September 2010 Archives
It was not long ago in Piano Dream that I wrote about my recent resurgence in dreams and nightmares. I do not quite have an explanation for all this new sleep activity. But it was pretty absent for some time (like close to a year I would guess).
I find it difficult to talk directly about what is going on in my life, and maybe that is why I am having these dreams. So, instead of telling you about all my problems in plain language, I thought I would cast them all in the recent dream.
So, in my dream I was a cop for the college I teach at. Strange how it happened. I was doing work stuff. My boss was trying to get me to have lunch with someone I know about some research I am doing. He was rushing me and I was already so busy trying to get things done. Somehow I just became a cop, in an instant, and apparently I was on duty.
Almost immediately I came across these two people, man and woman, acting drunk and going down the street on scooters in the middle of traffic. The man was overweight and the woman was rather hardened looking and had that drug addict look. They both were unkempt. But I do not at all remember their faces. I got them off the street and had them sit in the atrium of a big building at the college. I then went off to do something else. I was so busy.
The woman then asked why I was just leaving them there. They wanted to leave. I said I was letting them cool off a bit and I would talk to them soon. Then I noticed the woman was having sex with the man and she was not at all being discreet about it. I got embarrassed a bit and told others what was going on and said something like "How am I going to approach this one?"
I did eventually talk to them. I then put them in some sort of police van. And we were in some sort of snowstorm. It got a little heated. It was then the woman came out and said that they sexually abuse their children. She said something about doing sexual things to them and teaching them how to do things to each other; and implied that they were left home all the time and had no interaction with the outside world.
I exploded. I immediately said they were under arrest. The man tried to escape. I chased him. He got in a car. I had my gun pulled on him. I took a warning shot through the window. Then all hell broke loose in the streets. I dragged him out and somehow he pulled a knife and stabbed himself. I was so mad because I wanted him not to die and see him get justice. But I saw it was not a deep wound.
The woman was near him and I don't know what was going on at this point. It was crazy because there were lots of cops there now. One of the cops did get stabbed in the shoulder. I had someone call an ambulance because I was determined to make sure the arrested man was okay. Apparently, I was in charge of everything. Because everyone kept coming to me to ask me what to do.
At that point, I almost forgot that I had to go over to where their kids lived. I was about to do that, when I realized I should not go over alone or alone as a male. So, I asked a female cop to come with me. I somehow thought that piece through carefully. On one level, I thought that if I went in alone, nobody would believe me. I also thought I could be accused of abuse. I also thought that the kids would not trust me to tell me what was going on; but I mostly reality checked that last point only because I had a sense I would be able to get them to tell me. So, we went to the house. It was a rundown townhouse. There was scrambling when we got to the door. We thought the kids were being taken away. We pulled our guns. We knocked down the door. I woke up.
So, that was the dream. And many others are variants of this; like two nights ago I was in a warehouse and was shooting zombies (sort of like Rambo). There is some context for these dreams. During the time period I was being abused in real life, I used to fantasize about actually being a cop. The priest who abused me was a chaplain for the police and fire, and somehow I got a hold of one of the badges. This went on through high school. It was very strange for me. I also was an EMT in high school, and taking the Boston public transport in the 80s to school was filled with real-world violence. There were frequently stabbings and the sort, and I would sometimes be a first responder. At one point, when I revealed this in therapy, it was suggested to me that part of me did that in order to make myself feel safe and protected. It is interesting that many of my dreams revolve around these kind of dynamics.
Welcome to the September 2010 edition of the Expressive Arts Carnival. This month's theme, see announcement, was to "draw or paint your breath, before and after listening to relaxing music."
Because of the before and after images, I decided it would be complicated visually to make a slideshow. Here are the entries in the order they were submitted.
Entry 1: Katie
Katie submitted the before and after images both on the same page, and wrote: "I felt after relaxation, that my breathing was more connected, more steady, more pure. Less polluted with stress. So that's how I drew it."
Entry 2: Castorgirl
Castorgirl wrote: "After doing the conscious breathing and relaxing, I came back to the paper ready to draw my nice flowing swirls to indicate how centered and aware I was."
Entry 3: Rose
Rose wrote: "The first picture is the one with the red, black, and brown colors. I often feel like I cannot catch my breath and it feels staggered. I think the red symbolizes the inside of my lungs where there is plenty of air, but I can't reach it. The second picture is the one with the blue air bubbles. I feel I am breathing free and surrounded by clean, fresh air."
