An inmate from our Dreamwork For Prisoners program shared a dream and gave me permission to post it here.
In the dream, he was in a desert working as a guide. He told me he was wearing khaki pants in the dream and laughed because he was Black and would never wear khakis in real life. As the dream went on, and he guided people through a museum-type building, three large holes opened up in the ground and he, along with all members of the group, fell into the holes. Once he got to the bottom he started looking around. He discovered a cave filled with gems, jewels & diamonds. One of the most beautiful necklaces was on a skeleton. He took a large stick and reached to pull the necklace off the skeleton’s neck.
The reason I like this dream and its metaphors is because it so clearly depicts the process of inner change and growth. We all have capacities, skills & abilities which are latent within us and we have the potential to develop infinitely. When we embark on a journey of change & transformation, it’s like we’re going mining for gems…we go deep within ourselves to discover our potential and then we take hold of that potential and bring it to light.
On December 8 I dreamed about feeling imprisoned. Richard’s recent post on Imprisonment Dreams inspires me to share the dream & my analysis. I believe the dream is calling me to be more like an eagle. The thing stopping me from soaring like an eagle in my own life is the fear of criticism. I’m working on this fear using Richard’s transformation technique which involves doing personal & private inner work to understand how criticism works to shut me down and then how to shift it so I am no longer affected by it; no longer afraid to act from my True Self.
Here is the dream: I am in a large 3-4 story mansion but it’s not clear whose house it is or why we are there or how long we are staying. The uncertainty & unknowns about our circumstance brings me to a high state of anxiety in the dream. I’m feeling a bit nauseous because of the uncertainty. I’m looking around this enormous old house, with its gorgeous dark wood stair case and ornate detailing above doors and around windows. I’m looking for someone who can tell me what’s going on. Instead, I find children all over the house. Playing tag, playing video games, making snacks, building block towers, climbing over furniture. They have the run of the place, totally unsupervised, and I am now beginning to notice the whole house is quite cluttered. I try to move from one room to the next but there are about a dozen chairs in the hallway, half of them rocking chairs, which are impossible to climb over or move aside.
So I go into one of the bedrooms where I find my real life dog, Chloe, and her 4 siblings. Chloe comes to welcome me at the door and I pet her and greet her with love. But then I notice that she’s always had these 4 siblings but I’ve neglected them. Only ever fed and walked Chloe. Never the rest of them. They don’t look undernourished or ill. They must have found a way to meet their needs without me being the one to do it, but I feel a touch of guilt that I have not shared my love with all of them.
Then I leave that room and gradually somehow find my way to a door to the outside yard. There I see all the adults of all these children. They are playing sports, games, relaxing in a hammock, etc. Doing all sorts of things all over the yard. I feel the desire to join the adults but am also concerned about the two dozen children running around unsupervised in the yard. As I’m thinking about what to do, someone comes up behind me and it startles me. Then I suddenly shout to the adults that the children are running around destroying the place. The adults give me an unappreciated look and one-by-one they leave their activities to come inside and get the kids under control. I don’t feel good about it. As soon as I say the words I regret having said them.
As I go through the elements of this dream, I realize it’s an imprisonment dream because I’m feeling “jailed” inside the crowded & cluttered house. I could just leave the house to join the adults in their recreational activities in the yard but something holds me back. The thing holding me back is fear of criticism. When I imagine myself joining any of those activities, or initiating on one my own, I see the others criticizing me one way or the other. I think about staying inside the house with the children, perhaps to attempt to create some order with them and the chaos, but it seems more than I can handle or complete satisfactorily. I imagine the parents criticizing any attempt I might make at bringing order indoors as well. So I am imprisoned. Where are the open spaces? Where are the opportunities? Where are the signs of encouragement which will show me what to do next? Where is my strong inner voice telling me that whatever I choose is okay?
This dream is a clue to me that in my waking life I am feeling imprisoned. At home, in my work, in my community. In my waking life I feel that no matter what I say or do I will be criticized. This is keeping me from creating order within my Self and it’s also preventing me from building closeness with others or from experiencing any joy doing things with others.
What is the solution? How do I transform this?
I’m going to practice the step-by-step approach outlined in Richard’s series on Encouragement and I’m going to see what small actions I can begin to take while holding a strong sense of confidence built up internally by letting go of others critical words.
The big difference between where I was when I started practicing this in 2012 and now is that I am now the “boss” in my own cleaning business and I am now the Chair of the Board of Directors of my own nonprofit. I now have the power & authority to not just create open spaces for teams to thrive but also to be the encouraging cheerleader voice to others.
