Riding in the back seat of the car, she uses massive kitchen shears to point at something on my face.
“Woahhhh there,” I say as I push the scissors away. “We’re in a moving vehicle. Don’t point those things at me.”
After a bit more discussion, now the car is in reverse, and this woman puts the tip of the blade a centimeter from my eyeball. I snatch the scissors away from her and say, “What the fuck?!”
Somehow she manages to be upset with me, but before she can blurt a whole sentence full of I don’t even care what out of her mouth, I interject, “You did it once and I asked you to stop. Then you did it again. If I let you do it a third time, I’m the fucking problem!”
I immediately thought to myself, Mmmm… that’s a good line. I gotta remember that one when I wake up.
Most of my dreams are about not being able to find a place to pee, being late for something, or any number of fear-based annoyances, so I generally ignore them. My dreams are stupid. But every now and then something significant happens and some part of my brain (or my soul?) takes interest. Sometimes I literally do dream analysis from inside the dream. Not sure if that makes me a freak, but it’s a thing I do occasionally.
If I Let You Do It A Third Time…
I’m not particularly interested in explaining to you, dear reader, what this dream means to me, personally. That’s neither here nor there. However, as a relationship coach, I work with a lot of people who end up in terrible relationships over and over and over again. Some incredibly abusive and tragic.
Is this how I counsel them? “If it happens more than twice, it’s your fault!” Haha. How insensitive and unhelpful would that be? Pretty victim-shamey, right?
Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but reflect on those words. I knew there was something truthy buried in there. But what?
Here’s what I came up with:
When people suffer abuse, abandonment, or neglect in their formative years, they adapt to protect themselves and get their needs met. Maybe this adaptation is dissociation, perfectionism, self-abandonment, codependency, or any number of things. But they develop what I have come to understand as trauma responses that are compulsive in nature.
And because these behaviors are so deeply ingrained and automatic, many people assume they’re intrinsic parts of their personality, or that they are choosing to do these things. It’s like they believe they literally are their trauma response. They become identified with it.
I’m The Fucking Problem
When foul-mouthed dream Adam took personal responsibility for someone else’s potentially harmful behavior, I don’t think he was blaming or shaming himself, necessarily. If we could ask him to expound upon his thoughts, I think this is what he would say:
“I am not the problem, per se. But allowing others to repeatedly mistreat me points to a problem that is living in me. I may not have caused the problem, but it’s certainly my responsibility to deal with now.”
For example, let’s say you’re dating another emotionally unavailable person, complaining all the while about how you wish they could meet your emotional needs. Do you think you are the problem for choosing another partner like this? Or do you suppose past experiences taught you that vulnerable connection is dangerous and your nervous system became wired to seek safety in breadcrumbs despite what you think you want in a partner?
In the latter case, it wouldn’t be that you are the problem, but rather, that you have a problem. Big difference there. And your options are to get busy solving that thing or to just hope that maybe someone else will do something about it.
Choice is yours.