Entry 4: Kerro
Kerro did things a little bit differently and focussed on recalling when she's relaxed and when she's not. She wrote: "If I'm stressed, I know my breath is shallower, but still reasonably good. What's in focus in my head is different, though. So, here's something that happened one day last week (first image). I was running late for work, feeling pressured to get on to a number of things, and I realised my chest was tighter than normal. But on other days, when I wasn't feeling as pressured, it was more like this (second image), even if my breath wasn't all that different."
Entry 5: Paul
What I have to say about these is that in the first image, I represented my breath as a timeline in pencil, indicating how shallow and random it was. In order to do the second image, I listened to the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata by Louis Lortie. Then I drew another timeline in pencil (this was more flowing) and had more variation and was smoother. Then I colored it in with pencils, trying to merge the colors a bit.
That's all folks! Thanks to all those who contributed. If you think this Carnival is worthwhile, then let others know about it and we can continue to increase the contributors for future months.
"Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."
The famous physicist Richard Feynman said those words. And while it can be argued very easily that science and psychology are quite different beasts, I do think we can apply the quote in both domains.
In the decades I have been involved with healing from "disordered" dissociative coping, I have met a good many in the psychiatric community, including well-meaning experts who look through the same narrow lenses that we dissociative survivors often do. So, I have had the biased "borderline expert" firmly declare, after a mere 45 minute interview, that I was borderline. I have had a prominent member of the false memory syndrome foundation, after another 45 minute or so interview, proclaim that my multiplicity was not real; so I responded, during an inpatient stay at the general hospital, by being very singular which he heralded as a success. I had an expert in "violent human behavior" worry that I could be homicidal, which would be bizarre if you knew me. I have also had the novice resident—admittedly no expert, but she thought she was which was the problem—on a dissociative speciality unit explain to me that every little memory fragment must be completely validated in order for me to make any progress; talk about setting yourself up!
If you are dissociative, and find yourself in the mental health system, you probably have encountered a similar range of opinions and advice. How are we supposed to find our healing path when we are caught in a mass of confusion? Where can we turn? How can we possibly sort all this uncertainty out?
I always considered myself to be a healthy skeptic. I actually really like that about myself. Sure, it oftentimes makes things more complicated than they need to be and the path becomes a rather windy one. But, as I think I have said here before, I am a scientist and used to questioning everything.
To illustrate, I will share with you another Feynman quote from the 1964 Galileo Symposium in Italy:
We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified—how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact.
I believe the best therapists are the ones who are not too proud or too arrogant to admit they do not know all the answers and help us navigate the choppy sea of uncertainty. They tend to be extremely careful about how they impart advice. These are the people I have aligned myself with. So, with all my experience with partisans over the years, I have always come back to the humble open-minded therapist. In this realm, I get great advice. I get advice such as "I don't know if that memory fragment is real" or "Try to validate the emotions over the memories" or, my all time favorite, "You are the expert, Paul."
If we are our own expert, then this means we must carry a huge load in the healing process. We must ask the tough questions. We must struggle with doubt. We must untangle the puzzle that is us. All this friction, this uncertainty, I think is absolutely necessary.
For me, I keep coming back to what makes the most sense to me, another source of positive friction: a level of acceptance for the way my internal makeup has been and a desire for a brighter future. For more wholeness. For more peace. For more healing. That feels right.
This is not at all the post I was intending today that was supposed to relate to my last post about a recent dream.
Instead, I would like to pose a problem to readers and ask how they deal with this. I realize this is a departure from how I normally write on this site. If it goes well, maybe I will do more of this.
With dissociative identity disorder, co-consciousness means that you are more aware of what other parts within you are doing, thinking or feeling. This is almost always equated with healing. I mean, this is something everyone should strive for more of.
I know that many have always experienced dissociation and switching with some degree of co-consciousness. Of course, the degree of co-consciousness fluctuates. It can be more at times and less at times. It is a fallacy that all those with more extreme levels of dissociation have to experience full switching in the classic "Sybil" sense.
I think for those of us who have generally experienced co-consciousness throughout our lives, we may think of our dissociative tendencies differently from some others who have not routinely had that experience. And maybe for us this problem is more relevant.
So, my problem goes: When we experience co-consciousness, does it sometimes cause us to doubt that we, in fact, have dissociative identities?
For me, I think this comes down to an issue of acceptance versus denial. But I really struggle with this at times. My struggle with this is often tied to the fact that I do not think I am a "proper multiple."
I know I have talked about this before. So, I know I could make sense of all of this and have there be no questions. I have written about this in the following posts (notice that three of the five "I have the answers" posts have titles that are questions):
- 15 Years Ago and the Great Debate
- Is Dissociation a Disorder or Miracle?
- Does Dissociation Make Us Special?
- Is Dissociative Identity Disorder Real?
So I struggle. And get confused. It does not make sense a lot of times.
