Dreams of betrayal

I rarely remember my dreams, but there is one that I had approximately five years ago which I’ll always remember…

There are a group of young girls, dressed in white, escorted to a room by their mothers. One of the mothers is new to the ceremony, and is showing signs of nervousness.

Then the businessmen come in.

The girls are paraded in a circle in front of the men, while the mothers stand to the side, smiling encouragement to their daughters.  The businessmen take their pick of the girls… one of them being the new girl.  The businessmen and their chosen girls go to a hotel, where they are abused.

The mothers whose daughters were chosen, are smiling and congratulating each other… their daughters were good enough to be chosen.  But the new mother is having second thoughts… she wants to go up and rescue her daughter, but the other mothers hold her back.  Telling her of the honour and privilege it was for her daughter to be picked.

I don’t pretend to understand how to interpret dreams, but what I find interesting about this dream that it is focused on the mothers.  In particular, the betrayal of mothers towards their daughters.  They didn’t protect them, instead they actively facilitated their daughters abuse.

This is very much how parts of me feel towards my mother.  This sense of betrayal is the reason why I had so much trouble going to Wellington.  It’s not the city (I used to live here), but it’s the feelings induced by both of my parents being in the same city.  In particular, a fear that the mother will offer us up for abuse.

My rational mind knows that this will not happen, but these fears are old fears.  They’re not based on present day logic, but instead on the perceptions that I formed as a child. Perceptions based on what I wanted a mother to be, and do… one who protected and nourished.  But in reality, she was so consumed with keeping on top of all of the obvious issues, that the ones which were even superficially hidden, were over-looked.

If I look at this knowledge within the context of the dream, she is the new mother to the group who wasn’t fully involved in the process of abuse.  She tried to stop it, but was distracted by the screen of those around her.  The imagery of both my mother, and the one in the dream, is that of weakness.  Neither were observant, neither were thinking beyond the present moment, and they therefore found themselves in situations for which they were not capable of handling.

My mother never knowingly facilitated the abuse, but instead didn’t pick up on the signs.  At one time my mother said that she suspected that something was going on with one of my sister’s boyfriends.  But today, when I asked her, she said she had no idea about any of it.  Instead, anything that might have been considered a sign, was explained away as being “who you were”.

There’s an emptiness in hearing this.  It makes sense, in that I was trying my very best to be “perfect”.  But it also hurts, in that I was not noticed in any real way… my cover story was all that people saw – or maybe all they wanted to see.

I drove for over six hours to reach Wellington.  That was a long time to think about what was going to happen.  There were thoughts of suicide, rather than facing the certainty of abuse that parts thought they were going to be exposed to… thoughts of being able to do this visit, just like all of the visits from the mother… thoughts of what has happened in the past, and how out of control the present has become.

At one point of the drive the messages about the mother not being able to protect me were being repeated over and over… I countered this with the thought that I am capable of protecting myself now.  This was met with a sense of disbelief.  It’s always comforting to know that I have such little faith in my own abilities…  But realistically, I am capable of keeping myself safe from self injury.  I’ve done so before, and I can do it again.

I’m told that healing is all about looking at the present feelings, understanding their origins, accepting them as valid, and using various coping mechanisms to help them be tolerated.  Sounds easy, huh?  So far, this weekend has proven it to be anything but easy.

One moment at a time…
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via FoxyTunes


26 thoughts on “Dreams of betrayal

  1. Wow CG, that dream is simple and yet full of meaning. I won’t say anything about your mom as I know how that affects parts of you, instead I’ll focus on you. I feel so terribly sad for you that you were overlooked. Overlooked is a mild way of putting it considering what happened. Without saying anything about your mom, I will say that your being overlooked and the statement that “anything that might have been considered a sign, was explained away as being “who you were” are about her coping/noncoping and in no way are they a reflection on your real value as a person.

    I’m so proud of you for countering any fearful thoughts about harm coming to you by stating that you are capable of taking care of yourself now. My therapist has a lways said that’s a truth we have to accept at some point in healing; that we can protect ourselves.

    I’m sad for what was said to you though and I hope that your internal strength comes to your aid. You did it and you were strong!

  2. These steps of healing are definitely not easy, and I understand how this trip must be very triggering for you.

    ‘Instead, anything that might have been considered a sign, was explained away as being “who you were”.’

    — I have heard this explanation before from various members of my family, and it made me feel so insignificant as a human being.
    I’m so sorry that is the reaction you received.

    I hope you can find some positive distractions on this trip that will offer you some glimpses of beauty, and joy….and an escape from the negative triggers.

    Thinking of you,

    • Hi Mareeya,

      As soon as my mother said those words, I shut down. I felt dirty, disgusting and worthless. As invisible as I tried to be for all those years.

