what dreams may come

'til sunbeams find you

One cool thing about the week before my period (sorry if that's TMI, I have a uterus, get over it) is that I have vivid, complicated, all-night-long dreams*. One totally not-cool thing is that at least every other month, one or more of those dreams is about my mother.

A month or two ago, I had a dream in which I managed to get my mom to sit down and listen to me while I explained to her how I felt about my childhood and especially how I feel about the way she treats me as an adult. She was actually open-minded and genuinely interested in how I felt. She wanted to change. I expressed my dubiousness that she really would change, and I felt like an asshole for not letting her back into my life, because she really did seem to *get it*. I woke up still feeling like a jerk, and hung onto a keen feeling of loss throughout the day. That dream was more upsetting to me than all the dreams in which she's abusive and/or we fight. Those dreams just annoy me. This one hurt. I guess some small part of me that I don't usually acknowledge is still wishing for my mommy to get better and tell me she loves me. How sad.

Last night I had another dream. This time she was not the nice, caring mommy. She was a harpy. She stood in my bedroom doorway, rifling through a tiny cloth-bound diary (she read two of my diaries, when I was 14 and 17). She read a description of a family outing to me in a mocking tone, then accused me shrewishly of lying and making everything up. I tried to explain to her that, in fact, the entry was a pretty basic account of the events that had happened on one day, without editorial comment from me. It was, in short, a child's diary entry - all reporting, no interpretation. I tried to express that that type of entry is just the facts, and that nothing about it was made up. In the dream it didn't occur to me to tell her that, duh, this diary was only for my eyes, so to whom exactly would I be lying? Why did it matter to her so much?

It occurs to me now that this desire to have people know the truth about yourself - or at least the truth as you see it - is really important to her, and that it's also very important to me. I had never lined those two things up before, because I consider her truth to be mostly untrue and my truth to be entirely (or at least overwhelmingly, mostly) true. But at the core, both of us feel a desperate need to be known and not to have people believe anything about us that we think is untrue. What does that mean?

*nifty fact: women do tend to dream more during the nights before menstruation starts, and those dreams tend to have an increased number of intense/conflicted interactions with female characters


  1. Just some thoughts, OK? It seems to me one of the most prominent features of NPs is their huge over-investment in "Appearances"-first, last, always; its all about image-or "mirage" in my mind. The one element I've seen over and over again is the "Smear Campaign" the NPs engage in with regard to their ACs who distance themselves either through LC or NC. Not only is the AC slimed and maligned within the family, but to anyone within earshot or phone dialing range never mind email/text etc. Why is this so important? Wouldn't it seem far more important to invest that time and energy in self-examination? If you're so horribly hurt, why would you malign the very person you allegedly want BACK in your life? If they're so awful, I would think the EP would be breathing a huge sigh of relief. Interestingly, while they're crying a river (and generally a bunch of BS) the AC is shut right down to the outside world about the pain and experiences that have brought them to this point. Many NPs are also pro-active in their denigration campaign: ex: "She/He always WAS difficult/sensitive/deceptive" etc. Don't think for a second all the names and alleged "qualities" you were accused of having weren't told to others behind your back-probably for years.
    The reactive "Smear Campaign" speaks for itself. "OK, I'll honor your silly boundaries" (spoken through clenched teeth/pasted on faux smile) when the AC institutes some ground rules for the relationship going forward. As soon as the conversation is over-if not before-some snotty or transparent attempt to breach the boundary is made. Instead of using LC as an opportunity to reassess their OWN behavior, the NP uses it as a Power and Control struggle: While the NP says they'll TRY to honor the AC's request to be treated with dignity and respect, their behavior indicates they have NO intention of doing so. The underlying message? "HOW DARE YOU! I'm your MOTHER/FATHER" etc. Their Right to Supremacy and Domination over their AC has been challenged-their IMAGE potentially tarnished. I firmly believe it is THIS the EP is reacting to, NOT the reality of the relationship itself.
    The most common problem in these relationships I've seen is Boundaries: The EP has none with regard to the child and you're not "entitled" to any either. Reading your diaries is a very clear indicator of a lack of boundaries, respect and a fact-finding mission. You are not ALLOWED to have your own thoughts, feelings, reactions. This is WAAAAY too threatening to "Image/Appearances." You're being carefully inculcated with the message, "THIS is what matters-Appearances: You, the autonomous individual must surrender any illusions you might entertain about me, us, this Family" allegedly in service to a "Higher Good"- Appearances/Image. NPs are the Kings and Queens of Impression Management, the consummate "Publicists." This continuing mind-fuckery ensures even if you do indeed "Get Away," you'll never have the strength to leave. (Think "Hotel California.") Your entire FOO and other "community members" will be "Recruited" to bring pressure to bear to herd you back "in line."
    I have to give credit to Jonsie here. I've re-read her Post on her estrangement from her FOO repeatedly and its been a gold mine for me: What her FOO DIDN'T DO was striking in contrast to what we've encountered-consistently:
    Power and Control, Domination/Subjugation/Profound Boundary Violations-all the typical tactics AC's encounter-speak to the need to preserve Appearances and Image at all cost. And don't think for a nanosecond you won't be "sacrificed" on the alter in service to this perverted dynamic.

