Disclaimer: A Message About the Language of Metaphors in Dreams About Sexual Abuse

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland
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September 29, 2018

Yesterday a post which was written last September in 2017 was published on this blog. For those unfamiliar with the language of metaphor used by dreams to communicate messages about transformation, the dream described in yesterday’s post may have seemed appalling, maybe even scandalous. The post is no longer visible on this website, but for those who did not have the chance to read it, in the 18 hours it was published, I’ll briefly describe that the dream had a scene of sexual abuse in it, with a mother sexually violating her daughter. Some might call that kind of dream a nightmare. These kinds of nightmarish dreams are one of my favourites to work with because they embody a high degree of fear & disgust. With daily attention and diligence, Fear & disgust can be transformed into Courage & Contentment.

Even though the dream scenario was a metaphor and to the best of my knowledge did not depict things which happened in the real world, the reason I decided to publish it is to initiate a conversation through this venue around the complex issues of sexual abuse of children and the society of secrecy which surrounds it.

adult alone anxious black and white
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Coincidentally, there was a show on CBC yesterday which I listened to while driving to work. The show featured an author who was originally from South Africa, and moved to Canada with her family when she was 10. Her book talks about her experience of racism and also of having been sexually abused by someone close to her family. What I found so interesting about her telling of these stories is that she said even when she was sexually assaulted at the age of 7 she knew to keep it a secret. She knew to speak of it would bring shame to her and “mark her” as tainted or spoiled in some way. When she experienced a racist incident at 10 she knew she could turn to her family for help and support. Instinctively she knew the difference between these two types of attacks and way her reaching out for help would be perceived. In the program she described that her father, an outspoken revolutionary, taught her to “not own” the problems of the racist. If someone is ignorant and acts out of a racist mindset, they must be held accountable for their actions. In that way, you give them their problem and do not own it.

But for sexual assaults, it is not so easy to disown the violence. Even as a child she knew to keep it a secret, that the man would not be held responsible, even if she reached out for help and in that way, she sort of “owned” his assault. She owned the problem. It wasn’t hers to own, but she did, because what other options were available to her? None.

The dream I shared yesterday was about this issue. It was about an adult in a position of trust manipulating those in the environment so that she could get away with violating the dignity of someone who she perceived she had power over. When a person perpetrates sexual assault they are trying to go for Power, power over the recipient of the attack, power over those who watch but do nothing, power over the situation which they want to control with a vengeance.

Since the dream was a metaphor, and not about a real life situation, what it means is that the dreamer has someone in their life who is saying things and doing things which are as violent and abhorrent as sexual abuse. To solve the problem in the dream, the dreamer must begin to see themselves as capable of driving the situation forward, out of the power struggle. The sexual assault happened in a car in the dream so that is a metaphor for the solution to drive forward and out of the power struggle.

photo of person driving
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When I work with women who have experienced domestic violence and when I work with men who are in jail, I often see that the violence they’ve experienced or perpetuated has clouded their abilities to envision a positive future for themselves or others. Trauma has a way of doing this. The part of the brain responsible for responding quickly to threats is the small almond-shaped amegdala, which connects the temporal lobe of the brain and is responsible for fear & aggression. When someone experiences a high degree of fear, the amegdala is activated and a flight or fight or freeze response is triggered. One traumatic event is enough to rewire the brain’s fight or flight response but even more so when there is a pattern of abuse, such as with children growing up in abusive homes, or with women (and men) caught in domestically abusive patterns of behaviour in adulthood.

The work for someone who experienced abuse in childhood is to become conscious and “wake up” to the ways in which the abuse affected them and then change the negative emotions and patterns to more positive. It is more difficult work because many of the abuse scenarios may have happened before the age of 4 and are not a part of the individual’s conscious memories. This is why dreams can be very healing and therapeutic, because the dreams reveal the unconscious memories or fears which have been buried away for so many years.

Alternatively, if a person had not experienced abuse in childhood but had experienced it as an adult, their nightmares can be a direct result of that fear-filled experience and as they work through the metaphors they can process the negative emotions associated with the violence and they can take the lesson from the experience and develop themselves to be able to help others even more than before. The purpose of our lives is to continue to transform, to grow, to change, to evolve so that we can be ever-more capable of supporting and accompanying more and more people in their personal & collective evolution.

When the sexual abuse post was published yesterday there was not a lot of explanation about the metaphor so today I thought I would write more about it even though I am fully aware that our society is just at the very beginning of being able to speak of these atrocities with any degree of capacity. The “Me Too” movement has made great strides in this arena so in a small and trite way I’m addressing the issue of sexual abuse and the way it is handled by all parties through occasionally sharing violent dreams on this blog.

adventure baby beautiful blue eyes

  I have a very positive vision of the future where families are healthy and free of violence, where children are safe & protected and free from threats of all forms of abuse. When I write about things which are negative or difficult in nature, I do it to expose the Negative Truth. In this way, the lesson can be learned and more positive relationships can be developed. That is my aim. That is my intention. That is my goal. And that is the purpose of this blog.

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