Unspeakable

I woke to a sound that made no sense and a voice yelling, “Darling!  What is it?”  At that point I realized that the sound I was hearing was myself and I was making a sound that I have no memory of making ever before in my life.  It was a yipping akin to what I’ve heard dogs do when they’re horribly frightened, and yet it wasn’t a canine sound.  It was the sound of a human frightened so badly they couldn’t yell but they could still make a high-pitched gasping sound.

I’ve had nightmares all my life, but to my knowledge I’ve never woken from one screaming.  The experience, however, was (I think) the last step in healing something that was wrong in my life for the last 15 years.

In the dream there was a horrific looking primate (as large as a baboon, all white with blood-red eyes) who could speak to me.  He kept breaking out of his cage and I knew he wanted the keys to the other cages at the zoo.  As the dream progressed there was greater and greater fear (on my part) that this primate would escape and hurt not only me, but also my family.  In particular the fear that my family would be hurt has always been this gagging/oppressive and terrifying fear in my life.  At the end of the dream, the full horror of the nightmare is realized when I walked into my parents bedroom and I discover that the primate is sitting in my mother’s chair, looking at me.  In the supernatural way of dreams I know that this is the signal that as I was coming to warn my parents about the primate he had made it to them first and killed them.  I saw no bodies, but what I did see had another significance.  On my parents bed was a girl of 3 and she was bound up.  Her name was Ella.

I have never met a person by that name in my life let alone a child.  My sister is 3 years younger than me and so she would have been closer to me in age in this dream.

It was at this point that I must have started screaming because a voice unfamiliar to the dream world woke me, and then the analysis began.  Upon being wakened I realized that the dream took place in the old house we had lived in when I was a child, which is interesting in and of itself, because though I will dream of places I’ve been before in life (schools, campuses, parks etc.) they are always rearranged somehow, and that I can recall I almost never have dreams that take place in the old house.

And who in the world was the little girl?

I began thinking about Freud and his belief that while some dreams are purely imaginative works for the mind to process the day, there are dreams of significance which speak to an interior world, the world of the psyche and its needs.  Well apparently my psyche has been living for some time in the old house, which was fascinating to learn.  Furthermore, my psyche had to confront something in that dream which I never confronted in life; namely: the horror at my father’s death when I was 15.  Now that might sound just plain odd to say since I’m now 30 and you would think that my grief must have been reconciled in all this time, and perhaps it was, but I wonder now if my little brain when I was 15 put up a psychic barrier between my mind and the horror I should have felt— which is not the same thing at all as grief.  As I came in the back door they were carrying his lifeless body out that day, and while I was sad (broken-hearted, to be honest) there was so much to be done, so much that needed all my focus, and so little time to think about what had happened.

And I was 15.

I let my grief wash over me.  I let my father’s death pass away from me.  I dealt with my life by living it and waiting, as I know now, was the white-haired primate with blood-red eyes who had not been faced in the ordeal.  I look at my mind’s depiction of horror as being embodied in that apparition.  It’s well-chosen because I have been afraid of primates for most of my life.  Even tiny monkeys make me very nervous.  Then there was the interesting appearance of another symbol: the 3-year-old Ella.  She was my childhood, trussed up on the bed and captured by the circumstances.  I was now the one who had to drive to the grocery store, do the banking with my mother, care for my mother when I was home from school, and do all the other tasks normally allotted to 15-year-olds.  Ella was the victim of Dad’s death because she was my childhood taken away just as death claimed him.  Oh, I’m not pretending that it was some kind of rude surprise!  Dad had a long decline (8 months) for me to get used to the idea of having all that responsibility, but she too went the way of my father and just as I never faced the “horror” of the situation then neither did I think about the loss of those last years before turning in my childhood for adulthood.  Adulthood came home to roost and I accepted it without question or pause, but also without facing the “loss” of something.

When I heard myself screaming early in the morning I stopped.

  • I was in Amsterdam.
  •  My parents were both dead (Mom nearly a year now).
  • There was no captive 3-year-old who lay in my parent’s old house trussed up like a hostage.
  • I was safe.

But in many ways this wasn’t a nightmare because it had all happened to me before, except without the aid of some fictive creature that outwitted my parents and killed them.  Their deaths weren’t like that, and yet despite its differences from reality the fact remains that my parents did die.  There came a time when no one sat in Mom’s chair, and Ella was trussed up and bundled away many years ago when my father died.

I never even heard her cry out in the dream, but now I’ve finally heard myself scream, and it took 15 years for the horror of what happened to be dealt with/felt/experienced, and in this way I have come to understand— even better than I did before— what Lacan talks about when he describes the Real.  I was connecting with the abstract spectral logic of what happened all those years ago, and instead of being able to shove it aside, or not process it, I was the witness to it again in a place where I had no distractions from what exactly transpired and what it meant to my life.

Which just goes to show that we can appear adjusted to all the world (and even ourselves) and yet have baggage that’s still waiting to be claimed in the future.

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~ by Rebecca Erickson on April 13, 2013.

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