    1. I was going to comment but I feel like TW pretty much summed up some of the things I was thinking (and so much more than just the things I was thinking!) I think I might like to try my hand at writing a post addressing this question though, if it's okay with you, Claire: But at the core, both of us feel a desperate need to be known and not to have people believe anything about us that we think is untrue. What does that mean?

    2. Claire, TW, Jonsi--first, I think the question your raise in this post is extremely important. Hugely so, to NARCs. Tundra W makes the distinction in her comment that for Narcs, being known is about image, and for their internal "audience." For us, it is about being properly interpreted or understood and heard when we strive to communicate. TW is so right that when the shit starts going down, ACONS withdraw--we become depressed, we READ everything we can, we look for every way possible to believe our NP that we are at fault, then finally our driving need for accuracy, TRUTH, comes out and we can't pretend any longer. I would link our need to be known with our deep need to confirm the connection between internal and external reality, between what we feel and what's happening in the interactions with Narcs. With narcs, not only do they not care about confirming the connection between reality and their feelings, but they only care about maintaining the appearance they desperately need to craft. Someone called it an "as if" personality (Melanie Klein?). We (our ACON group) are the opposite. We recoil from "as if,' we are DONE with "as if." Jonsi, this is worth a post. Please do it!

    3. TW, preach it! Yes, the smear campaign starts ages before we rebel. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that the parent's original narcissistic wound (left by their own parent(s), presumably) results in their being certain that no one can love them unconditionally. Perhaps they see every relationship as a potential betrayal, including relationships with their children. So they start amassing negative feelings and stories about you from the time you're born. (I'm blogging about this, will post it next week).

      As you suggested, it also has a lot to do with their internal image. They were unable to develop healthy self-esteem as a child and their sense of self is very, very brittle. All potential threats to their self-image must be obliterated!

      I should clarify that I don't think wanting to be known is a bad thing, or that having this in common with my mother is bad, either. Jonsi, I think every person has this need, to some extent. Perhaps if we've been maligned, having that need denies only makes it stronger? In a lot of parenting literature, you'll see the phrase "a need met ceases to be a need." This would be the opposite of that. And yes, feel free to write about this!

      CS, good distinction between maintaining image and wanting to be understood. I've seen both in my mother. One very sad thing is that beneath all her narcissism and toxicity there is a very hurt girl/woman who really does need somebody to hear her stories and validate her. I can't be that person any more, though.

      It's awful that narcs, in trying so hard to meet their needs, and up being so toxic that they make it impossible. They need human relationships and they sabotage human relationships.

      Going to have to look up "as if" personality. Interesting!

