The day before yesterday, as soon as I woke, I wrote down the emotions crowding that night’s dream. For the first time in years, this included some positive feelings alongside the usual negatives, although this blog will mainly focus on the negatives:
Negatives: Feeling unacceptable, disliked, rejected, ashamed, unloved, unlovable, a failure, vulnerable, insecure.
Positives: Briefly feeling wanted, joyful, loving, connected with a person, connected with an animal.
A learning opportunity
Dreams are a learning opportunity. Writing down the emotions they generate enables me to connect with aspects of myself it would be much more comfortable to ignore, deny, or suppress.
As I began to pray, I saw that the emotions experienced during my dream were showing me how I feel about myself. Then I understood that throughout my life a lot of my waking behaviour and sense of self have been driven by the negative emotions listed above.
The origins of my fear and insecurity
The feelings I typically experience during dreams have their origins in my relationship with my mother. As a child, I had no way of understanding them or putting them into words. I instinctively concealed them, because expressing them in any way risked incurring my mother’s criticism, anger and punishment. It was made crystal clear that I was a burden, so, unsurprisingly, I grew up feeling deeply unacceptable to others.
However, I couldn’t hide the effect this had on me. My distress was revealed by behaviours I couldn’t control, including tears, anxiety, fears, lack of confidence, recurrent nightmares, headaches, stress, perfectionism, bed-wetting and sleepwalking.
As I got older, the origin of my fears was buried far beyond conscious awareness. However, my damaged sense of self continued to fester in my unconscious mind, surfacing as panic attacks which seemed to come out of the blue. Anxiety, agoraphobia, claustrophobia and depression went on to dominate my life for many years, until I eventually started to get effective help.
My emotional framework
I see now that all my dreams essentially reveal how I have come to feel about myself as a result of how I was treated as a child. My negative experiences formed the foundation of my adult self-image.
However, alongside this realisation I’m beginning to glimpse that perhaps my feelings about myself don’t actually belong to me at all; they may simply be how I was made to feel when I was young. Hopefully, more will be revealed in the coming days.
Meanwhile, I haven’t forgotten those rare, positive emotions experienced during my dream. These have given me hope that if my unconscious mind, and therefore my dreams, can change, perhaps my conscious sense of who and what I am can change as well.
So, after that long introduction, here is today’s prayer:
Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).
Thank you, Lord God,
With all my heart,
For the secret riches
You give me
From the darkness
Of my unconscious mind.
Through Jesus’ name.
I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches (Isaiah 45:3; NLT).