CSA Anguish

Posted by VERITAS
A Friend’s Anguish:
My friend, head down and pondering in silence, sits across from me at our favorite table in our favorite cafe — the table at the back of the back area, which, as is the case now, is usually empty at this time of the afternoon — for our mutual support sessions as fellow child sexual abuse survivors. The waiter brings our smoothies, then returns to the main area of the cafe, leaves us to our solitude, which typically signals the shift in our conversation from small talk to the substance of whatever it is — about CSA in general or the particularities of one or both of our lives as survivors — that we’re going to discuss, although today my friend has remained wrapped almost completely in his preoccupied silence since I arrived at the cafe ten minutes early (atypical for me as I usually manage to arrive just on time but prompted by the extra weight of urgency in the text I found waiting on my iPhone’s screen that morning upon waking at dawn: “Time today? There’s something I absolutely must talk with you about as soon as possible.”) to find him already seated at our table (even more atypical for him as he’s habitually late) in his current head-down, arms-folded posture. Which has only served to further intensify the concern his morning message had aroused in me.

“So go ahead,” I urge.
We’ve helped each other face a lot of challenges together but now my friend seems to be facing one of his biggest  yet.
“I woke from a dream last night, not too long before dawn.”
I nod; my friend continues.
“There were flatbed train cars with passenger train cars piggybacking on top of them. Then one of the passenger train cars fell off the flatbed that was carrying it as the train crossed a railroad crossing, blocking it – the crossing, where I’m waiting, as the driver, in a car — perhaps my own car — that’s one of a number of cars in a long line that, together with the tracks, forms the shape of a cross as the line of cars waits for the train to pass. On the other side of the tracks, beyond and part way up a hill, is the public community center where we go for the yoga class.”  Here my friend is referring to a weekly yoga and meditation class we attend seeking, among other things, peace of mind.

“And?” I ask.

“That’s it.  So what do you think?”

“My interpretation?”  My friend nods.

“I’m not sure, of course, but possibly the fallen passenger train car — the one that was being piggybacked by the flatbed — represents some mistake you feel you’ve made that’s become a cross you have to bear, or, at least, that you feel that you have to bear.”

My friend nods.  “That’s what I think.  And?”

“And since the passenger car was piggybacking on the flatbed car as a child piggybacks on an adult, its falling could represent, for one thing, your feeling of failure in not having done more to protect yourself when you were a child, or to protect your “inner child” as an adult – a failure concerning which you may be feeling a burden of guilt.”

My friend nods at this as well.  “That could be.”  He drums his fingers on the table; his brow wrinkles.  “And or maybe I feel I’ve failed as a father.”

My friend has a daughter he loves very deeply.  He’s been divorced for several years, but he shares custody with the mother and sees his daughter often.  It’s clear to me how much he cares about her.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” I urge.  “I think the dream also means that crucifying yourself for whatever mistakes you may have made or think you’ve made is going to get in the way of your achieving the kind of serenity you’re seeking through yoga.  Forgiving yourself is essential for your serenity, don’t you think?  And it can help you be a better father as well.”

My friend nods.  “I guess you’re right.  Being so hard on myself achieves no beneficial purpose.”  He pauses, thinking.  “But, at the same time, owning my feelings of guilt can serve a very useful purpose – to motivate me to do whatever I can to reduce the negative consequences of my errors.”

I nod.  “Good point. I’ve found that to be true for myself.”