Many adult survivors of child abuse struggle with abusive dreams. They wake up appalled at having such disturbing dreams, and they feel deep shame as a result. They also fear talking about the dreams because they do not want people to think that they have the desire to harm a child.
An abusive dream might involve you abusing a child. You might even enjoy playing the role of the abuser in your dream. This type of dream does not mean that you have a desire to abuse anyone else. Instead, abusive dreams are your way of trying to understand why your abusers harmed you. They arise from your quest to understand why you suffered abuse and have nothing whatsoever to do with a desire to harm anyone else.
The first time I had this type of dream, I was mortified. I felt so filled with shame, and I could not bring myself to discuss it with anyone, not even my therapist. Fortunately, my therapist was able to figure out what was going on, and he told me that these kinds of dreams are a normal part of trying to make sense out of senseless abuse.
One of the most disturbing abusive dream that I ever had involved me, as an adult, doing things to my kid. In the dream, I really believed that what I was doing was good for him and that I was showing him how much I loved him. When I woke up, I almost vomited because I was so nauseated at the thought of ever harming a child, much less my own kid. Fortunately, my therapist had already explained what abusive dreams meant, so I was not as freaked out as I would have been otherwise.
As I analyzed the dream, I realized that I was trying to shed the best possible light on my abusers. I was trying to figure out if it was possible for them to have done the things they did with the motivation of love, even though their actions were harmful. This dream helped me work through the truth – that there was never any justification for what my abusers did to me. I have not had another abusive dream since.
Abusive dreams are not prophetic, and they are not revealing any deep-seated desires on your part. They are about understanding your past and have nothing to do with your future. While abusive dreams are very disturbing, they are a normal part of the healing process.
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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt