The snake and the kitten
Thanks for your patience during my recent hiatus. Today on Choosing Peace we’re doing a little zigzagging, from an interesting relationship—to our history of denial—to dreams.
This post is a bit of an intro to the next Hidden Forgiving Item—impact. We’ll be exploring two more dreams as we meander toward Impact Lane. But first, let’s figure out the relationship between adapting and denial. I didn’t know anything about adapting when I wrote the Grieving series. Denial and seeking truth were common themes. So, are adapting and denial related? Let’s find out.
A review of adapting
In part 1 of this post, we looked at adapting—how and why we adapt to the people and the place(s) where we grew up. Our adaptation shielded us to some extent from any abuse or neglect so we could survive in a difficult environment. At the time, as children and teens, we thought everything going on at home was normal—or that we deserved it. And we were sadly mistaken.
A two-tone life
The other day, Brandon and I were discussing these topics while we sat on our front porch. He mentioned how different his parents were in public compared with the nightmare at home (i.e., Life With Sociopaths). I spontaneously called it A Two-Tone Life. He liked that expression. There was the bright side and the dark side. The bright side; I mean fake side? Sparkly, entertaining and the life of the party—or the church fellowship, as the case may be—in public. And the dark side? See this section—Date Night for Sociopaths—for a colorful reminder. Watch out, people.
Right and wrong
Children who feel unloved by their parents figure their parents are right—and they, the children, are wrong. From the child’s perspective, the abusive and neglectful parents appear to be all-knowing. They look like the other parents, so everything that’s going on must be normal. And the child feels unworthy, bad, defective. There must be something wrong with me; otherwise, my parents would love me.
Abusive and neglectful parents say their mantras and/or do their “thing” every day. The Way Life Is. Mom and Dad know what they’re doing. They’re good parents. They feed me and give me clothes to wear. They tell me I should be grateful. They tell me what’s wrong with me. And they’re right. They’re my parents. They wouldn’t lie to me.
Children need parents. Desperately. Because our adapting shielded us, at least partially, from the truth and the danger of the abuse and neglect that was going on, we believed those lies about our parents—with childlike innocence.
1. My parents are doing the right thing, right?
2. My parents are good parents, right?
3. My parents are telling me the truth, right?
Wrong, times three. We believe those lies when we’re children and for quite some time as adults. Until we don’t. For a related fallacy spoken widely about all parents—“They did their best”—see Society’s Lies in this post.
The relationship between adapting and denial
Adapting and denial are like first cousins three times removed, whatever that means. They’re related, but they don’t hang out together. How so? The adapting takes place while we live with our abusive/neglectful parents; I mean caretakers (see The Big Truth in this post). In other words, adapting is the childhood thing, while denial is the adult thing.
Adapting and denial both keep us from seeing the truth. We need adapting as children—as a protective mechanism to help us survive. In stark contrast, we don’t benefit from denial as adults. At all. We need to see the truth—sad or disgusting as it may be—so we can do the work of grieving our losses and traumas. Why? So we can experience healing and peace. See this six-part post for an example from my life.
Speaking of denial, it’s much easier to see someone else’s denial than it is to shine the light of truth on our own. That’s for sure.
Our stories are very unique, just like we are. Here’s a snippet about Brandon’s denial:
As you read the first half of our story…, take note of the underlying issues that created in Brandon an adult who was in denial for decades that his parents were abusive. They were admittedly “difficult” at times, but not “abusive.”
How did seriously mentally ill parents—sociopaths—convince their victim that they were good and he was evil?
How did they do it?
Yes, indeed. How did they do it? Lies, manipulation, control. The Persistently-Practiced and Perfected Public Persona. Drama, drama and more drama. Verbal and physical attacks. The constant propaganda. Sick family roles (and costumes). Grooming accomplices; I mean Cohorts-In-Crime. Major evil. See all four parts of The Trauma of Child Abuse or the first series, Sociopaths, for more.
When I decided to unpack my relationship with my dad, I made a crucial discovery. From The Trauma of Perfection, part 2:
Admitting and asking
…I had to ask myself some pointed questions.
Was I harmed by the things my dad said and/or did? Yes. Was the impact significant? Yes. Was I emotionally abused? (Could I admit the A-word? Abuse?)
Hard to admit
Why was it hard for me to admit this? …Brandon wasn’t the only one who had trouble admitting his parents’ abuse.
