Have you ever prepared to cook something like they do on TV? You know… with all those little cups or bowls that have everything measured and ready to just pour in? I’ve done that with certain recipes. It sure speeds things up.
When I’m cooking that way, I think of myself as Miss Ready Spaghetti—even when I’m cooking chicken. Now don’t get me started on the subject of Chicken Spaghetti. Those two concepts do not go together in my book. What can I say. Sometimes I’m a very concrete thinker. Spaghetti is spaghetti and chicken is chicken. Never the twain shall meet.
Back in high school, the word prep referred to preppies—the kids who could afford the new IZODs and Polo shirts. We didn’t have the money for the fancy brands at the time, but I participated in the polished, conservative look. Worse fashion trends can spawn, to be sure.
Today when I think of the word prepping, I think of three kinds: Prepping a recipe, prepping for an apocalypse and prepping for healing. That last one is my favorite.
As I look back on recent years, I’m extremely grateful for the many ways God prepared me for this culminating event—my mom’s death and funeral. The mental illness on both sides of the family—the extreme brokenness—gave me the opportunity for some very deep exploration.
God was faithful to take me where I needed to go
in order to find truth and he taught me
how to respond—with courage.
Thanks be to God.
First, Brandon and I walked through the mine field of The Sociopaths—his parents. Then I explored my experiences with my own parents and discovered a different flavor of mess—The Narcissist/Codependent Combo. Yeesh.
The similarities between the three offspring in each group are eerie. The oldest who hid in her room. The “chip off the old block”—I mean the abuser—who was utterly adored by her mother. And the victim—labeled The Problem Child. (That’s Brandon and me.)
God taught us in many ways—through trials, through our counselor Matt, through reading, through practicing, through the support of good friends, through memories. God also gave us dreams. Many dreams. Colorful, revealing dreams.
Let’s walk through two of the dreams from last year. In the next post, we’ll explore three more.
The new, vast estate
Sunday, January 7
Yesterday morning, Brandon told me about a series of dreams he’s had—three different, but very similar dreams. Each time, we’re at a vast house, looking around, getting familiar. It is our house. The previous night, he had the third of these dreams. A church group was meeting in the chapel on our property. The preacher and Brandon met before the service and the preacher asked Brandon if he would interfere at all and Brandon said, “Carry on.” They were a little charismatic, but it was okay.
In another area, a huge crowd was gathered for a family event—every relative of his and many people he didn’t recognize. We were both feeling invaded. His dad said to him, “I want to have a word with you,” his usual opening to a berating. Brandon walked away and his mom started chasing after him to finish the attack because his dad wasn’t physically able to chase him.
Very telling. It’s about our new life.
Theme: New life and the push-back
Brandon was given this type of dream three different times to emphasize (1) the importance, beauty and vastness of our new life and (2) the reality that the sociopaths and their fans would push back against our new life by trying to invade it. Sometimes I’ve referred to our new life as our Safe Zone; I mean our No Sociopaths Allowed Zone.
Flavors of invasion
We’ve experienced the attempted invasions in a variety of ways—The Sneak Attacks, The Buy-Off and The Stakeout, texts from previously-silent relatives, Day-of-The-Event Holiday “Invitations” (i.e., The Sociopathic Summons/Smackdown), etc. If you’re wondering—What is a sneak attack?—see this post. For more colorful examples of sneak attacks, see this post for a stellar execution by my mother-in-law Delia, this six-part post about Uncle Henry’s sneak attack letter—affectionately called The Manifesto, and this post for my father-in-law Andrew’s version.
In the dream, we hosted worship on our estate in our chapel. To me, this symbolizes the spiritual growth we’re experiencing in our Safe Zone. God is worshiped where we live. Sometimes we watch sermons together. We hold hands as we pray and give thanks to God.
The estate was expansive, beautiful and near the water. The grounds were as beautiful as the home and other buildings. In real life, we enjoy our home and being outside. We don’t need to hide anymore (except on an occasional holiday). If you missed it, you can read about some Thanksgiving mayhem here.
We’re safe and we’re no longer distracted by the sociopaths’ evil and their constant drama and lies, so The Healing Journey has progressed steadily—impacting us in all areas of life.
Brandon’s dream showed us this all-important truth.
The Healing Journey is beautiful.
As the old hymn says, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”
The reunion, the parking lot and the hotel
Less than a week after Brandon’s dream, I had this one.
Saturday, January 13
I had a disturbing dream last night—a three-part dream that I shared with Brandon this morning. He gave me the interpretation. In the first part, we (Brandon and I) were at a family reunion at a different location—with cabins, etc. Cousin Wayne, Uncle Henry and Sylvia [—his wife—] and other unknown people were there. We wanted to get away.
In the second part, I was sitting on the passenger side of a car in a parking lot. There were various unknown people here and there. Someone approached the car and I thought, “No biggie. The windows are up.” Then I realized that the driver’s window was down. So I moved over and raised the window. Then I started driving to get out of there. People were here and there, some [were] asleep on the pavement. I had to be careful not to run over someone.
