Thriving in the Face of Denial

"Those with the greatest awareness have the greatest nightmares.” – Mahatma Gandhi

It wasn't until I retold my nightmare from last night to my oldest son that I realized it was the same old recurring theme dream. The dream rooted in pre and post surrender trauma. The dream theme that pops up in nearly all my dreams only with different flavors and forms but the same theme none the less.

Last nights unplanned pregnancy/adoption related nightmare started on my parents front porch.

My parents have a glorious southern style porch on their home. It has several wicker chairs, ottomans, tables, rockers and such.  It is a common gathering place for family and friends on all days – more so on holidays. Children will play in the street as toddlers ride bikes on the sidewalk as adults smoke, talk, and watch the children play.

It was this scene that started my dream last night.

Present on the porch was my father, mother, all siblings and a few neighbors. It was obviously some sort of holiday gathering, perhaps Thanksgiving. The leaves were still colored and crisp on surrounding trees.  The temperature was cool but comfortable. 

I stood on the far left of the porch across from my father who sat in his winged back, white wicker rocker.  Conversation was underway with various individuals when all of the sudden we heard, and quickly saw, a large plane in the sky above our street. The plane was flying low and carried the markings of the United States Air force.

All eyes turned towards the skies as we questioned why a USAF plane was flying so low.  As it passed, we began to question the plane when suddenly another plane flew overheard.

This plane was silver and shiny and marked with neon green (think toxic waste green) stripes.  Falling from the plane were smaller silver cylinders with similar green markings. It was a type of bombing run.

Parents called to children in the street and all started to run towards my parents front porch.  One of the cylinders landed in the neighbors yard behind a large fence.

We all stood stunned.  Within a matter of seconds, we heard a loud popping sound. The sound was not quite an explosion but was more like a large lid being pushed off by internal pressure.

As we stood and questioned the source of the sound, and wondered with intense fear what the purpose of the small silver cylinders were, a green gaseous cloud began to rise from the neighbors yard.

I began to scream at all around me to run into the house. I pulled children by arms and ran towards my father who has bad knees and walks with the pace of a injured turtle. 

Everyone rushed into the house.

I began to scream at everyone to close windows.  I was curious why everyone was moving so slow.  Why weren't they attempting to get away from the mysterious green gas?

I started to scream at my mother to call the authorities. I screamed at my sister to close windows.

My mother was unmoved. She just stood there. She was not frightened yet she was not normal. She wasn't anything.

She just stood there.

I pleaded with her to call and report what just happened. Maybe it was nothing? Maybe the authorities knew? Maybe it was biological warfare.


I began to look for the phone. The crowd in my parents living room was so thick I could not get to the kitchen only a few steps away.

I turned towards the windows and saw the neighborhood turning foggy with thick green smoke.

My mother finally turned to me and said "I think you are over reacting Suz. It will be fine. There is nothing wrong."

Incredulous and wanting to strike her out of what appeared to be hysteria, I instead stood in fear.

I realized while the downstairs windows were closed the upstairs were still opened.

Why was no one seeing or feeling what I was?

This theme of others denying, avoiding, or ignoring what I feel and see comes up regularly in my dreams. My mother seems to have a recurring role in these dreams. She is always the one that denies, avoids, tells me things are not what I think they are. In other dreams she has told me I am crazy, has offered to get the police or psychiatrists to come get me, or even put duct tape over my mouth to stop me from spewing what I believe is reality and she believes is crazy talk.

To me (and my therapist) this recurring theme of having my feelings ignored is rooted in my adoption experience. Its obvious to me. For only during and following that time of my life were my needs, my thoughts, so blatantly ignored.  I saw things they did not. They told me otherwise. I needed help and it was not provided, worse yet, it was blocked by a crowd of strangers.

I get this. I do.

But how can I use my awareness of it to stop these dreams?

Yes my mother still denies what I feel/felt/experienced. Yet, this is not unique to me. This is my mothers personal coping strategy. This is the way my family system works. Denial reigns supreme in my parents home.  My dad will insist he is not an alcoholic (and those around will crack up inside ourselves with good belly laughter).  My mother will force us to pretend we like in-laws that we (and she) don't like. We are all supposed to put on a happy face and anyone who challenges the status quo is persona non grata.

Again, I know this. And yes I know its wonky.  But how can I use this awareness to stop the nightmares from invading my sleep?

How do you live in reality of what happened to you when all around you live in denial?

I cannot change them.

I can only change me.

What do I have to do to stop these nightmares?




5 Thoughts.

  1. i imagine your question is rhetorical but believe you gave yourself the answer. you can only change you. how to go about that, i am unsure. for me, it has helped to try and sort of re-file memories into a nicer frame and think hard before sleep about better dreams and better outcomes in my waking hours of the present and future. it helps but still i have the nightmares too…just not as horrific as in the past.
    mine have most often been loved ones dying all around me and me being stranded with their rotting corpses completely helpless to do anything about it and usually trying to get to some help or help them but having to walk across a rickety floor high up that i kept falling through with every step. lately, its only the floors in my dreams and slowly but surely i am able to conquor them, finding the strongest beams to timidly do a tightrope walk onward.
    here’s to less shocking dreams in your future.

  2. Thanks Stephanie. I am curious what others suggest. One dear friend (that I asked before posting this) said they dropped all friends/family that refused to see their pain. Yikes. I could see the value but how does one drop their family? (I see the ridiculous loaded words in that statement in relation to adoption. I also realize many adoptees and mothers find it very easy to avoid their families. I dont.)

  3. Hi Suz, Yikes! That night terror sounds fimilar . . . I have these same types occasionally, the people always stare right through me or even mock my plea for help. I wonder if it is date trigger related? Holidays are coming up and my relinguishment was in early Jan. Thanksgiving is when I learned my family was not going to help me and adoption was my fate. A bit like getting your execution sentence and no stay’s either with labor! Hope you are doing ok, and feeling better.

  4. IMO, these kinds of dreams persist as long as the trauma is present. But I do think awareness and talking through the themes decreases their frequency. Perhaps your therapist has some thoughts on this.
    Sending hugs and wishes for better nights…

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