The storm of the #MeToo phenomenon has certainly stirred up the status quo. Many have been and are continuing to come out of the closet to admit to abusive sexual experiences that had been quietly swept under the rug for many years. Although much of the #MeToo publicity has centered around those in the limelight, there have been millions of ordinary people tweeting their own cries of #MeToo. And despite controversies around exacerbating false accusations, this movement is casting a needed light of awareness onto societal shadows.
#MeToo has given people a place to be heard and seen. Finding space to begin to speak the unspeakable is in line with the intent of the original ‘me too’ movement created by Tarana Burke, back in 2006 when hashtags weren’t yet a thing.
There are ordinary people that are beginning to crack open doors to speak about what’s been going on in workplaces, in childrens’ bedrooms, in churches, on college campuses, even in a pediatric physician’s office for God’s sake! A collective voice is rising, demanding that sexual misconduct, molestation and violence no longer be tolerated and will no longer be kept quiet!
With the catalyst of #MeToo, many are finally speaking the unspoken and are seeking support. But there are still many others who have had their own private “me too” experiences and who for a whole host of reasons, are not yet ready to openly tweet “MeToo.”
Sometimes the first witness a person has to sexual abuse is a dream.
Our dreams know our deepest and darkest secrets. They remember all the times when boundaries were crossed. They know about all the inappropriate, creepy, or violent sexual experiences that have been pressed down to the lower levels of our being. And when our dreams sense that we are ready to begin to process and heal, they will tweet to us in their own way. They will shine a light onto the long hidden crevices of our minds and bodies. Our dreams will poke through our consciousness in ways that are specific to each of us, to our own personal experiences.
Clients come to me with mysterious dreams. They have a thirst, a desire to know what their dreams are trying to tell them. Quite often my clients have some kind of “me too” experience that is begging to be addressed. Unfortunately, “me too” experiences are prevalent. For all the people who have publicly tweeted #MeToo, I am guessing there are just as meOur dreams are on the side of our soul. They want to heal our inner wounds so that we can live the life we are meant to live.
“Me too” experiences can range from violent violations to inappropriate encounters. All of these difficult experiences involving sexuality are loaded with confusing feelings, sensations and conflicting cultural messages. Dreams are willing to go to the hard places, dig them up and bring them out. Dreams do this because they are a natural resource in us that knows this: it is in the coming out of hiding, secrecy and shame in a safe space that healing can begin.
When we allow our dreams to be our deepest witness, the tight grip of long held trauma and pain from difficult sexual experiences can begin to loosen.
There are clients of mine with their own private “me too” stories whose have found the courage to step into dreamwork. They are ready and willing to face what their dreams are bringing up. One client (I will call her Jill – please know that she has graciously given me permission to write anonymously about her work in the hopes that it could help another) had a series of dreams that provoked her into dislodging memories of her experiences with childhood sexual abuse. Jill is miles away from tweeting #MeToo to the world. She has just begun to touch into some of her difficult memories. Often it is a gradual process. But what’s true is that the #MeToo movement has helped her know that she is not alone.
In the first dream that Jill brought to me, a man dressed in white (she thinks he is a doctor) takes a scalpel and cuts down the length of her arm. Although she is in “serious pain,” she does not speak to the man. In the dreamwork session, I asked Jill if she would be willing to go back into this dream experience with the man. She agreed to try it. As she was re-imagining the dream scene, I asked her what was coming up for her. She remembered something she hadn’t included in her written dream report. She remembered speaking to herself in her head… Beg him please to stop, stop. And then .. Don’t bother because he won’t listen. In that moment, something popped into Jill’s awareness. She opened her eyes and said. “This was like when I was molested. I felt so helpless.”
Jill and I both paused and took a breath. There are no words to fully describe this kind of pivotal moment that our dreams can bring. With the help of her dream and with me as a witness, Jill was able to safely feel into this helpless place for the first time in many years. At first glance, this dream had felt like a nightmare for Jill. But what it was offering was an opening to a path to healing. The man in Jill’s dream found an incredibly provocative way to touch deeply into a very old wound.
As Jill continues her work with dreams, they are helping her feel the effects of this wound. With experiences of sexual abuse, Jill’s boundaries got crossed and mixed up. In one dream she willingly allows a man that she is not attracted to, to kiss her. In another dream, she walks away from a man she is attracted to. Her yes’s and no’s got switched up. Experiences of sexual abuse are a violation of physical and emotional boundaries, often compromising the ability for discernment. Since her dreams have brought this to her awareness, Jill is beginning to see how this plays out in her life. Gradually, she is learning to slow down and feel into her true desires and she is learning what it means to create healthy boundaries. New dreams will likely surface to further Jill’s healing process.
Dreams have keys to unlock doors that have been sealed shut for a long time. They sometimes do this in strange and paradoxical ways. Who would have guessed that a man cutting Jill’s arm with a scalpel could help her find a pathway to healing?
Dreams are a wonderfully mysterious resource. They are incredible in that they know all of our #MeToo stories, even the ones we’ve kept silent and hidden. It takes courage to step back into these long held and often painful places. But if we can begin to trust our dreams, we just may find that they are our deepest allies.