      I don’t know if there is a “right” reaction for that sort of situation, there probably isn’t. But it was a great way to invalidate everything. She is a nurse after all, and if she didn’t see anything, then may be it’s all just a figment of my imagination.

      Sorry, I’m not in such a good space.

      Thank you for your support and understanding.

      Take care,

  3. I’m really at a loss for what to say. In one sense, going away was a no win. But I am convinced that parts of you knew this. But you did it anyway. Which means, I think, that parts of you saw it as an opportunity to heal.

    You said something to your mother. That’s progress.

    And this dream, while it happened many years ago, you recalled it at this time because it helps put things into context.

    In many ways I see healing as coming at a cost. I am not sure you would have made these connections had you not gone away.

    That’s not to minimize the difficulties you had.

    But it’s, one again, to validate that you have the strength inside to heal.

    • Hi Paul,

      There was no healing, just more mixed messages and confusion.

      I’ve said more to the mother in the past. Her response shut down any communication.

      I don’t see any positive connections. I don’t see any healing. Just more pain. I’m sick of pain.

      Take care,

      • I can understand you feeling this way… which is why I said I was at a loss for what to say.

        I like to think that there are not all negatives. I know it’s hardest to see that when you are in the middle of it all.

        So, thinking of you and hoping the confusion leads to some clarity and the pain softens.


        • Hi Paul,

          I don’t think there’s any right thing to say… thanks for the support and understanding.

          Things have shifted already and I’m not really aware of it all. I know it’s not the most healthy of responses, but it’s what has been done to cope.

          Take care,

  4. My thoughts are with you too, I know this has been (is) a really difficult time for you. ((hugs))

    I want to speak to the issue of betrayal and your mother. This might not help you, but it made me think about things when one of my therapists mentioned it. Actually it’s two things. The first is that sometimes family members seem to “ignore” the signs, when actually they just don’t see them. They don’t know what to look for and, in a way, I’m glad of that, because if all parents were always on alert for the signs then it would mean that abuse is more pervasive than it is.

    The second is that may be it’s a good thing that your mother says she had no idea – I mean, the alternative is that she was deliberately “pimping” you with your father. Apparently there are people out there who do that, though it defies comprehension.

    I’m not saying any of this to minimise your feelings or your experiences, nor to absolve your mother in any way – just to offer up something that a therapist told me that might help your thinking.

    Please take care of yourself. ((hugs))

    • Hi Kerro,

      I agree about my mother not seeing the signs. The thing is, she is a nurse. She was trained to spot abuse. When I was in high school I interviewed the doctor she worked for about child abuse for a school project… the rest of the class did fun stuff, I did abuse. She has said in the past that she suspected that something was happening with my sisters boyfriend. She has said that she recognised my behaviour as dissociating when I was a teenager. So for her to change her story and say there were no signs, is hollow.

      I agree that parents shouldn’t always be on the alert for signs, as this could cause crowding and unhealthy boundaries. But I do think that parents should be aware of what is happening in their children’s lives. My mother was unaware, and blissfully so. That will never change, and I need to move on from that.

      I haven’t told her anything about what happened with my father. I haven’t told her any names except for confirming that something did happen with the sisters boyfriend. So she has no vested interest in protecting anyone.

      Take care,

      • Your mother, like mine, has a vested interest in protecting herself. If she has to face the abuse, then she has to face a whole truckload of issues about her failure to protect, her failure as a mother, etc etc. If your mother is anything like mine (and I suspect she is) then that is just to difficult and never going to happen.

        I’m not saying any of this to justify your mother’s behaviour. Nothing justifies it, really. Just offering a different viewpoint, and one that helped me.

        Take care.

        • It takes incredible strength to apologise for not protecting your child. It’s easier to keep the blinders on, thereby perpetuating the abuse.

          We all have choices about how we live our lives. She has chosen hers.

          • I read this and just had to heartily agree with it. My concern for you is that you never take her choices as a reflection of you were as child or as an adult.

            You were a normal, innocent child whose mother made an abnormal choice as a parent. You’re dealing with the consequences in an amazingly, staggeringly strong way. Your mental strength is beyond words to me.

            You’ve made choices too, on how to handle the destructive choices of others. As many of us know, the easy choice isn’t always the best choice, especially when you are supposed to protect someone. Honestly, a normal parent’s instincts would be to protect, it wouldn’t have to be a choice. The fault lies with them then, not with their child.

            I’m sorry, I kind of went off on this and I’m sorry if I made you feel worse. Just delete this comment if you want, I won’t mind.

            • You didn’t make me feel worse tai, thanks for adding your opinion.

