I woke from a dream this morning in which I was trying to help a friend escape from her abusive step-father. We had never talked about her situation before but somehow I knew. I leaned over to her and whispered in her ear, “You’re not safe here.” We then had a covert conversation about how my and N’s intervention would create such terrible backlash for her and her toddler half-brother that she just couldn’t see a way through it and she didn’t want to leave her home because she loved it so much there (the area was forested mountains of the Northeast).
It was heartbreaking. I woke up before the situation had resolved itself. The tension of the dream was palpable because the abuser was there nearly all the time.
On reflection, I think what happened here in this dream is a situation where, because we hadn’t discussed this at all prior to this conversation, the friend wasn’t able to sit with the idea of escape and figure things out on her own. This dream is about rescuing versus agency and autonomy.
You cannot rescue people without co-opting their agency and their autonomy. She needed to retain her autonomy. Were this to happen in waking life, I wouldn’t be able to force her to do anything because that’s tantamount to becoming an abuser myself. I would have to let the situation go and make it absolutely clear that if/when she decides to leave, I and mine would be there for her in an instant.
This is what friendship is. It is supporting another’s decision and another’s timing. It is recognizing and acknowledging that she has agency in her life and supporting that respectfully.
Life is so fucking hard sometimes.