  2. There is, IMO a profound need to "Unmask" the "Pretenders." There's a profound sense of moral outrage when one's reputation, one's very SELF is being trampled in the service (once again) of the NP. Again, they are NOT reacting to the relationship AT ALL. They are reacting to what the estrangement REPRESENTS TO THEM.
    And what could possibly be more threatening to a NP than having their "Mirror" BROKEN? Being "exposed" for the moral turpitude in which they engage through out their child's life? Again, I firmly believe their frantic and more repugnant YET reactions to their AC's decision is a reflection of the MEANING they impart to ANY real or perceived threat to their carefully constructed "Persona." These people are NOT dealing with the same reality we are at all. It's all about THEM, their "script," this soap opera they call their LIVES and the lack of any internal sense of what it means to actually BE human with all the frailties and failings that implies. I remember very clearly the first time I realized these people truly DO exist in a fantasy of their OWN making. It was spooky as hell.
    Oh, they GRASP the enormity of the implications here, no doubt about it, ie, they SEE, they just don't AGREE.
    And to be trashed because of one's human need to grow, to develop, to introspect and formulate an opinion/judgement regarding the paucity of parenting, the attempts to totally annihilate the child and later the AC is beyond belief. The true litmus test of an NP is simply to say "No." To even the most innocuous "demand." Watch the shit fly. The over-reaction and ensuing tactics are absolute give-aways in my book to the evil that lurks beneath the surface. I'd have to be an absolute moron to ignore the reality of the behaviors/attitudes that were demonstrated on a daily basis as I was growing up. That I should DARE to call it as it truly was, even quietly, privately, politely and request some changes was an invitation for a no-holds-barred attack. These people "exist" only in so far as they are reflected in the mirrors of "others" particularly their children. That enduring sense of self is instead an enduring pattern of behavior to CREATE some semblance of a "self."
    They are, IMO the ultimate Predators. They steal our humanity and use and abuse it at their choosing and at their leisure. And THAT is the painful truth they will NOT accept. Hence, the furious back-lash. Why would we NOT be outraged? Why would we simply stand by once again and get trampled under their perfidy? It's disgusting, absolutely morally repugnant to expect victims to NOT have their truth, their knowledge, their humanness once again vilified and NOT respond with absolute outrage. Blaming the victim is an age old "contract" and trauma bonds are painfully, slowly expiated; our deal with the devil/evil is DONE.

    1. "The true litmus test of an NP is simply to say 'No.'"

      Yes, indeed. While the my relationship with my mother spans decades, and it took a long time to travel through distancing to LC to NC , there was one particular moment that changed everything, five years ago. It had everything to do with my mother making a "request" (demand) and me thinking it through and politely saying no. She unleashed some fury on me. How DARE I DENY her this thing? On my end, it was the calmest, most logically-thought-out confrontation I had ever had with her. I had hoped it would turn out well but knew it wouldn't. She seethed. I ended the conversation. And my life has not been the same since (and I'm so glad!).

      "they are NOT reacting to the relationship AT ALL. They are reacting to what the estrangement REPRESENTS TO THEM. "

      I actually think it's both. Narcs are really, really, really broken people, but they are still people underneath it all. That doesn't mean I have to be the one to save my mother or that I owe her anything. She's too toxic for me or my family to be near. But she's still a person, and she hurts. She hurts both because of the way my rejection of her affects her delicate sense of self, and also because, after all, I am her daughter. Her brand of "love" is pretty fucked-up, but I'm still her baby. And honestly, if one of my children chose not to be in my life any more, I would hurt not only because I miss them, but because it would challenge *my* sense of self. The difference is in she and I would handle that situation. She blames the bad daughter. I would look within myself.

  3. My NP "hurt" not because she missed "me" because she hadn't the slightest clue who I was. What she missed was her all-purpose sherpa, therapist, whipping post, source of $$/N "supply" and reflected "glory" in MY accomplishments. (Which were immediately expropriated as HERS.) She was not at all available to me in ANY way during challenging or difficult times. I wasn't "allowed" to have them. In fact, she wasn't available period unless she wanted something FROM me.
    Of course you would handle the situation differently. And because you would, it's highly unlikely difficult times with your kids will result in the "Permanent Termination of Parental Rights" (NC) but rather a bump in the road for you and your offspring. You would not throw your young adult kid out on the street simply because you did not agree with their choice or circumstance ex: They became pregnant. (I'm NOT speaking to addiction here.) Or they insisted they WOULD visit/have a relationship with their father, your ex.
    And therein lies the difference. Mine had MULTIPLE opportunities to address her issues and OUR issues: She chose not to-repeatedly.
    Consequently, I chose to continue my life without her. Yes, it's a loooong, painful road to loose all HOPE for a relationship with a parent. I would have been perfectly satisfied if we could have managed a formal, distant relationship. However, that would NOT suit her: Nothing but total ownership would do and you can't "own" a human being. I do believe it's against the law. And it's certainly contrary to any concept of morality.