              I don’t see myself as strong, but as weak, which is why the mothers behaviour triggers me so badly. It’s not a nice reflection.

      • Actually, I worded this wrong… I do believe that parents should be on alert for abuse all the time, because isn’t it their job to protect and nurture? There are parents who take this to the extreme and crowd their children, therefore creating poor boundaries. But, in my case I went from being described as outgoing and curious, to withdrawn and a loner. Shouldn’t that have raised alarms? Even if she wasn’t thinking abuse, surely she should of thought that something was going on?

        I know you were trying to help Kerro, but I see that line of reasoning as hollow as my mothers stance. There is also the fact, that as a nurse, she was more than aware of issues such as abuse. So to hide behind “I didn’t know it was a possibility” is a cop out.

        I know parents would like to believe that their child would never be abused, but each of my siblings showed symptoms of the abuse we were exposed to. Some of those symptoms were very obvious from an early age. To explain them all away as “who we were” is a parental failure. It’s the sign of a parent who is unaware of their children, and not particularly caring what happened to them.

        I remember walking to a crowded event with my neighbor and her four girls. She let them run around and do their thing, but far out she watched them. When we were walking back to the car, she asked me to hold firmly two of the girls hands so they wouldn’t be snatched. She said this to me, not the girls. To the girls everything was light and breezy, yet she knew the risks and was protecting her children, while still letting them be kids. That is a good parent.

        • This is obviously still a sore point for me… I’m sorry if this appeared as an attack. It wasn’t meant to be.

          I’m glad the reasoning worked for you Kerro, but I’m obviously not at a point where the pain has eased enough. It might never work for me, as our parents came from different backgrounds, and had different professional awarenesses. I know that abuse in the home can be like seeing the forest for the trees, but I also know that there were key instances which should have raised alarms for an aware parent.

          I know that there are people out there who are truly unaware of the abuse, there are others who actively ignore it, and a whole range of responses… Allison has said that my mother sounds as if she distances herself from things that she doesn’t want to face or admit to. I can understand that – heck, I’m dissociative myself. But that doesn’t make it right.

          I know my mother will never change. She has no interest in healing from her own wounds, so is not likely to come to help with mine. This trip to Wellington was about trying to find new ways of interacting, and it failed. I now have to look at what my other options are…

          Take care,

  5. As both a mother and a daughter, I believe it doesn’t really matter what parents know or don’t know, see or don’t see, how hard they tried, any of that … when a child is abused that is a parental failure, period. If my son grows up and reveals to me that he was abused, then that will be an area in which I’ve failed him, among others. And the fact that I’m doing my best to protect him doesn’t change that. I don’t know if that makes sense.

    What I mean, what I’m trying to say, is that intentions matter in discussions of intentions. But they don’t change the facts. A parent ignoring the signs of abuse, even if doing so unknowingly, is a betrayal. I don’t have to knowingly betray my child in order to betray him, in other words.

    At one time my mother said that she suspected that something was going on with one of my sister’s boyfriends. But today, when I asked her, she said she had no idea about any of it. Instead, anything that might have been considered a sign, was explained away as being “who you were”.

    And that right there, that change of stories on her part, is another betrayal in and of itself and an echo of earlier betrayals.

    I’m glad you got through the weekend safely.

    • Hi Holly,

      The more I think about this, the more I see it as a murky area. I may have misunderstood what you’re meaning, but while I see that a parent may feel as if they failed their child if they find out there is abuse, I think it does come back to intent and response… So if, for example, my mother had found out that I had been abused and reacted with horror, confusion, caring, etc; then yes, I could see that her intent in the past was to protect, and she sees me as a person who has rights. It would show me that she was human, who made mistakes, despite her best efforts. It would show me that I mattered.

      However, the reality was that when she found out that I had been abused, she wondered what she had missed, who had abused me… everything was about her. There was no indication about how I was feeling, beyond my psychiatric symptoms.

      I think that part of my issue with this, is that I don’t consider ignorance to be an excuse. But then, the other side of that equation is that I was abused from an early age, so I was hiding the abuse (and all sorts of aspects of my life) from a very early age. So, how is someone meant to differentiate between how I was developing, and what were the signs of abuse? I know this is a slippery slope to blaming myself, but it’s an attractive option.

      I think what really hurts, is that the sense of betrayal is ongoing. The change in her story really threw me. I think because that made me wonder what else she blocked out, and changed the narrative of, throughout her life.

      So this again takes me back to intention and response… her responses are what is throwing me. Her intentions were good, but the execution of those intentions weren’t so great – again, that whole human thing, and coming from a dysfunctional background herself. But those factors would have been soothed if her responses in the present were different. They’re not.

