted like old friends — not about politics, just about the weather and other mundane things.  I wasn’t particularly impressed that I was sitting at a table with the president, talking to him; he was just a nice stranger.

At some point I turned around and looked toward the sliding glass doors behind me that led to the deck and couldn’t believe what I saw.    A smooth black wall of water, maybe hundreds of feet high, was headed directly toward us!  Because I was on a boat in open water, there was nowhere to run.   Obama looked too but didn’t seem scared.  He told me to put my head down, which I did.  I tried to relax and took deep breaths, bracing myself for the onslaught and certain death.   I prayed that Jesus would take me to Heaven.   I asked him to forgive me for my sins and lack of faith sometimes.  I kept breathing and trying to relax, but nothing happened.

Cautiously, I looked up and turned around.    The ocean outside was choppy as if after a storm, but otherwise looked normal!

“What happened to the tsunami?” I asked Obama.  He just shrugged.  I went back to eating and making plans for the day.

*****

This dream was different from my other tidal wave dreams for several reasons.

  1.  I didn’t wake up.
  2.  The danger passed without me waking up.
  3. I turned to God for protection.
  4. I didn’t panic.

I think this says a lot about my emotional growth.   The wave represents my emotions, but I have control of them now, and sometimes, things don’t turn out to be nearly as terrible as I expected them to.   Turning to God in moments of crisis can pull me through, as does mindfulness things like deep breathing.

It’s interesting about Obama.  I think he was there because this particular tsunami represents my emotional turmoil in the wake of this election.   Maybe he represents calmness to me.

Absurd dream that made me angry and then laugh.

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I dreamed about my stupid narcopath ex again.   I don’t know why I keep dreaming about him because I never actually think about him and no longer care about him.  My primary “emotion” toward him is slightly annoyed indifference.  I don’t even feel much anger anymore.  Just boredom. Honestly, if he were killed in a car accident tomorrow, I doubt I’d care that much, except for the impact it would have on our kids.  He’s like a stranger to me, one I’m glad I have almost nothing to do with.

In these dreams, he’s always doing better than me and I resent the hell out of it because I think he’s so undeserving and an insufferable ass who deserves to be deprived instead of me. I know that makes me sound like the narcissist instead of him, but it’s the truth.  These feelings come out in my dreams.  Here’s the latest.

In the dream, the knob on my ancient stove (the real one I actually have) stopped working.  The white paint that spelled the numbers and the “OFF” were long rubbed off, but I had still been able to tell if it was off or on because of the little “click” when I turned it that told me it was off.  But the knob kept spinning in place and wouldn’t click.  Something seemed to be broken or loose.

I don’t know what kind of place we were in.  There were all these strange people walking around, like it was the middle of a public hallway somewhere.  So here I was, sitting on the floor in the middle of this hallway, with all these strangers walking back and forth, angrily fuming and fiddling with the broken stove knob.   I knew I couldn’t afford to buy a new stove, or even have the thing repaired.

My ex was over in another corner, with all his new toys, like it was Christmas morning or something.   He had TWO new coffeemakers (why?), a set of brand new dishes, an ice cream maker, a deep fryer, an espresso maker, a juicer, and an expensive food processor.   Their boxes and packaging were strewn nearby.   I went over to ask him to help me with the stove knob, and that’s when I saw all his new kitchen loot.   I was enraged and jealous.

“Where the HELL did you get all that new stuff? TWO coffee makers?  Why would you need TWO goddam coffeemakers? Who the hell NEEDS two coffeemakers?”  I yelled, outraged.

He ignored me.   That enraged me even more.

“Where did you get the money to buy all that crap, HUH? Who you freeloading off of this time?” I demanded. “I know you didn’t EARN it!”  He continued to act like I wasn’t there.

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“Maybe you STOLE it!” I accused.   I thought of all the times he had stolen money out of my wallet while I slept.  Or the time recently when he stole the money my daughter had been saving to move to her own apartment.

Blood roared in my head.  “NO ONE NEEDS TWO FRIGGIN’ COFFEEMAKERS!”  I screamed.

Did I expect him to give me one?  Maybe I did.  I wasn’t sure.   All I knew was that this injustice made my blood boil. This POS who had freeloaded off me for seven years so he could get disability and never have to work a day in his life again had two brand new coffeemakers and a bunch of other useless kitchen crap that he’d probably never use.  And I had nothing but a broken stove and bills I couldn’t pay.

I looked around.  The people walking back and forth ignored us.  They might as well have not heard me yelling.  Maybe they didn’t hear me.   I didn’t care if they did or not.  I was beyond niceties.

I fixed my gaze back on the narcopath. I imagined my eyes were two laser beams boring into his blackened soul. “Hey! I need you to help me fix my stove.  The knob is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.  And unlike YOU, I can’t afford to buy a new stove or have it fixed.  So I need your help if you can tear yourself away from your new toys long enough to come have a look.”

He continued to open his packages, pulling styrofoam out of another box.  Maybe it was a third coffeemaker.    His two coffeemakers sat side by side on the floor, taunting me.  I felt like drop kicking them into the wall.  I glared balefully at them instead.    Those innocent hunks of plastic and brushed chrome represented everything I hated about this man.

“Hey.  I’m talking to YOU.   I need you to help me with my stove.”   I had the broken knob in my hand.  I shoved it in his face so he would look.  He still ignored me.  What the hell was his problem?   I looked back to where the stove had been, but I didn’t see it.   I wasn’t too concerned.  After all, this was a dream and as far as I was concerned, the stove was still there.

I asked people around if they had seen the stove.  I showed them the knob.  No one had seen it.  Strange.  But I still knew it was there.    I walked back over to where my ex sat and continued my tirade and demands.   I wanted him to suffer.

“Well, you insufferable ass. Since you refuse to help and continue to give me the silent treatment, I want one of those damn coffeemakers,” I said.   He was still ignoring me.

I woke up and laughed.   What a ridiculous, absurd dream.  What an complete entitled bitch I had been in it too.  Narcopath or not, no one deserved to be treated the way I treated him in the dream. I would never actually behave that way in real life.   But in the dream itself, I was really mad and couldn’t control my rage and envy.  I don’t really know why, unless I’m still harboring anger toward him.  Or maybe just anger in general.

Strange dream about my ex.

I had a strange dream about my ex.   In it, he had gotten his life together and actually had a job and making his own money.   He met a very young woman in her 20s and they fell in love and he started flaunting their relationship making sure I knew about it.  (I didn’t care much).

It turned out she was a singer, and he discovered he could sing too (he can’t).   They made a demo together and he wrote a big message on a wall: “we are entertainers now.”

Then he wrote a tell-all book about his life, painting me as the abuser.

I haven’t thought much about what this means yet.   It doesn’t seem that important but maybe it is.

Other than that, my depression has lifted a little.