Welcome to another session of Dream Interpretations with Merri Halma. Today we welcome Alex Stewart, a social worker at Louis Ellis Adult Group Home
Alex: Thank you for having me.
Alex has been having a recurring dream of being with her parents and older brother sitting around the Christmas tree. Alex, you mention feeling invisible, as you watch your parents and brother opening presents. He calls for you to come join them, and you try to move to the couch where they are, and then you start growing. They don’t appear to notice, yet you call to them to notice you. Your words fall on deaf ears. You continue growing, breaking through the roof. It starts to snow, so you do your best to protect them.
Let me remind everyone that each item in the dream is symbolic of the dreamer. Now for our interview with Alex.
Merri: I understand you’ve been having this since your brother’s death, right?
Alex: Yes, well I think so. I always felt like I had the dream before he died, but certainly in the years since then, probably once every six months, at least every year. When I first left for college, I had the dream or some version of it every night for a week.
Merri: What stresses were you experiencing at the time of the dreams?
Alex: I'm not sure about all of them. The last few times, I was stressing over my relationship with Kat. She and I were struggling there for a while, mostly due to my stupidity, but we're on track right now. It's funny, the more life throws at us, the better we are, but when everything was going on with school and the new job at Louise Ellis, I was not doing a lot of self-care. I guess the job was also bringing Shawn's death into the forefront, and I had a lot of unresolved feelings about him. I think about him every day. He was such a cool brother.
Merri: Tell me how this recent dream changed from when you were a child?
Alex: When I was little the dream stopped before I got out from under the tree. I could hear my parents talking from across the room, which comforted me. In college, the dream, it became more stressful when I tried to get their attention and couldn’t. After I started working at Louis Ellis, in the dream I became more protective of my family and Shawn, from the elements, the wind, and sleet in the dream.
Merri: That’s after you broke through the ceiling, correct?
Merri: As a child, after Shawn passed away, did you feel lost? Like you couldn’t say what your feelings were?
Alex: I was lost. My parents were lost, too. I kept my feelings to myself, I guess because I didn't want to make life harder for them. Our family changed overnight, really. We went from kind of an Ozzy and Harriet existence to everybody for themselves. We didn’t talk about Shawn for a long time. It was hard because, everywhere you looked, Shawn was there. I think we were all scared of making the pain worse for each other.
Merri: You sound helpless, though. Like whatever you do isn’t enough. Is that right? What kind of danger were you seeing in your waking life growing up?
Alex: I guess I was always worried I was going to disappoint my parents. They had already lost one child, and I had to be uber-responsible to make up for that. Even during my “rebellious” phase, where I barely talked to them and got in a lot of arguments with my mom, I was killing it at school, AP Math, Science, and English classes. I won a statewide essay contest. I was on the debate team. And I had a part-time job working at a bookstore. My rebellion was basically being shitty to my mom and ignoring my dad. Also, I smoked for about a year. Stupid, right? Anyway, the biggest fear I had was letting my parents down, but I ended up distancing myself from them in the process. And then I felt more alone because they didn’t see me. They didn’t know me.
Merri: Fear keeps us from opening up to family and friends. You buried yourself in your schoolwork to avoid feeling your fears and as a form of protection. Now that you’re older, are ready you to get to know your parents? Are you ready to feel your feelings?
Alex: Yes. We have had several talks now, and it is helping me understand on a psychological level what happened. I’m beginning to see them as two different people, not just “the parents,” and they are actually pretty cool individuals to know. My dad is funny, in a dad sort of way, and really easy to hang out with. He knows a little about everything. My mom is a bit harder to get to know, but she is brilliant, snarky (like me at times), and organized. If I ever need help getting something done, she is right there for me.
As to my own feelings, I am always a work in progress. I have a hard time trusting people, so I end up thinking the worst when things don’t go the way I planned. In the past, I have held pretty shallow relationships, where there was no need to develop high levels of trust, really nothing to lose. As things got serious with Kat, I struggled more with the fact that I did have something to lose than anything that was actually going on with her, the bar skanks, etc., although that is what I focused on so that I didn’t have to face my own feelings directly. Now, I see how bad that was for our relationship and my own well-being. It isolated me from Kat, which made me feel even more invisible to her.
