A Haunting Mother Returns From the Dead




Who isn’t haunted from time to time by the internal voice of a parent?  What can we do about it?   The problem is that regardless of how much work we do during our waking hours, we experience our dreams in a delusional, regressive state. This is because we think we are awake when we are dreaming, we think events are objective when they are subjective and self-created, and that we cannot change them when we can. Dream Drama, whether we remember it or not, reinforces waking drama.

This “haunting mother” is a low scoring internalized critical parent that is rattling her chains in the basement.  What are we to do with Mom?  This is an “existential” question that we all have, since unless she has been exorcised – at least her critical aspects – we all have such a mom living rent-free inside our heads! If we continue to ignore her then she will continue to “haunt” and “curse.”  The experiment we make with IDL is to extend respect while setting boundaries.  We can define terms for an ongoing relationship that is mutually acceptable.  This can involve negotiation with any low-scoring self-aspect, as it does in this case with “Mom.”

In the silly picture above, who is haunting who?  Is “Mom” the one in the grave?  If that is the case, then that makes us the persecuting vampire!  If “Mom” is the one showing her fangs, then we are the ones that are dead to the truth of a healthy relationship with our parents!  We are in the mini-death of sleep, dreaming of a reality that need not exist.

Carmen dreamed, I received a letter from the authorities. They wrote me that I have to go to the municipal offices to justify myself and pay a penalty.  What I did wrong was that I didn’t bury my mother appropriately.  The authorities said that my mother must come to life again and she would live forever because I didn’t bury her in the amount of time you must bury her.  However, if I could give a good explanation why I didn’t, then perhaps it could be changed (meaning she wouldn’t have to return).

Carmen said, “When I awoke  I went into my bathroom and wondered why I didn’t bury her.  It took me a long time to realize that this was a dream! I thought, No! Not again!  That she comes and she stays?  This was a horror in both directions, not only for me.  The last years with my mother were really a burden.   She had Alzheimer’s for seven years and awake coma for four more years. Before that she was a difficult person.  It was a long, unsatisfying farewell.  It was unfinished.  I was very responsible for her all those years.  This burden was in this dream.  At the time I had this dream, half a year ago, I was in a phase of my life to really free myself but I still felt that burden.  She died two and a half years ago.” This dream felt like a curse to Carmen!

When we interviewed her mother, Ida, she said, “I am preparing for my return.  I don’t care about coming back.  I just do it. I like my importance, strictness, and stubbornness.  I’m creative and decisive; everybody loves me! I’m unconventional.  I don’t follow any rules.  I am strong, very strong! However, I don’t like my anxiety, my being dependent, my being the second one (I’m a twin.)  But I don’t have any weaknesses that I would tell YOU!  You’re a man!  I don’t trust men!”

“I don’t have any desire to change, and I score myself a five in confidence, a three in compassion, a six in wisdom: a two in acceptance toward others but an eight toward myself, a five in inner Peace and a four in witnessing. I don’t know what it would be like to be tens in all of these; I don’t like proposals.  I don’t know what it is to be happy.”  (Carmen: “I fall out of this role – my mother was psychotic from time to time.  It’s difficult for me to answer in a crazy way…”)

“If I could live Carmen’s life for her I would live it the way she is living it.  I would love to live her life.”

Your daughter is frightened by the idea of you coming back.  How do you feel about her being frightened?

“I feel a feeling.  I feel fear.  That feels familiar to me. Regarding her life issues, the place she is buying is too usual.  I would have it be a bit more unusual. Regarding her partner, I would stay with the women!  Throw the boyfriend out! I absolutely trust myself! She would trust herself too if she were me! Now, if she focused on the life issue that I think are important she would turn her attention to becoming more famous, being more acknowledged, and being the best! She would not be so sensitive and vulnerable if she were me.  She should become me when she feels that way. And of course I do drama!  Same as when I was alive!”

“Why am I in Carmen’s life? She can’t live without me! I don’t care if she heard me or not.  She won’t forget about me! Why did Carmen have this dream? (Tears) It makes me sad.  She was close to forgetting me.  She has a bad conscience about letting go of me.  I didn’t treat her so well.  It touches me that she won’t forget me even though I didn’t treat her so well.  I feel that I deserve to be forgotten.”

“She’s always so tidy. She tries to make everything right.  She wants me to have my peace. She believes that she did something wrong so that I can’t sleep and have my peace.  It’s nice that she cares for me.  I don’t think that she did something wrong that keeps me from having my peace.”

Why not?

“If I say that then I let her go…then I’m all alone.”

If you could change your experience so you weren’t alone, what would be different?

“I would let her go.  I don’t have to hold her so tight.  I would have lots of people around and all being there for be, adoring me!”

Is it true that you are a part of Carmen?


Carmen: “Not being alone is the most important thing for Ida, no matter who is there.  What touched me most was that she is desiring so much to live my life.  That hit me in a way.  And that she didn’t have any image of being happy.    Behind all the strength and being special I felt all this fear and real craziness.  She was always losing contact and not being able to understand what you say.  What hurt was Mom not really being interested in me, only in the outside of my life.”

Addressed to the others present: What else did you hear Carmen say to herself?

“That Ida felt hypersensitive and far too vulnerable. She doesn’t really feel the difference between being alive and dead.  That she would kick out men, trust herself, and live with women!  She would concentrate on being famous and being adored!  She doesn’t want to let go of Carmen because she would be all alone.  If she could let go she wouldn’t care much about Carmen.  Her idea of not being alone is having people around to adore her and admire her.  She couldn’t imagine having higher scores.  She said, “I don’t want to follow proposals!”  She was touched when you asked why Carmen dreamt of her.  Carmen always is very eager to please.”

If this experience were a wake-up call from the most central part of who you are, what do you think it would be saying to you?

“Free Willie!”  “To just let her go and really acknowledge that there is no more work for me.  Escape the curse of endless responsibility.   It was very good for me to feel the difference.  It shocked me how easily I could shift into that personality that was definitely not me.”

Clearly, such an interview raises as many questions as it answers.  Many times the interviewer and others listening are surprised at what a person takes away from the interview because it can be widely different from what was heard or from the significance for others.

Carmen felt that the interview allowed her to take a major step toward releasing her mother, to accepting her for who she was and was not, and to allow herself to move beyond feeling responsible for what she did and did not do, said and did not say to her mother while she was alive.  To live our own lives we have must, at some point, make peace with the voices and memories we have of our parents.  Integral Deep Listening is a powerful, effective way to do so.

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