a girl on the beach

Learning to Dream and Thrive After Divorce

By Susan Hockney

I know exactly the moment I had my last dream. I don’t mean my last nighttime dream. I mean the last time I allowed myself to dream that something wonderful and amazing would happen to me—that some sort of blessing would be bestowed on me, and goals…wow—yeah—goals. That moment was just before my ex lost his umpteenth job because ::: fill in the blank ::: and I decided that my life was never going to change. Dreams were useless.

We All Had Dreams Once

At one time, I dreamed of being a famous artist, a novelist, and (I’ll admit with a blush) an actress. At 19, I was one of three finalists for a part in the community theatre version of “Last of the Red Hot Lovers”. I’ve never admitted that publicly before, but luckily my kids don’t read my articles. I believed that I had something—call it talent, call it luck, or call it whatever. I was sure that I was destined for some sort of greatness.

Yay me!

When my babies came along, I wanted nothing more than to be a mom. That is where my greatness would manifest, I was sure. I would put my dreams on hold, and I would dream dreams for my kids as I nursed them, rocked them to sleep, and watched them play soccer. At night, when I lay down with them to say prayers and hear their sleepy, whispered dreams, their dreams became mine. I channeled everything I had into them, and I was glad to do it.

Survival Mode Squelches Dreams

Meanwhile, my dreams were becoming fuzzy. I have always needed security—the knowledge that the bills would be paid, that the kids and I would be taken care of—and that’s not something I had.

Instead of dreaming about things I wanted to do, I was focused on whether or not the electricity would stay on, how to make popcorn for breakfast seem cool, and how to keep the kids clothed. It’s a funny thing—there comes a point where survival mode kicks in, and you become almost robotic in your responses. I was just doing the next thing.

But even after paying the bills got easier, I couldn’t shake myself out of survival mode. As much as I’d like to blame the ex for this, I am not sure it’s his fault. It just was.

At that point, I had stopped having dreams.

Turning It All Around

Ok, maybe I didn’t stop having them. Maybe I just stopped believing that any of them would come true. I got in a rut of thinking that things would never change until I died.

Now I am healing, and I’m learning to dream again. There are a lot of reasons for it—there wasn’t a quick fix—and it hasn’t been easy, but I am allowing myself to imagine the possibilities.

I have realized that part of the reason I stopped dreaming was because I couldn’t figure out how it would all work. I wanted to know how I could get from point A to point B. I guess, silly as it sounds, I wanted an itinerary from God.

I don’t know a lot of people who get itineraries. I can tell you that I did not.

Instead, I decided that I couldn’t continue to be dead on the inside. I could not keep living my life in mediocrity. I could not continue living the way I had been. I began to believe that my life could be different.

Believe in the Possibilities

There is something about believing in possibilities that makes things happen. I can’t explain it logically—call it faith, call it The Secret, or whatever, but it is real. When I began to believe my life could change, it did. At first, the changes didn’t seem so great—the circumstances that led up to my divorce were not fun. Then, other things began to happen. I got clients, I made my own money for the first time in decades, and I met someone who fanned the fading sparks of trust in me. All of the stuff I had been so afraid to dream about was suddenly coming to pass. It was like popcorn—one pop, then another, then faster and faster until I can only look around and wonder what amazing thing is going to happen next.

Change Your Perspective

After life with a narcissist, it can be tough to believe that we are worth the smallest things, let alone big, wonderful things. We are so used to looking at ourselves through the narcissist’s eyes that we can’t see possibilities anymore.

We’re in survival mode. You can’t dream in survival mode.

Where are you on the dream spectrum? Are you still struggling to think that good things are coming your way? Or are you beginning to believe that there are wonderful things in your future?

You know that change is difficult. You don’t wake up one morning and say, “Self, it’s time for you to begin dreaming again,” and everything is fixed.

What you can do first is give yourself permission to dream again. If a daydream about owning your own business pops up, don’t shake your head and laugh because it seems too impossible. You don’t have to make it happen (right away), but try to acknowledge it positively by saying things like…

Well, that would be cool

It could happen

Maybe it will happen someday

That would be fun

Keep Moving Forward

Once you’ve learned to entertain your dreams again, you can set small goals. Again, this shouldn’t be a stressful thing. It’s a way to stretch yourself, see yourself in a more positive light, and get your life back. What do you really want?

Your battle is not with your ex. Your battle—the real battle—is breaking through the prison that has been created in your mind over the years. Let yourself dream, imagine, and believe, and watch your life change over time.

You aren’t the only one who has struggled to dream.