Mod 2: My story – Dad


After my dad discarded me (in March 2014), I went through a whole series of really intense emotions. The first one was anger.

Since I was a tiny child, I frequently had a sort of nightmare I came to call a “rage dream.” The first one I remember was when I was perhaps five years old. I dreamed there was a movie on TV about a scary black dog. In the dream I went to my parents for comfort and they simply said, “well, change the channel, you ninny.” So I went back to the family room and changed the channel, but the black dog was on all the channels. I told my mom and dad this, but they just told me to turn off the TV and go outside. I was really terrified by this time, but I obeyed and went outside. There I found a real killer dog and it went for me! I ran back inside to  my parents. I lost it, throwing a tantrum in the hopes that they would start taking my fear seriously. But they barely noticed this tantrum, and simply sent me to bed. Then, in the dream, I fell asleep in my bed…and dreamed (within the dream) about the black dog attacking me!

Subsequently I have had countless dreams in which something upsets me and some key person in my life—my ex, my second husband, my boss, my kids—ignores me or laughs. My upset then accelerates to blind rage, in which I scream, throw things, break furniture, etc. Sometimes I actually scream out loud and wake myself up (as well as startling my husband!).

At my dad’s rejection and terribly unfair, untrue accusations, I became furious like in these dreams. All at once I saw how many justified, normal human emotions I had stifled for the sake of my father for 50-plus years. I realized what those rage dreams were about. And I was determined to give full reign to my fury now. During those first hours and days, I wanted my father to suffer and die and spend eternity in hell.

This was healthy in its way, and necessary, but also exhausting. And unfortunately it gave way quickly to a less pleasant emotion: fear. I already shared with you in the Mod 1 Exercises my anecdote about sitting on the couch and discovering what I felt was terror. It was very hard to keep it at bay, and even after I realized mindfulness could provide relief to me, it didn’t make my fear dry up and blow away.

I went through weeks of what I discovered was called “hyper-vigilance.” I pasted my dad’s phone number on my work phone by the caller readout, so I would recognize immediately who it was and not thoughtlessly pick up. I rehearsed endlessly what I would say to him if he did call. I imagined all sorts of terrible things he was probably planning to do to me to get revenge, and talked to a lawyer and his caregivers to try to head things off at the pass.

My mind seemed completely preoccupied with how Dad was going to hurt me. He was the first thought on my mind when I opened my eyes in the morning. At night I had to take ZzzQuil to have any shot at not lying awake for hours fretting. I had frequent terrifying nightmares. I lost my appetite and sometimes had to force myself to eat (not good when you’re an insulin-dependent diabetic).

We went on a vacation we’d been planning for a year, and although I really needed the getaway, I had trouble enjoying many parts of it because I was so easily unnerved.

But while all this was going on, fortunately I was also getting support from my family. Included in that was my younger daughter’s continuing guidance regarding mindfulness and the philosophies of wisdom traditions like Buddhism that she had been studying since college. I also read about narcissism exhaustively, pondered my own experiences, and began making sense of my life. It was these various activities that ultimately helped me recover from my torments.

Let me continue to share what I learned with you in the Mod 2 Knowledge section.

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