Every family has secrets we hide some from outsiders, but some secrets... even we don't know.
I only learned the truth gradually about my uncle Hugh. Long ago, he flipped out, and said he was Christ. They locked him in an asylum--Agnews, later exposed as one of the worst in the US. They gave him heavy shock treatments. He ran away, and begged my dad not to send him back, said they were making him worse not better. My dad took him back to face more shock. Hugh survived, more or less--decades later, he's still a recluse still on heavy medication, terrified he'll be rejailed and retortured if he goes out.
All my life, I've had nightmares of hospitals, jails, and death camps, where smiling faceless doctors torture their patients.
After decades of denial, my folks finally admitted they took me at age 2-3 to visit my uncle in the asylum. They assumed it wouldn't affect me. No one knew yet that I was a child prodigy with an IQ pushing 200, grasping adult conversations and vibes that normal kids couldn't. Still, why'd I have recurring nightmares of being strapped down, of weird wires stimulating brain seizures? I never saw them shock my uncle, after all. They didn't show even adult visitors that!
These were harder to explain, until recently. One day, my parents FINALLY mentioned the follow-up: Hugh recovered gradually, and as we were the closest relatives to the hospital, so he lived with us on weekends for months or a year. Oh, and they left me with him alone. With a psychotic babysitter. I told this to my sister who responded "when I was very young, you explained in detail how electroshock was administered." My uncle had confided everything to me, a small child he couldn't expect to understand... and I'd taken it in. All of it. Not just the atrocity itself, but its implications. Fail to conform, and this is where your irresponsible parents will send you.
I remembered none of it consciously. Yet it shaped my life.
So here's a timeline of dreams that led me to root out a crippling lifelong fear. Few of them star my uncle. Ember in the Brain, for example, seems to be about actress Frances Farmer, whose family had her lobotomized. But it's not just a parallel situation--it turns out Frances and Hugh were locked up and abused in the same asylum, at the same time--its worst period of abuses. They may have met--I may have seen her, during visits. And so it goes--each dream seemed separate, but en masse they posed questions I could ask of surviving relatives--who, though reluctant and contradictory in their admissions, still eventually confirmed enough to prove these weren't phobias, weren't fantasies, but memories.
Building this list was painful, but I hope it shows how dreams can gradually force buried memories up to the surface, and help you verify them.
RELATED TOPICS: dreams of madness - psychology and therapy - prisoners and freedom - freedom of expression vs. conformity - buried memories - families - parenting - kids - sadness and grief - See also the full INDEX OF SUBJECTS.
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|I AM THREE: by Wayan; 1957-58, my three earliest dreams.
My first memory is of being a wild horse and waking up to find I was suddenly a human child...
|RAZOR GHOST: by Wayan; 1974/5/5, a nightmare posing a problem.
A man slowly walled in by neighbors till he died, is now a mad, murderous ghost. And he's me! What to do?
|CUBIST CHARLIE BROWN: by Wayan; 1977/4/1, a cubist nightmare.
We're Cubist cartoon characters, trapped in a strip gone mad. But my dad stays calm! Too calm...
CAUTION: SEAS OF BLOOD... OR IS IT RED INK?
|LUCID ON THE MOON: by Wayan; 1980/2/23, a long-term psychic dream.
I'm on the run, on the moon. Cyborgs toss bombs at me. Yikes! Is this what melted Mare Orientalis?
CAUTION: NUCLEAR IRRESPONSIBILITY
|ALONE IN THE DARK IN THE WILD: by Wayan; 1980/7/24, a vision-quest nightmare.
A nightmare of a killer who I let torment me because it's better than being alone...
|BOND: by Wayan; 1981/10/31, a nightmare where I'm the nightmare.
I'm James Bond, fighting a plot by the fiendish Eight. But I'm captured and questioned. Of course I lie to the enemy: the senators of the Committee on Intelligence Activities. Till I see myself through their eyes...
CAUTION: SPY SEX, SPY MENTALITY
|GLASS EATER: by Wayan; 1982/12/10, a dream on managing ESP.
I live in an asylum for fragile psychics. When one man over-uses his talent, he compulsively eats glass...
CAUTION: DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME
|EMBER IN THE BRAIN: by Wayan; 1983/3/31, a dreamtale on anger.
I'm the Incredible Hulk, forced to do emergency brain surgery. And the patient's burning from within...
CAUTION: VIOLENCE AND UNLICENSED MEDICINE
|JACK DANIELS: by Wayan; 1983/10/14, three short dreamtales.
Three dream-reactions to a (real) psychic experiment that went badly awry...
|THE FLASHBACK: by Wayan; 1985/11/28, a dark dream-farce.
I'm a monster working in a shopping mall in Stockton, California, when I smell smoke...
CAUTION: FILM NOIR SEX
|DREAMRIDER: by Wayan; 1986/4/15, a short, startled rant, chapter 5 of UNICORN TAG.
A novel on a modern woman called to become a shaman echoes my real life too closely...
|THEY DON'T BELIEVE ME: by Wayan; 550K total, 15 illus., 1989/10/4, an unbelievable dream.
My dog and I are abducted by aliens who turn us into cats. We escape, and turn feral to survive. I'm back in school now, and in therapy... but how we got back, and what happened along the way, even my own shrink won't believe...
CAUTION: LEWD SQUID AND KLEPTOMANIAC BUGS
|OR... IS IT YOU?: by Wayan; 1990 nondream digital painting on marginality.
When I was battered, I briefly lived on the streets. What struck me was how fragile most of us were...
|THE SPHINX APPROVES: by Wayan; 1991/5/2, a dreamtale on growth.