Merri: That’s great insight, and shows you are facing your feelings. In the dream, too, you mention a feeling of invisibility. In what way in your waking life now do you feel invisible?
Alex: I haven’t really thought about that. As a social worker, I want to make a difference in people's lives. When Carla died that brought that feeling front and center. I mean, I oversaw her, and there was nothing I could do to keep her ... safe. If I'd just gotten to the phone in time. If I had driven around to all the local bus stops. I don't know, it just felt like my presence, nothing I could do mattered, but I kept trying. I struggle with it sometimes, but I do believe that I can make a difference.
In some ways, maybe I feel like Kat wasn't hearing me? She kept everything bottled up inside and then shared it when she's ready. I like to talk things through, plan things out, so when she doesn't tell me things, I feel left out of the loop. When she was going through this whole commitment thing, it wasn't the typical settle down or play the field question, it was how do I settle down? Will I be able to keep my other family back home? I guess she needed to work through that on her own, but I felt left out like she had better things to do.
Merri: So you felt isolated and alone.
Alex: Yes, that’s about right.
Merri: In your waking life, how are you not protecting yourself?
Alex: Well, for a while I was just flying by the seat of my pants. I was avoiding feelings instead of addressing them. If I had talked with my parents a long time ago, I could have avoided years of lingering guilt over Shawn. If I had faced down some of my jealousy issues, I wouldn't have had to put Kat and me through the horrible separation that we had.
I am learning, though. My dad got hurt in a car accident, and I have been helping him, but instead of running myself threadbare, I have been writing in my journal, walking, and meditating. Kat and I are learning to communicate a lot better. And I have had learned a lot about forgiveness. My parents for their grief, the universe for taking Carla, Kat for keeping things to herself, and most of all myself, for always feeling like I've let everyone down if I don't do the exact right thing. I think I'm a pretty cool person. Even my cat, Schrodinger, thinks so, from time to time.
Merri: Aren’t we all flying by the seat of our pants? (giggle). I wanted to get to the dream you had with Carla now.
Alex: The last time was just before they found Carla (a client from the group home where I work). In that one, I could see her at the house next door, watching television, and there was this red shade over the window. What was weird was that I had an extension to that dream, and I haven’t had one like this before. I was lying in this meadow where I like to go, and I kept getting covered with leaves. I don’t know if I believe in precognition, or whatever, but I woke up covered in leaves, and I couldn’t breathe. Carla was found in a wooded area covered in leaves just a few days later.
Merri: That dream gives me pause. Yes, it does sound like you were experiencing a bit of precognition. Perhaps Carla was reaching out to you.
I remember your original dream changed, too, when you burst through the roof of the house, your brother, Shawn, noticed you. He said you didn’t have to be up there, right? What are you trying to get yourself to see?
Alex: I think I was up there trying to see more about Carla, and he told me to get down. When I said I was trying, he asked me why. I think maybe he was saying all my trying wasn’t doing any good, that I needed to stop trying so hard and let some things come to me. He was telling me to get down from where I was so I could see. But I could see better from up there, right? Well, maybe not. Maybe I need to have more than one perspective to really understand things. And maybe I am trying too hard.
Sharon, who is my boss and a good friend, has counseled me to think more of the everyday ways I can affect the lives of our clients, rather than focusing on all the potentially bad things that can happen, the worst all would be a client getting harmed or dying. Certainly, those things may happen and will have to be dealt with, but the day-to-day care is the most crucial thing. In my personal life, I need to come to the understanding that I am not on the hook to prevent all the bad things that happen to the people in my life. I can keep all the balls in the air I want, but life is always going to throw another one in, one that I may or may not be able to handle. And that has to be okay. My brain gets that. It may take a while for my heart to catch up.
Merri: Alex, you are bringing in your own insight to that dream. I’m happy to learn so much from you and look forward to seeing your continual growth. I hope you start keeping a dream journal and learn from your dreams.
Thank you for coming on our show, Alex. And thank you, listeners, for tuning into Dream Interpretations with Merri Halma. Until next time. Goodbye and pleasant dreams.