For countless generations throughout history, even in the Bible, people have believed that God (or gods) spoke to them in dreams foretelling the future and how they should prepare for whatever is coming.
Freud and Jung believed that our subconscious was talking to us via our dreams and I think that may very well be true. I look back at various dreams I’ve had that were “disturbing” enough to me that I can remember them over 60 years later. I think there were messages for me in those dreams that looking back I think came from my subconscious, letting me know that there was something troubling me that I either didn’t recognize in the waking state, or didn’t want to believe was true if I did recognize it.
After the plane crash that killed my husband and during the worst of my PTSD symptoms, I had what I call “frustration” dreams that had a theme to them, though the dreams themselves were always different. I called them “theme” dreams.
In the series of dreams on a nightly basis I was trying to accomplish some task but would stop doing that in order to ‘save” something or someone that was helpless, while my own life fell apart. The dreams were very symbolic and I talked to my counselor about them and we both said at the same instant “enabling!” And I think the message for me was that while it might be “noble” to save some kittens from drowning, or some old lady who was lost, to do that while at the same time allowing my own welfare to crash was not smart. Kind of like people who cannot swim but jump into a raging torrent to try to save someone who is drowning, and lose their own life in the process while not accomplishing saving the first person who is drowning.
I remember a story from the summer of 1981 when I was visiting Yellowstone Park and walking along the boardwalks between the “hot pots” of molten mud, and the ranger told us about a man who had jumped into a pot off the board walk the day before to try to save some woman’s dog that had fallen into the pot. He was instantly “cooked” to death and of course, even before he jumped in, the dog was beyond saving.
While I have recognized enabling in the case of others, I found it very hard to see it in myself, and I think those dreams were my awakening to my own enabling behaviors, not just with Patrick but with others in my life too. Once I had become AWARE of the “message” in the dreams, they stopped and I haven’t been troubled much by “disturbing” dreams since then.
What brought all this thinking about the “messages” in dreams to my mind was the last several nights I have again had “disturbing” dreams in which something went wrong…in one dream Patrick had gotten out of prison, and I realized my (Late) husband had paid a fine so he could get out, and I was very ANGRY at him for doing so. The next two nights were also “disturbing” dreams, and last night, I was ANGRY all night at several people (no one I actually knew, just someone in the dream) who had destroyed the inside of my house and property through malice and neglect.
In thinking about why I am so angry in these dreams at what someone else is doing to me, I think there is a “message” there about something in my subconscious that is bothering me, but haven’t yet figured out what it is.
We tend to “remember” dreams more when we are awakened in the middle of or at the end of the dream, whereas if we sleep through the entire cycle we don’t remember dreaming on awakening. Since my dog wakes me up in the morning to go out (and she IS persistent!) any dream I am having at the time she wakes me I tend to remember, and if I kind of “go over the plot” in my mind, I can remember it for quite a few days afterward, or at least parts of it.
While I eventually saw the “theme” in the dreams about enabling and it helped me to change my thinking and my behavior and realizing that sacrificing myself in order to try to protect someone or something else that can’t be saved I am not living in a healthy way.
Standing in front of your child if someone is shooting a gun at them, knowing you are likely to be killed, but hoping to save your child is NOT “enabling” but sacrifice. Sacrifice is a noble thing, it is putting the welfare of someone else in front of your own. But to continually try to “help” others who don’t want or appreciate your “help” at the expense of yourself is not sacrifice, but enabling.
Our dreams I think should be listened to, not as some precursor of what is going to happen tomorrow or fortune-telling, but as voices deep within our psyches that are trying to alert us to something going on below our conscious level that we need to find out what it is and “fix” it.
We can’t “fix” others, but we can “fix” ourselves, but we need to become aware of WHAT the problem is.