Starting when I was very young, maybe three years old, I had a recurring nightmare:
I’m running away from someone who intends to hurt me if he catches me. The walls of the hallway I’m in are cinder block, the corridors straight but laid out in a maze. I run, too terrified, too aware of the menacing presence behind me to look back. I’m running for my life. I turn a corner. I’m in a locker room, a swimming pool locker room. Trapped.
At this point I’d wake in the full grip of nightmare energy–alarm, adrenaline, and sobbing terror. The details could change in subtle ways, but the constants of the dream were the terror, the pursuit, and the labyrinth of short, straight hallways. And underlying it, the persistent impression that the halls led to a locker room, though sometimes I woke before I got there.
I had the dream into my teens. I have wondered what might have happened in a locker room at a young age, but I have no conscious memory of abuse in a locker room, other than the negative association with swimming lessons. I hated the cold water, the sensation of water on my face, and the chill of evaporating moisture when I got out onto dry land again. Although I didn’t, as an adult, experience the nightmare again in a dream state, the imagery still haunts me.
The shadow figure in the dream, a man wanting to change me, remained unseen until I practiced dream re-entry with the dream. He was always behind, which I associate with unconscious. By the time I tried re-entering the dream, I’d had a little practice in life in turning to face my fears, both in waking life and in dreams. I was away at Dream Camp, and had time for a rest. I went to my room, lay on the bed, and closed my eyes to fully imagine the dream. And to shape it.
It takes less than eye-blink to stand (in my imagination) in the cinder block hall. The panic is remembered, rather than fully experienced. I turn to face my pursuer. I experience the imagined dream from the dual perspective of my adult self and my small, three-year-old self. The man is an adult, so from my dual perspective, he is my height/very tall. His features vague, I think he’s not old, but not young. With both hands, he holds out a ball of light, a bit too big for his fingertips to touch each other. He communicates, “I’ve brought your authentic self back to you.”
I can’t remember now if I snapped out of the imagined dream then, or if I took the offered light. Writing this, I imagine that I do take the light into my hands, and I see the many ways I’ve been reclaiming my authentic self ever since I turned to face that most ancient, primal, and important fear that pursued me through my youth. I’m sure the recurring dreams carries other meanings too–the expression of panic at the inevitability of growing up, for example, which is one reason why it faded as I did grow up in waking life.
The re-imagining of confronting the fear, of meeting an adult masculine aspect of myself and hearing with the adult/child feminine part, is an evolving experience. I try to remember the message: “Here, reclaim your light.” It is, for me, an exquisite example of the archetypal Shadow holding hostage the exact gift I need to grow and evolve. I take the light in my hands, and hold it to my heart. It enters my heart, spreading outward to fill my body and, I hope, cast some light on my journey.