      Another part of the murkiness, is that it’s impossible to make blanket calls on failure… I don’t see a parent whose child is snatched by an abuser as a failure – if their intent and response was to protect. But if that same child is snatched because of a lack of care, nurturing and responsibility; then heck yeah, they failed. Based on what I know of you Holly, I think your intention towards your son are positive. If your son revealed that he was being abused at any point, I think you would question yourself, but would the focus be on you or him? I suspect it would be on him, and you would do that questioning in private.

      Abuse is wrong, no matter what the situation. How those people around the victim and abuser react, plays a huge role in how each of the people impacted by the abuse will cope long term.

      Thank you for your thoughts, and validation of my confusion. I hope I didn’t misunderstand your intent.

      Take care,

      • You know CG, this made me think of news stories in the past when mothers had boyfriends or husbands etc. or when a parent question how close a teacher got to their kid or how much time a boy was spending with a clergyman, and they admit that they suspected something was at the very least “off” or “strange”. The public outcry over things like that pretty much tells us what normal human instincts are. Most people protect children even if our experiences tell us otherwise. Any excuses made are for the benefit of the adult or keeping up appearances. There’s a balance there like you said though; if someone protected their child as best they could and something still happened, if the parent responded immediately by taking action against the abuser and taking extra-special care of that child then they wouldn’t be failures.

        A parent pretending that they don’t see something that they really do see, is all about them. Example being: my mother changes her stories all of the time about my childhod whenever the facts start to add up to her physically abusing me. That makes it about her and it’s just another way of telling me that I don’t matter and that my feeling aren’t valid or that I made things up or was “overly-sensitive”. I feel like it’s the same with your situation in many ways. I guess I just worried when that hint of you blaming yourself came out in this most recent comment. The way our parents acted was unnatural so we try to find a logical reason for it, it always ends up being that it must have been us. It wasn’t. (Of course it’s so easy for me to say this to you and yet not apply it to myself right?)

        Sorry, I ranted again and took up a lot of space. 🙂 My apologies.

        • Hi tai,

          I like you taking up space… please keep doing so 🙂

          The thing is, hindsight can be a great thing. I can look back and see things that occurred in the home, and at school which should have raised red flags, but they didn’t. I can go around and around in circles looking at the reasons, justifications and excuses for that, but I’m not so sure what good it will do me. In some ways it’s a distraction… a way to search for an excuse to say that the abuse couldn’t have happened, if a trained nurse didn’t spot anything, then surely it can’t have happened.

          The issue with my mother (and my entire family) is a sense of betrayal and being invisible. Ok, this is a huge issue effecting every part of my life, not just within the family. I’m not sure how to counter that.

          I’m so sorry for how your mother responds to you tai. I’m so glad you were able to put boundaries around your contact with her. I don’t know what to say about how your mother keeps on rewriting her history, but I am sorry for how it effects you.

          Logic doesn’t care much for feelings, yet the feelings are what we’re dealing with…

          Take care,

  6. My intent was mainly to validate the feelings of betrayal you expressed because I just think they’re so very understandable, you know? So no, you didn’t misunderstand I don’t think.

    I think that part of my issue with this, is that I don’t consider ignorance to be an excuse.

    That’s what I was saying, only you said it more concisely. 🙂 It’s not an excuse. Nothing is. You’re right that if I found out my son had been abused my focus would be on him. Because for me, the parent/child relationship is not about equality, it’s not like any other relationship. I am the parent. He is the child. I profoundly impact his life in ways he can’t possibly impact mine. And will long into adulthood. In my opinion, parents have the responsibility of accepting the level of power and influence they have; and that means an enormous amount of humility. It means not arguing about how you did your best, or you didn’t see the signs, etc. Within the context of that relationship, it doesn’t matter. (this is all just my perspective of course 😉 )

    But it’s not really about blame, which is where I have a hard time describing what I mean. When I say I have failed and will fail my child no matter how hard I try and that my intentions don’t much matter, people hear that as blame. And that, to me, is an entirely different can of worms.

    But all of that is about me, ultimately, and this is about you and so I want to say that this is what jumps out at me:

    So, how is someone meant to differentiate between how I was developing, and what were the signs of abuse? I know this is a slippery slope to blaming myself, but it’s an attractive option.

    Agreed. That is a slippery slope indeed.

    • Thanks Holly, I appreciate the support.

      I see what you mean about the failure versus blame. It’s difficult to separate the two within peoples minds as there is a tendency to seek, and assign blame. Many people also tend to want to go to blame, as it can mean that any personal responsibility is diverted to someone else. Blame seeking can be a great way to protect yourself, but it can also be used as personal punishment. It’s a tricky thing.

      I’ll just ski down the slippery slope for a bit and see where it leads…

      Take care,

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