I don’t know, really. Maybe I wanted to believe that my dad did an okay job. Maybe I wanted to believe that deep down he loved me. Maybe I didn’t want to acknowledge the significance of his impact on my life. I think the impact, in the end, was the biggest issue. I had built pretty high emotional walls around myself and I didn’t want to admit how much my dad’s words had hurt me. But they did. They really did.
Laying down the denial, digging for the truth and doing the work of grieving may not sound like fun, but the healing and the peace are priceless rewards. We’ve come a long way in the last five years.
God continues to give me dreams to teach me, to remind me of things and to warn me. Thanks be to God.
The silent chaos
When I had this dream, I took its meaning at face value.
November 22, 2018 ~ Thanksgiving Day on our boat
I had a nightmare last night about my mother-in-law. She came to our house—uninvited and unwanted—and sat in a chair outside so we saw her every time we came or went. She was waiting us out—silently insisting that we interact with her, but we didn’t. A mama cat and kittens showed up inside our house, so there was some liveliness going on. Hmmm. Her presence plus chaos—a guaranteed combo.
September 27, 2020
While I was looking through the 2018 journal, I found a dream about my mother-in-law that I’d forgotten (Thanksgiving 2018). …I read [that] journal excerpt to Brandon this evening. He liked the use of the word chaos. He said that’s the word that describes her impact. If she’s involved, there will be chaos.
No doubt about it.
Sometimes there’s more to a dream than meets the eye. I understood some aspects of this dream at the time, but I missed some things. Later in 2020, God gave me a dream that helped me to eventually see much more.
Frozen by fear
This next dream left me with questions. As days and months passed, the Lord generously gave me the answers.
November 29, 2020
First thing this morning, I was thinking about the recent dream this fall with the snake and the kitten in our bedroom, sitting side-by-side. Chapter 3 in the book Psalm 91 and the Holy Spirit helped me to see the dream more clearly.
[The dream:] When I opened our bathroom door, [the snake and the kitten] were sitting near the end of our bed, a few feet away. The snake was coiled up in an attack position. I couldn’t get past them. I zipped back into the bathroom. My mom was getting out of the shower. I asked her what I should do. Then I remembered that she wouldn’t have any answers, so I turned back toward the door. I felt like I needed to protect the kitten from the snake, but I didn’t know what to do. Then I woke up.
As I reflected on this dream this morning, I viewed the kitten differently. Logan is allergic to cats. Then I remembered how Brandon’s mom reacted when we told her Logan’s allergic to cats. (His eyes had swollen shut at their house and he couldn’t see. I had to physically lead him to the truck when we left.) She yelled, I mean shrieked, “I’m not getting rid of my cat!” I replied, “Of course you’re not.” I had this dream before …[my father-in-law Andrew’s] funeral.
When I first had this dream, I thought I needed to protect the cute, cuddly little kitten. I was dead wrong. The kitten was dangerous—posing a silent threat to Logan, who’s allergic to cats—so it was dangerous to all of us. All. Of. Us. In other words, things weren’t what they appeared to be. Both the obvious danger, the snake, and the hidden danger, the kitten, needed to be kicked out of our house. And our lives.
I reverted to auto-pilot and asked my mom what I should do, immediately realizing that she couldn’t help me. This scenario begs some questions. When a problem that I’m afraid of presents itself, do I turn on my old habits—my auto-pilot? What are my old, ineffective, time-wasting, problem-prolonging habits? Do I go to the wrong people for advice? What do I need to do instead? What can I do that is proactive and courageous when this problem presents itself for the umpteenth time? Now would be a good time to take out your journal and reflect on these questions. Write down your honest answers. Are you spinning your wheels when it comes to certain recurring relationship challenges?
The Holy Spirit is challenging yours truly with those questions. Frankie Ann, how will you be wise and courageous next time? How will you be proactive in the meantime? Good questions. I’m definitely a work in progress.
Ready to attack
What did the stance of the snake and the kitten show me? They were both facing me, looking right at me. They were side-by-side and they were on the same side. They were a team and they were ready to rumble. The snake was coiled, in attack mode. The kitten looked cute and cuddly, but was actually dangerous. The kitten was an insidious threat. Very sneaky.
The snake and the kitten were in my house, blocking my way. I couldn’t get out of my room without dealing with them first. That, Peaceful Readers, says it all.
Both the obvious and the subtle attackers kept us frozen by fear for years and we didn’t know what to do. They were in our house because they were in our lives.
