Dreams have always had a strong presence in my life. I’ve written before about my lifelong relationship to my dreams beginning with my first remembered dream, age four, which kept alive in me an awareness of this nightly world filled with mystery, excitement and grief.
Dreams also had another strong presence in my childhood home. I am a daughter who grew up with a WWII veteran father who experienced PTSD. My father was captured by the Japanese and spent 3-1/2 years in prison camps. The prison camp in Laura Hillenbrand’s book “Unbroken” was the camp my father spent most of his imprisonment. Released at age 24 he suffered the traumatic effects, both physical and emotional, of this experience. Only near the end of his life did he begin to speak of his time as a prisoner of war. However, when I was a child, he never spoke about it. While I was too young to know the word trauma or PTSD, I did know my dad was struggling with something. Every few days we would be woken by his screams of terror in the night…terrible cries…frightening cries for a child to hear. He would make light of it, “Oh, it was just something I ate in high school”…but every once in a while he would say more…he would share his nightmare…“I was back in camp and they were beating us.”
Trauma reactions show up in our bodies and they show up in our dreams. Trauma wounds us…it wounds the way we are in the world and the way we think. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as experiencing PTSD but all of us carry trauma in some form. Many of us suffer the effects of what has been called slow trauma…the slow effects of being physically, sexually or emotional abused, of not being seen, of being shamed.
And our dreams come to be with us in these places…they bring supportive loving characters…the numinous…to know we are not alone…truly have never been alone…and they ask us to take the healing dream medicine…to return to the moment…the feeling…and what got left back there…our vulnerability, our joy, our grief, our innocence…and to recover our capacity to feel all of this…which is also a return to wholeness.
Mary Jo Heyen is a Natural Dreamwork Practitioner working with clients throughout the country and abroad in person, phone or Skype. Learn more about her work with dreams at www.maryjoheyen.com or www.thenaturaldream.com