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Family Store

Dreamed c.2000 by Marc Ian Barasch's father

To tell another person about their guest appearance in a dream can have catalytic effects.

I was reminded of this recently when I orchestrated an informal experiment, asking a few dozen people to incubate a dream on my behalf... It surprised me that my father, who claims he rarely dreams vividly (and then, never about me), had the most striking dream:

Marc tells me he's living at 116 Village Avenue. I say, My God, that's the apartment over the store my father once owned! The door to Marc's room was closed. I open it and see him surrounded by books stacked on the floor, which he gestures to, saying, "I have to read them all."

My father was surprised that his attempt to dream about me, skeptically undertaken, had actually "worked." The pile of books was easily explained--I was in the thick of a writing deadline. He had gotten an accurate dream picture of my chaotic office, dominated by a tower of dog-eared volumes rising from the floor, all of which I had compulsively decided I had to read.

I asked him for his associations about his father's apartment. "It was over the big clothing store that we used to own," he informed me, "until my father made some bad investments and went bankrupt." He added, with a catch in his voice, "It was a family catastrophe I never got over.

"Why in the world would I have dreamed such a thing?" my father demanded. Now it was my turn to be taken aback, for I had been keeping a secret from my family: I was on the edge of bankruptcy as a result of my own bad investment decisions. Now virtually penniless, I had contacted a bankruptcy attorney and had begun drawing up papers, but had not been able to bring myself to tell my parents.

After hesitating a moment, I realized I had to confess my quandary. I could not morally leave my father to fret about his dream after I had, in effect, invited him to open the door to my psyche and walk in. When I told him the truth, he was dumbstruck. The silence lengthened; I'd knocked the wind out of him.

The revelation of what has been concealed from one another is a frequent feature of such dreams. [Psychologist and writer Joost] Merloo has written: "A telepathic dream is often a cry for help, or a breaking through a formerly existent communicative inhibition, as if the sender wants to say: 'I have been silent for such a long time, now finally you have to know what I have been hiding from you!' "'

In this instance, the breaking of silence went both ways: To my surprise, with my dire straits as an impetus, the story of my father's own childhood, often alluded to but never spelled out, now poured forth in a torrent. "We had a big clothing store," he told me. "My father went bankrupt because my mother, who could barely write her own name, decided she was above selling clothes to common folk. She decided there was more money to be made building houses. But my father's real estate partners cheated him of everything. Then the Depression hit. We found ourselves living with no heat, no food, no clothes, cardboard in our shoes. We'd live anywhere we could get the first six months rent free, then move on to the next place."

I was awed by these revelations, whose analogues were uncomfortably clear in my own life. I had been juggling introductory six-month credit cards for years to support my writing habit, moving on to the next "teaser" offers the minute the rates shot up. My father's history seemed to explain the atmosphere of both entitlement and defeat that I'd always sensed permeating our family. More, it shed new light on the dynamics of our persistently troubled relationship. My father could be charming, caring, and funny but also domineering, volatile, and hypercritical. I had grown up in his shadow, fearing his outbursts, feeling hopelessly defective. Despite our best intentions, we were still fighting the running skirmishes of our respective and conunon pasts. Now as my father, caught up in the rush of dream-sparked emotion, unveiled his own childhood horrors, I felt new compassion stir.

"My mother told me she once jumped off a low roof to try to 'get rid of me' " he said in a choked voice. "Threw herself down the stairs to try to abort me. She'd wanted a girl, so she used to put my hair in curls and make me wear a dress. She called my older brother, who had infantile paralysis, 'the Cripple'--or just schmutz, dirt. My brother revenged himself by physically tormenting me, my personal Torquemada, finding every way to humiliate me." I listened to this outpouring not a little astonished. How could I have been so blind--my father, who made me feel so small, had himself been diminished by his own family.

Our dream exchange had a surprisingly tangible result. My father, now knowing my predicament, offered me a personal loan that pulled me back from the financial brink. The effects of our dream sharing have rippled through my life, not only enabling me to climb back onto solid ground but also making it possible to consider moving back to New York, where my entire family, from my daughter to brother to parents, now lives. Looking back, I am astonished at how a single dream has begun to heal generations of family karma.

--Marc Ian Barasch

SOURCE: Marc Ian Barasch's Healing Dreams, 2000, p.124

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