At the time, I didn’t know why I was given this dream. Little did I know that my sociopathic father-in-law, Andrew, would be dead later that month. Little did I know that I’d be face-to-face with the snake—Delia, my sociopathic mother-in-law—the ringleader of a very sick gang. Little did I know that I’d also be face-to-face with her Cohorts-In-Crime, her well-trained accomplices: Brandon’s sister Hazel; nieces and their spice (Brandon’s fun expression for spouses); and Sadistic Shelly’s widower, Rick.
This dream was a warning dream. A very important event was just around the corner and I needed to be reminded of who and what I was dealing with. We were all about to come face-to-face with evil. With someone who actively and intentionally tried to ruin our lives. With someone who remains manipulative and extremely dangerous. I won’t bore you—at least not today—with the colorful games Delia tried to play with Brandon before his dad died. It was the usual drama, chaos and lies. The coiled snake doing her thing.
When I journaled about this dream last November, I was reading a very important book, Psalm 91 by Peggy Joyce Ruth. I didn’t understand many of these things at the time, but God has unfolded the beautiful connection between Psalm 91, both of today’s dreams and the funeral that came soon after The Snake and The Kitten. Let’s focus on these five verses.
Because you have made the LORD, my refuge, the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall overtake you; no plague shall come near your dwelling. For he will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you in all your ways. In their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the viper. You will trample the young lion and the serpent underfoot.
Psalm 91:9-13, New Heart English Bible
These protections are in place for me because I’ve made the Lord, the Most High, my shelter and my refuge. Even before I read, studied and memorized Psalm 91, the Lord—my creator—rescued me numerous times. Are you encouraged by miracles? God dramatically saved my life last year. You can read about it here.
The importance of feet
There’s a modern saying: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I get it. I prefer this clarifying rewrite: “If you don’t stand for something godly, you’ll fall for something that isn’t.” I know it isn’t as catchy, but you know what I mean. What’s my point? Our feet show what we stand for. Our feet take us places—good places or bad places. Safe places or dangerous places. Sometimes we’re called to go to bad places or dangerous places in order to bring help and truth to dark places. Our feet enable us to do physical work, to move, to help, to rescue the vulnerable and much more. When emergency strikes, our feet are essential.
According to Psalm 91, what will God’s angels keep me from striking and injuring? My foot. If I strike my foot with force against a stone, I’ll be injured, which will limit where I can go. It’ll also leave me vulnerable.
Protected and ready for the fight
God tells me in his word that his angels will protect my foot from injury. Immediately after that, I see vivid examples of dangerous things that I will walk on and trample underfoot—the lion and the viper, the young lion and the serpent.
In my dream, what creatures were in my bedroom, blocking my way, ready to strike? Yes. The snake and the kitten. What was in our house in the first dream—when Delia was sitting on our porch, refusing to leave? Yep. A mama cat and her kittens. Coincidence? No, no, no. In that dream, the snake was on the porch and the cats were inside. Yikes.
How do I get rid of the lion and the viper—the cat and the snake? I stomp on them with my foot—the foot that God’s angels protect. I crush them. I kick them to the curb. I refuse to allow their presence. See this post for more.
Seeing the accomplices rightly
The snake is Delia and the cats are her accomplices.
It’s easy to focus on the ringleader. It’s also easy to minimize or completely ignore the accomplices—the Cohorts-In-Crime. When a mob boss orders a hit on someone, the boss calls on a trusted subordinate to do the dirty work. The hands of the accomplices are covered with blood. They are not innocent. They choose to associate with a dangerous, power-hungry, evil person and to do whatever dirty work is necessary to stay in the boss’s good graces. All of their hands are covered with blood.
When I read Proverbs 6 the other day, I was reminded of important truths about Delia and her gang.
There are six things which the LORD hates; yes, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness who utters lies, and he who sows discord among brothers.
Proverbs 6:16-19, NHEB
Both of these dreams showed me two things that can be hidden—the danger of accomplices and the impact of evil.
The first dream gave me a picture of chaos, which causes confusion. The second dream was about fear. How do confusion and fear impact our lives? We’ll dig into that next time.
Coming next: We’ll explore some of the hidden ways we’re impacted by abuse, neglect, loss and trauma. What for? So we can pursue forgiving—leaving no stone unturned. Do I have more dreams to share? You betcha. I may even share some of our experiences at the funeral. We’ll see. Until then, thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace.
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 91
Song for Healing: This song shares Psalm 91 truths and was published on YouTube the day I published this post. God is never late. Enjoy “Christ Will Be My Hideaway” by Sovereign Grace.