I don’t usually talk or write much about sex. Yet I feel compelled to share this disturbing dream.
Dream #4518: The Suspicious Little Girl: I’m staying at a house with other people. A noise wakes me up at night. Someone is opening the door. An eleven-year-old girl who feels familiar is sleeping beside me. Fearing a man is sneaking in to kidnap her, I wrap my arms protectively around her. The shadowy figure of a woman stands by the bed looking shocked. She thinks I might be a child molester! I’m appalled. The next day we’re in a roomful of people when the girl asks me suspiciously, “What was last night all about?” I’m confused. I say defensively, “Darling, someone came into our room in the middle of the night! I was trying to protect you!” Nobody says anything. I sense their suspicion.”
The girl is near the age I was when my father died. As I work with the dream’s images three experiences from that time rise to my awareness. The first is a dream in which the Lone Ranger shot me. I’ve since learned that for girls who lack the protection of a strong, vigilant mother, such a dream can express a budding awareness of her vulnerability to male predators.
The next summer a girl at church camp told me about rape. After that I saw predators everywhere. One day at a church outing in a state park, a friend and I were walking through the forest when an older boy we knew called out to us from the bottom of a wooded ravine, “Come here. I want to show you something.” Terrified that he wanted to expose himself or worse, I raced back to the safety of the group, leaving Sylvia far behind.
The third happened one afternoon when I was home alone. The phone rang and a man asked for my mother. When I told him she wasn’t home, he said, “You’ll do!” Then he described what he would do to me when he came over. I raced to my neighbor’s house where I stayed until my mother came home from work. I never felt safe in that house again.
I see the suspicious girl in my dream as the sensitive and innocent part of me that was traumatized by these events. My dream ego’s assumption that the intruder was a man illustrates the power experiences like this have to create lasting bias in young minds. And my instinct to protect the girl is equally strong in my waking life. The woman who was the actual intruder feels like a largely unconscious (night) aspect of my maternal instinct which suspects predatory agendas in adults who are overly intimate with other people’s children. The group of adults (collective) who were suspicious of me the next day suggest the shared suspicion of female sexuality pervading Western culture…the Salem witch hunts come to mind. And my dream ego’s disbelief and defensiveness about their suspicion suggests some unconscious guilt about my female sexuality.
I recently read a comment by a woman who sees nothing good about men and truly believes the world should have an entire country closed to them so women can live without fear. I was shocked by her vehement one-sidedness, but this dream illustrates how dysfunctional male sexuality can wound a girl to the point that she acquires disdain for all males. My first inkling of this possibility occurred at twelve. I was wandering through a drugstore when I saw a boy staring at me, peeking around the ends of the aisles, “stalking” me in an innocent boyish way. An innocent part of me was flattered, but a wounded part was more powerful. When he finally walked past me with a flirty, “Hello Cutie,” I said, “Hello Ugly.”
Ow. Ow. Ow. How could I have been so mean? Yet I felt totally justified. For a moment that poor boy represented everything about maleness that felt overwhelmingly threatening. When I told my mother about it, I expected her to be proud of my pluck, but to my surprise she seemed shocked by my cruelty. The fact that I assumed she’d approve tells me I had unconsciously absorbed part of this attitude from her. Having never dealt with her own male-inflicted wounds, she passed them on to me.
Working on the above dream was disturbing, but then I re-read the following forgotten one from the previous night:
Dream #4517: The Besotted Young Man. A lovely young man of whom I’m very fond, (no one from my waking life), has been following me around. He sneaks up behind me in the kitchen of a big house where we’re staying. When I turn around to see who’s there, he surprises me with an awkward kiss. I enjoy the moment, then step back to look at him. His handsome face is red and intense with emotion. “Do you think it’s time we had sex?” he asks with hopeful innocence. Not wanting to hurt my husband or him, I smile and gently caress his arm. “No, dear boy. I don’t.” He takes this well, as if it is what he expected.
This dream is a contemporary remake of my youthful waking experience in the drugstore. People go to drugstores for remedies to mental and physical wounds. My cruelty to the young “stalker” was a symptom of a psychic wound inflicted by toxic masculinity and I needed a remedy. A kitchen is a room where people gather to nourish body and soul. My dream says I feel no need to be cruel to this young “stalker.” In fact, my greatest concern is not to hurt him.
As dream #4518 shows the parts of me that are still infected by the shadow of masculinity, this dream depicts the healing difference inner work can make.
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