In the third part of the dream, I was in a hotel/restaurant location away from home. As I was walking somewhere, a man started talking/walking with me. He lifted my body off the ground—up and down—barely touching me. Later, when I was alone in my hotel room, things in my purse were being lifted and moved around by something invisible and my body was being shaken and moved without my will. I realized that I had been possessed by an evil spirit and it was terrifying. I went into the lobby outside my room, hoping someone could see what was happening and could help me. Then I woke up, terrified.
I prayed to God to protect us from evil for all of our household. I was able to go back to sleep fairly quickly, which was surprising.
Brandon’s interpretation: We had to get away from his family and avoid collateral damage to people we didn’t know and who didn’t know us (other relatives). We have to avoid being affected/poisoned/invaded by what they [—the sociopaths—] did to us.
PTL for his insightful understanding!
Unpacking the dream
This dream showed, vividly, three different groups of people on my mother-in-law Delia’s side of the family—the sociopaths, the accomplices and the casual observers.
Uncle Henry was quite the enthusiastic accomplice—the author of The Sneak Attack letter; but he was more than that. Was he also a sociopath or “just” a narcissist? Not my problem. Anyway, his wife Sylvia was a casual observer.
No one talked about the sickness in the extended family. Everyone ignored the elephant in the room—the chronic abuse and mental illness—and accepted the status quo as The Way Things Are. I understand that. Victims are trained to sit down and shut up. Been there; done that.
The favorite and the reality
Cousin Wayne was Brandon’s favorite cousin. (Their moms are sisters.) Wayne was always good to Brandon and looked after him at large group events while they were growing up in Sociopathville. Sadistic Shelly wasn’t the only rough one in the bunch. Interestingly enough, Wayne was The Black Sheep in Aunt Marilyn’s crew. The first-born male, like Brandon. Cousin Wayne died several years ago after a long battle with cancer.
I find it interesting that Cousin Wayne, Brandon’s favorite, was in this dream. In life and in the dream, we needed to get away from all of them, even the people we liked. The pervasive cancer—the evil—in certain people in the group made the whole situation bad for us. We had to get away.
The parking lot segment of this dream showed this vague reality that there were many unknown people in the clan. When a stranger approached the car I was in, I knew I had to get away while not running over people. Some of them were asleep on the pavement in the parking lot. They were totally unaware of my very presence. That’s a true and very pointed reality in this large “family” system. Some of us were invisible to each other.
The underlying emphasis of The Parking Lot segment matched the first part of the dream. I had to get away.
The last segment of this three-part dream addressed the evil. The Sociopaths. When I woke up from this dream, I was terrified. Someone had taken over my body and was lifting me off the ground and shaking me around. I wasn’t safe. I couldn’t control my own body. Something else had taken over. Something evil. I desperately needed help.
The damage and the infection
While they weren’t my parents, The Sociopaths damaged me too. They hurt me by the things they did directly to me; their gossip, lies and “drama-making”—as Brandon calls it; and the things they did to their one and only son his whole life. What they did to him before and after we met affected him, so it affected me.
One of Brandon’s sayings is that “Crazy is infectious.” In other words, other people’s behavior impacts us, especially when we’re children who are surrounded by mental illness and dysfunctional behavior. And evil. We see how the people in the house act and react to situations and we figure it’s normal. We figure it’s the way people are supposed to treat each other. None of it was normal. None of it was healthy. It was a catastrophic mess, constant chaos and Control Freak Central. It was violent. It was mental illness on steroids. It was abuse. But the people in charge tell the victim, “You’re the problem here and we’re wonderful.” And the victims believe it.
Until they don’t.
The healing journey
Needless to say, those experiences mess with your head. It isn’t impossible to unscramble this mess in your own mind, but it does require a great deal of work. The Healing Journey doesn’t happen to us. (Neither does purposeful grieving.) We choose it, we take the time and we do the work—reading, journaling, reflecting, asking and answering the hard questions, writing letters—seeking truth from God.
The Healing Journey isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
This three-part dream ended with me acknowledging that I desperately needed help. And I walked out of the hotel room—a temporary place that wasn’t my home—to try to get help.
I like that analogy. Sociopathville wasn’t my home. It was never meant to be my home. Or yours—whether it was Sociopathville, Narcissistville or another flavor of dysfunction and abuse.
My dream showed the crucial first step of The Healing Journey: Acknowledging that we need help.
God is The Helper.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber. Look, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper. The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil. He will keep your soul. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in, from this time forth, and forevermore.
New Heart English Bible
Coming next: Next time on Choosing Peace you’ll read about snakes, a debutante and the Penguins of Madagascar, among other things. Join me next time as we explore three more colorful dreams.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Psalm 118:5-7
Song for Healing: “Captain” by Hillsong UNITED