When I allow the criticism of others to make me feel imprisoned, I can do the inner work to shift the situation so I can discover where is the best way to go next. As a leader in my organization and business, I can be the positive voice of encouragement for them so that we can achieve our intentions in our work. In the dream, I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t see what way to go next. Every option seemed to lead to being criticized, chastised and beat down. But now, in real life, I clearly see what I need to do next and which way to go. As always, I enjoy documenting the process publicly so others can share in the triumphs and celebrate the growth, even when it is slow and small.
When I was in university I learned a technique which I still use today. (This sentences uses the pronoun “I” three times. Is it a sign of being self-centered? When the blog is all about perspectives on inner transformation is it okay to use “I” often? When outer circumstances influence a person’s inner transformation is it okay to publicly write about the outer circumstances & the inner process of transformation?)
The technique I learned was called Morning Pages, designed by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. Basically, soon after waking up you set a timer for 20 minutes and then write or type continuously until the timer beeps. This approach is meant to bypass the inner critic which can actively silence the writer into a block, or cause such an internal barrier of doubt that words get shifted and stunted before they even emerge onto paper or a laptop screen.
This is the exercise I’m doing today and I’m now 4 minutes into it. The unique thing about what I’m doing, is that I’m openly sharing my Morning Pages, as though it were a public diary. Why? Because I truly believe that there is purpose and value in sharing one’s story. It changes things. And I am a lover of Change. So onward I go.
What I realized when I first opened the blog this morning is that I haven’t written or created content in many many months. The reason why I haven’t written or shared openly is because what I was going through on a personal level was so challenging it was hard to put into words. But now, the worst is over, and I’m able to write again. The end of a 12 year battle has finally arrived. The conclusion came. The metaphoric swords have been sheathed.
For those who’ve been following me since 2014, you will know of the battle to which I’m referring. Others will be hearing about it for the first time. It has come to my attention over the years that everyone who knew me from Niagara Region, Ontario has heard of the struggle I’ve been in which began when my mother perpetuated a lie that I was keeping my school age child away from her. The reality has so much more depth than can be summed up in one sentence like that. Because my mom believed her lie, she then set out to destroy the relationship between my daughter and myself. The “dramatic” conclusion of her attempts to destroy me culminated in her actions to secretly fly my daughter (who had just turned 16 twenty-two days prior) out of the province to move in with her. This was March 2021. Next, my mom filed a motion in Ontario family court to become the full custodial guardian of my daughter and for me to pay full or partial child support (thereby decreasing the amount of money her father pays.) My daughter’s father fully supported this secret plan and enforced my mother’s request in writing in the motion to the judge. By September 2021, a mere 6 months later, my mother and my daughter could not make the domestic arrangements work and my 16 year old daughter became homeless, 4000km away from me. By October 2021 the judge was asking “why are we even here in court?” and by December 2021 the custody motion was withdrawn. My daughter now has no legal custodian and she also receives no child support, since her father stopped paying as soon as she moved out. She is now living in a safe location in Ontario.
The reason I share my/our story publicly is because the beginning of the story is when I reported childhood abuse to the Universal House of Justice in January 2000. All letters to the House of Justice become public record and since this letter unintentionally caused a size-mic earthquake of disruption in my personal & professional life, and in the communities I lived in, the only ground I had to stand on was my ability to tell my story, publicly, because I know for certain I am not alone.
My story contains elements which are triggers for some. Childhood abuse, narcissist abuse, PTSD, rape, family court in three Canadian provinces. It involves police action, child & family services, and community support agencies. I’ve worked with four lawyers in three provinces and about six court support workers. I’ve spent more than 1500 hours a year for 10 years. At times, I took part-time work so that I could deal with this situation part-time. At the beginning, I did not understand family law in Canada. I had to start at the beginning, making many mistakes, but over the years I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I’m certain that sharing what I’ve learned will help other mothers & fathers who are forced into court because of their love of their children and their desire to do what is right & best for them.
Sometimes when people hear the story of the life I’ve lived they shake their heads in disbelief. My goal at all times and my intention with being so open about what I was and am going through was always to break the cycle of silence, manipulation, and trauma that I was born into. Everything I did, I did for my daughter, who is now at the age that she is old enough to begin to understand the nature of the conflict that she grew up in.
With one minute left on the clock, I close off this entry by saying, in the most recent court session, which was Nevins vs Czifra, in which my mother filed for full custody, full decision-making authority and child support from me, the judge ruled this issue be thrown out of court and so it was.
Recently, I dreamed about being a detective in a building with bombs going off. It had such a strong FEELING of what I imagine it was like for the thousands of people in the World Trade Centers on the morning of September 11, 2001. So I’d like to share where I was that day, how it affected me, and what comes to mind on this day twenty years later.