Site hosted by Build your free website today!

I Was Taught Not to Remember

The dream that follows is an example of complex layering of dream images and symbols.

I was with my internist. Although I knew we were in her office the setting is a completely dark room. Everything is black but her face. She is illuminated by the beam of a floodlight.

"You have a star-shaped metamnemonic tumor," she tells me.

I say nothing, but I'm scared as she explains to me that I'm going to die. My life is to be sacrificed for my mother. The tumor is actually my mother's, but I have to carry it. I am sorrowful that I will lose my life but do not want my mother to die. The double-bind is intolerable and I sit in silence, overwhelmed by the strength and authority of the doctor and by my own conflicting feelings.

This is a significant dream, because it shows the dilemma with gut-wrenching clarity. I am not given a choice of what to do, and my feelings or welfare are not considered -- even by my own physician. It is a re-enactment of the aloneness and total abandonment I felt as a child whenever I carried the pain of my mother or other caregivers.

When I was a child it was in my best interest to care for my caregivers or other perpetrators. By nurturing and healing them, I thought, the world would be safe. Then they would give me the care I needed. I think this is a typical "betrayal trauma" dream. That term is from
Jennifer Freyd's book of that name. Freyd, a research psychologist, wrote extensively about the trauma that results when a child has to care for her betrayer, because it is on her tormentor that her life depends.

But there is another curious thing about this dream -- the diagnosis itself. I have a "star-shaped metamnemonic tumor." This term, so far as I know, exists only in my dream. It is a term from an alter who had information I did not know. I looked it up right away and was astonished. Meta- means about, above, around...connotes change. When I looked up mnemonic I learned that mnemonics is a systematic way of organizing memory for easy recall.

So, the affliction I had to carry for my mother had something to do with memory and recall. The dream came just a few months before "recovered memory" was made a political issue, so I had not yet heard of so-called "false memory syndrome." All I knew at the time was that details of my abuse memories were intruding into my consciousness and that nothing, other than dealing with the memory, would lead to lessening of symptoms. And I never would consider, even now, asking my mother to remember the painful experiences that must have been beneath the surface of her consciousness as she parented me.