Do you have any dream crushers in your life? Have you had any in your past? Chances are the answer to both questions is a thoughtful yes. They are people in our life who are close to us, because in order to effectively crush our dreams, they must have connection and influence with us on some impactful level. In my own experience, it was my mother. She was a devoutly religious woman and she intended with all her heart to do the right and best possible things for her children. The problem with that manifested due to her personal interpretation of her religious beliefs, and how to apply them in the task of raising children.
My mother had a gift for crushing my dreams. She shared this ‘gift’ with me many times as a young man growing up in her domain. It took me a very long time to recognize this as part of my personal history. But coming to this realization was a bit of a breakthrough for me because in the process she trained me to take over this task for her when she was no longer there to carry it out. I took over, albeit subconsciously for the most part, and continued this dysfunctional practice for much of my earlier life.
Dream crushing is a very effective method of control. It keeps one in their place and discourages, and even disables, one from overreaching or dreaming too big for their own good. The implication is that one is at risk of becoming too full of oneself. The intended lesson is that there are many sins associated with asking, hoping, or working to attain or obtain too much. The paradox of this folly is that it is nearly impossible to precisely quantify just what ‘too much’ actually is. The primary clue that such sins may be about to be committed is the degree of excitement and anticipation being exhibited, regardless of what the anxiously anticipated event or material item might be.
As I reflect on these childhood dream crushing experiences, I am able to identify them by recalling circumstances when I was punished drastically out of context for the infraction for which I was guilty. It was as if the decision was made in advance to deny me the pleasure of the anticipated experience. It was a matter of being watchful for misdeeds or mistakes, no matter how minor, which could be considered the justifiable reason for withdrawing the special event or item I was so excited about.
Another indication that this dream crushing practice was intentional comes from the fact that while I clearly and painfully recall what was taken from me, I have no recall of what my conduct was that led to the justification for that loss. Years later, as an adult, I discussed some of these incidents with my mother. She had no memory of the infractions I supposedly committed, nor did she even recall the prize I was denied as the result.
What these childhood dream crushing incidents taught me and conditioned me for was to not expect too much out of life because I could just end up being disappointed. She believed it isn’t Christian or God-like to want too much or dream too big. The tenet was that God is disappointed in anyone who reaches for too big of a pile of treasures and rewards and it is best to learn to live without getting or having too much. When it was observed that something is greatly desired and anticipated, that presented an opportunity to teach important lessons about moderation and not hoping for too much.
I could use a lot of words recounting these painful dream crushing events in my youth, but the details and exact incidents do not matter now. And since I cannot recount the conduct that was deemed to merit punishment it does not provide the reader with any specific context with which to judge or evaluate the balance or lack thereof. The focus at this time needs to be on the realization that these youthful applications of discipline were inappropriately unjust and psychologically injurious. And they no longer need to be allowed to hide away in my psyche and continue to keep me fenced in. I do not have any need to continue to crush my own dreams just as I am on the verge of having them come true. I choose to disassociate myself from this psychologically harmful conditioning and just leave it behind. It has no value and it was grossly misguided. I will give my mother credit for the fact that her choices and actions were done out of ignorance and blind loyalty to her interpretation of religious faith, rather than out of intentional malice and general ill will. She just didn’t know better, and she allowed poor influences to control her decisions. When I recall it in this way, I can forgive her for her misguidance. She is no longer alive so she cannot defend her actions now anyway. And I have no obligation to validate them by continuing to find creative ways to sabotage my dreams and goals.
It became necessary for me to call up these past experiences and expose them to light so they can no longer hide in my memory. I usually have many exciting things unfolding in my life and I have good reason to intend and anticipate much success coming my way. I have but only to allow the efforts I have invested to pay the dividends they can deliver. I must be vigilant about not letting old patterns repeat themselves and interfere with the prize that is sure to come if I just allow everything to follow its natural course.
If you can relate to dream crushing experiences in your own life, please remind yourself that it is reasonable to desire and expect the important people in your life to be supportive of your personal aspirations, and they have no right to discourage them. You may have to find language to help them understand that their reaction to what you share with them sounds and feels like dream crushing instead of good advice. If you get the opportunity to deeply engage in conversation, it is most probably the case that they are expressing their own personal fears and trying to validate them by convincing you that you are overreaching. It scares them, but they do not see themselves in their own fears.
Do you trust them? If so, be as open and descriptive of your dream as you can possibly be to help grow their understanding of where it came from and why you are committed to it. If they still try to convince you it is a bad idea and all they can offer is platitudes, it may be time to stop listening to them.