I do not generally post my dreams or nightmares. I just think they are usually so far out there that they will be of no use to others. This one is no exception. But I am posting it today because it will help provide context for the next post later this week.
In the dream, I was with my wife and and eldest daughter at a rather odd hotel for a gymnastics meet. My daughter was off doing something with her friends. And my wife and I were taking our bags up the elevator to our room. I remember we were on the 6th floor. It was not an ordinary hotel. It was more like a really old cluttered house. We stumbled upon a room where there was a rather effeminate man doing something with a college-age girl of Indian heritage. He sort of reminded me of Detective Tardio from Martin Lawrence's "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" (a really funny but off color movie). He was helping the girl make some garments, and material was strewn across the large table.
I walked in and noticed he had a really old grand piano. It was not an ordinary piano, but a red-ish leopard finish and in great condition. It was old and exceedingly long. He immediately asked if I wanted to play it. I said yes. I said "What is your favorite song?" And he said Memory from Cats or anything from Phantom of the Opera. He fumbled around and found the sheet music. I played. And I completely fell in love with the feel of this piano. After I played his favorites, I then played all bunch of styles of music and put the piano through its paces.
So, I played and played. When I was done, I asked him about the piano. I asked how long he's had it. He said it's been through generations. He said "It has been in my family for nearly 200 years." Then he surprised me with "Do you want to buy it?" I said "How much?" The reply was $75. I thought he had been joking because I knew it was an awesome piano.
I was going to say yes. But immediately I thought that I had to clear it with my wife, which is something I rarely do in real life so I have no idea why I did it in the dream! She was way on the other side of the room admiring some of the furnishings in the room. I also thought about whether we would have the space in my music room.
But, before I could say yes, the Indian girl sort of randomly said she would buy it. The man accepted. I said that wasn't fair because he asked me. Plus I was the one who put the piano through its paces and she showed no interest. I got into an argument with the girl, even grabbing her by the front of her shirt. I started yelling. But she would not back down. The effeminate man sat quietly and did nothing. I tried to reason with him. But he wouldn't listen. I kept saying this wasn't fair.
It was then that I looked back in on the piano. It was a really eclectic piano. When closed, I was hoping the manufacturer of the piano was Steinway. But the name of the piano was SKELERTON (or something like that, I'm not sure really). But the lettering was really large like 8 inches high and shiny silver and covered the whole width of the piano. I had never seen anything like that on a piano. But I didn't care. The piano just played like a dream and that was all that mattered.
I kept fighting with the girl. She seemed to have no interest in the piano, but it felt like she was doing this just to get to me. The man said something about getting him a check. So, she went outside and got her mother. The mother came up the stairs and started arguing with me. I tried to reason with her. But she just kept talking over me. The mother was blonde and very American looking. She was doing talking nonsense, which to me said that she had no argument, but thought if she just kept talking she could not lose. So, that's what she did, she just kept talking.
At which point, I said, "Okay, you win." And I woke up.
I have just started playing Irish whistles, otherwise known as "tin" or pennywhistles. In case you are interested, I have a John Sindt High D as well as a much harder to play Howard Low D. I thought I would do a quick recording and share it with you all. In fact, this summer has been about playing with my breath. In addition to the whistles, I have rekindled my interest in trumpet (an instrument I played as a kid) as well as harmonica.
This is not a random post to showcase music. It is a post with intention. If you follow my blog, you will know that I am in trouble right now. Serious trouble. But I intend to find my way without going into the hospital. This is one effort to soothe the parts of me who feel they need to get hurt. This song is a gesture of goodwill and peace.
What I play here is based on the theme from my all time favorite Star Trek The Next Generation episode called The Inner Light. The episode is about a long since dead race who sent what was basically a "time capsule" as a probe into space. The Enterprise came upon the capsule and it sent an energy beam into Captain Picard's head so he could experience a lifetime of memories with these people in the span of a mere 30 minutes. In this lifetime, he was a scientist, music was important to him, raised a family, and grew old.
The episode's writer, Morgan Gendel, named it after a song written by George Harrison and released by The Beatles, which is in turn based on the 47th chapter of the Taoist Tao Te Ching:
Without going outside his door, one understands (all that takes place) under the sky; without looking out from his window, one sees the Tao of Heaven. The farther that one goes out (from himself), the less he knows. Therefore the sages got their knowledge without travelling; gave their (right) names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.
Anyway, this particular episode holds a lot of meaning for me due to the complexity of his life. Maybe it is because to the crew he was Picard and incapacitated for 30 minutes, but really all this other "reality" was happening in his head. I immediately saw that as a parallel to my life, as I'm Paul but all this other stuff happens in the background that few people knew about.