A great war shrinks to wrestling, then hopping from page to page! Once they were worlds to me, but now...
|AIDA'S TOILET BOAT: by Wayan; 1993/4/7, a psychic dreamtale.
A sexy comedian and her troubles down the drain. A dream that turned out to be true...
|PRODIGIES' ODDITIES: by Wayan; 1994/2/2, a confession.
I suspect we child prodigies and geniuses are as unlike the gifted as normal people. So here's a checklist...
CAUTION: BRAIN REQUIRED
|MY TUTELARY UNCLE: by Wayan; 1993/5/28, a shamanic dream.
I'm half Anglo, half Kwakiutl. My uncle the shaman died, but he still wants to teach me his medicine...
|THERAPHOBIA, OR GOOD SENSE?: by Wayan; 1994/5/30, a journal extract
I misname my feelings: depressed for sad, paranoid for wary, phobic for scared. It has consequences...
|MOLLY'S PROSTHETIC: by Wayan, 1994/9/22, a dream predicting a mood drug will fail
My dad's new wife is a collie. Naturally, she wants a prosthetic arm. But she has no site to bind it to...
CAUTION: FURRY NUDITY, LEERING BUSINESSMAN, DOG WIFE
|PARANOID HABITS: by Wayan; 1994/10/4, a diagnostic dream.
I dream a hypnotist elicits a personality who says he obliges my paranoia by giving me weird luck...
|BABY, I'LL BLOW YOUR MIND: by Wayan; 1995/3/21, a surreal nightmare
Allied submarines attack the giant Nazi toddler who's hunting us with sonar, occupying my playroom...
CAUTION: VIOLENCE AND GUILT
|LYIN' WAYAN: by Wayan; 1996/4/10, a warning nightmare.
A mob of kids chases me chanting "Lyin' Wayan!" I get dizzy and fall off a bridge... THEN comes trouble!
CAUTION: FATAL FALL
|SHOCKWAVE: by Wayan; 1996/7/27, a predictive nightmare.
My childhood home explodes into a vast pyroclastic cloud that comes boiling toward me, miles away...
|ILLUSIONISTS DON'T RULE: by Wayan; 1996/8/26, a dream on the strength of logic.
I read 'The Closing of the American Mind," and dream I'm a pilot who suspects an illusionist in my plane...
|TEN THOUSAND MAD GHOSTS: by Wayan; 1996/9/3, a psychic nightmare.
A toxic site in Silicon Valley isn't a chemical spill, but angry ghosts, killed in a camp and forgotten...
CAUTION: THE CAMP TURNS OUT TO BE REAL
|ZUCCHINI GIRL: by Wayan; 1996/9/23, a dreamtale on acting out.
I find the truth about my childhood. My parents lied! I hide for days, then dub myself Zucchini Girl and go onstage, humping squash, calling it performance art! So do my friends see a problem?
|MIRYAM'S THEFT: by Wayan; 1996/9/24, a psychic dream on being used
I'm a ghost dwarf in love with a Lady trapped in a magic Arabian castle. But our love is being used...
CAUTION: SEX, BETRAYAL, SACRILEGE
|FOX-BOY: by Wayan; 1997/2/28, a dream fable.
A boy offends his uncle the King, who transforms him into a fox. Grounded! But Fox-Boy runs away...
|JANE IN VAIN: by Wayan; 1997/3/6, a dream that's not about class.
A prisoner's allowed to see his middle-class lover only in a seedy bar by the jail. But she likes the place...
CAUTION: THE JOYS OF SLUMMING
|BLUE LIPS, GOLD EYES, ORANGE JUICE: by Wayan; 1997/5/8, a dreamfable.
In a world where respectable men wear masks, an old, old man rebels in the crudest way he can...
|THE HONEST INMATE: by Wayan; 1997/5/8, a dreamfable on truthfulness.
I'm a psychopath in a prison for the insane. But I fall in love, and change. Blunt honesty fuels the change...
|SYLVIA: by Wayan; 1997/7/29, an illustrated dream.
Sylvia, the fabulous Dog Singer, leads me through a spy film, a French romantic farce, Fellini's Rome...
|THE TORTURER: by Wayan; 1997/7/13, a predictive nightmare
A free-lance torturer chooses me for his victim. He has the right. I bluster, but when I fall asleep at last...
CAUTION: NO PAIN, BUT GORE
|GHOSTS PUSH TOWARD THE SUICIDE DOOR: by Wayan, 1997/8/7, a nightmare that wants a break.
I live in a haunted house where ghosts push you to suicide. But they're as tired of it as I am...
|HUNTERS' FIRE: by Wayan; 1997/9/8, a nightmare that may be a memory.
I'm an orphan shot at by hunters. They shoot my sister! But no one believes me...
|UNCORK A SUB GOD: by Wayan; 1998/8/11, a cryptic warning dream.
Exploring a sunken sub, my buddies salvage a something ticking. Toss it back, but it won't stay sunk...
|ONCE A HERO: by Wayan; 185K total, 9 images, 1998/10/22, a raw dream-series.
Sexy dreams of Chinese archeology, authorized by the fairies, make me face that my family abused me...
|MINOR SURGERY: by Wayan; 1999/2/2, a dream misinterpreted.
A man goes in for minor surgery and wakes up changed. I feel creepy, but for all the wrong reasons...
|WIRES: by Wayan; 1957-1963, a recurrent childhood nightmare resolved by drawing, Dec 1999
I was bodiless but trapped. All I could see were these moving wires. Whenever a knot drifted by...
CAUTION: MADNESS, TORMENT, TELEPATHY, SEXUAL REBELLION
|THE SEA WOLF'S BRAIN: by Wayan; 1999/11/21, a psychic dream.
For years the Sea-Wolf enslaved me. He said I had to fight him and win to be free. I'm ready at last...