Also at the time, in my early 20s, I could not imagine that I would ever make a life and have any chance at living to an old age. I cried and cried when I saw it. And there were perhaps more parallels than I realized. Reflecting on this piece and this time helps me realize I have accomplished quite a lot. I have my children now, my wife, my house, my career, my music. Yes, I struggle with safety, but I am not suicidal like I once was; and I have lived through serious attempts. I do not struggle with depression like I once did. I am much more aware and learning things about my system that I would never have imagined. Things have changed for me. Nearly 20 years have passed since I viewed this episode.
What made the episode so touching was that even though, in the end, Picard understood it was a probe, the memories of that lifetime stayed with him. It is a reminder to me that while some memories are painful and some are joyful, we learn from all of them. And they will always be a part of us.
Last week when I wrote Vacation, Changes, and Derailment, I had high hopes that I would be able to settle things down internally and find some balance. And, rightly so. Over the past few years, I have made great strides at self-awareness and acceptance. My ability to navigate the murky waters of dissociation is much better now.
However, today, my hopes are quickly waning.
I think I need help. More help than I am getting. I think I am in trouble.
When I write about out of control dissociation, I often talk about contradictions. Good, safe experiences often exist alongside scary, unsafe experiences. So, I can be tending to my gardens and playing piano one moment. And find myself getting horribly hurt in another moment. Since both types of experiences are not separated by much real-life time, I am left utterly confused, shattered, and broken.
Yes, I hurt myself. I know for sure I hurt myself last night and I have some small memory of the day before that and almost no memory of therapy on Tuesday.
I have talked before about how common it is for survivors of child sexual abuse to recreate the abuse in the present. I struggle in my understanding of that. In some way, I see it as an attempt at control. In another way, I see it as confirming perception of self-worth. In still another, I see it simply as not being grounded enough in the present so that old coping is more apt to be called upon. It is difficult to put the pieces together, because all can be true. I do know that last night was very dangerous and not compatible with the life I lead and the ideals I aspire to.
I also know that over the last few days I have been very erratic. I have been losing lots of time. My emotions have been all over the place. I have been picking fights one minute and being incredibly patient and kind the next. I have not seen the red flags, or saw them and simply blew past them and did nothing.
I am well aware that getting hurt does not solve anything in 2010. And my new awareness makes recovery from self-harm difficult. In the past, self-harm events (or self-harm coping) would easily be forgotten because there was not much permeability between parts of myself. Now, this is not the case. Today, I am besieged by flashbacks, pain, panic, and a sense of being totally broken.
Denial adds another layer of difficulty. Even though there has been a lot of lost time, there is a good deal of permeability between dissociated parts of my mind. That leads me to a place of not accepting parts. Of thinking it is all made up. That it is simply a convenient excuse to explain erratic behavior. I say I am a fraud. This leaves me even more confused. Because while I can understand the logic, I know it is some kind of internal ruse.
So, I am left holding the pieces and do not know how to put them back together. I am left knowing that I brought this on myself. How do I accept that? Everything is out of control.
Welcome to Activity No. 4 of the Expressive Arts Carnival. Thank you to all who participate and welcome if you are new!
This is a two part activity. The activity is to draw or paint your breath.
Start when you know you will have quiet time to yourself without distractions. On one sheet of paper, draw or paint your breath in the moment. Then, immediately after, listen to some soothing music (if you want), close your eyes (if it is okay) and focus on your breathing. When you breathe, focus on slow breathing using your diaphragm; inhale through your nose, filling your abdomen and chest and exhale through your mouth. Try to exhale twice as long as you inhale. Do this for a couple minutes and try to relax.
When you are done with the breathing exercise, come back to the drawing and draw your breath again on the other paper.
Please also write a couple of sentences saying what the process was like for you.
Submissions are due by September 22, 2010. All submissions must be made by e-mail. Please send me two image files (one for each drawing or painting) with a width for each greater than or equal to 1280 pixels (note the new size requirement is due to the full screen slideshow presentations we now can do). Please also send some explanatory text and indicate which image was before and which was after the breathing. I will figure out how to present them. I may merge the art or show them separately.
You may also wish to send me a link to a page hosted on your own site (or blog), if you have one. It is important to repeat that nobody is required to have a blog in order to participate.
The Carnival will be published on the afternoon of September 23, 2010.
To submit, e-mail to: email@example.com.
Please use "EXPRESSIVE ARTS" in the subject heading to help me keep track of submissions. Every submission will receive an acknowledgement of receipt. If you don't receive one within a day or so, then please follow up with me.
If you have questions or need clarifications, direct them to me by e-mail or ask in the comments here.