So, should you feel bad when you dream about your partner the way they were before transition? I do. I wake from a dream feeling as though I somehow cheated on my wife, with my wife, when she lived as my husband. It is a total mind melting concept, but the bottom line is that I feel terrible. Like a strange type of guilt comes over me and I look over at my wife to make sure she is still asleep. Because if she were awake, clearly she would know what I was just dreaming about. It is an irrational statement, I know, but it seemed to work for me the morning I found myself in this situation. So there I was sitting in bed wondering, do I miss her pre-transition or is it just something that is happening in my subconscious mind?
“RIDDLED WITH SO MUCH GUILT, I HAD TO FIND OUT HOW OUR SUBCONSCIOUS MIND REALLY WORKS.”
Riddled with so much guilt, I had to find out how our subconscious mind really works. So I read some very interesting articles about that part of our brain. I have to be honest; it was totally fascinating. So here are some things I learned about the subconscious part of our brain. The job of the subconscious mind is to store everything that happens to us throughout our whole life. These observations become our memories. The things that we are taught, like manners, greeting people when you enter a room, and how to tie your shoes. The involuntary functions that happen in our bodies, like breathing and keeping a regular heartbeat. Our habits, the good ones and the not so good ones are stored in the subconscious as well and any time we try to attempt something different, like conquering a fear we have harbored forever. Those feelings of discomfort also come from the subconscious mind.
It was easy for me to grasp all of these concepts because I have been dancing since the age of three. In technique class we are taught, and I now teach to my own students, about muscle memory. Once you have mastered a step, your muscles will always be able to recall how to reproduce that step. Even when a student is taught the incorrect way of doing something, their body reproduces it that way. Same with the emotions stored in our subconscious. I met my wife in high school when I was only seventeen. I have known her and loved her for a very long time, even though we went our separate ways for years, my feelings for her remained in my subconscious mind. When we reconnected it was as if no time had passed at all.
"I REMEMBER IN THE EARLY MONTHS OF MY WIFE’S TRANSITION SOME PEOPLE WERE AMAZED AT HOW QUICKLY I WAS ABLE TO CHANGE MY PRONOUNS WHEN SPEAKING ABOUT HER.”
When I come across a student who has learned a step incorrectly or who has picked up a bad habit it is a challenge to correct. I must work them through a total retraining of the subconscious and the muscle memory to fix what is being done wrong. It is not an easy task and in some cases, it takes years to fix. I remember in the early months of my wife’s transition some people were amazed at how quickly I was able to change my pronouns when speaking about her. Perhaps it is my years of dance training that helped me to transition at almost the same rate that she did. However, the retraining process is different for all of us. So if you have an occasional pronoun slip, it is coming from the subconscious, not because you are being mean or unsupportive.
So my subconscious has many memories of my wife throughout the years. Should I feel like a total loser for having the occasional dream of her before transition? It is very difficult, but I probably shouldn’t get so down on myself about it. I have spent more years loving the man I thought she was, then loving the beautiful woman that she is. It doesn’t mean that I wish that she hadn’t transitioned or that I want her to go back to living the way she was. It is an involuntary action of my brain. I have a plethora of good memories we have made in all our years together stored away in the subconscious part of my brain that will be there forever. So I will be optimistic and let myself be excited that I was able to retrain my subconscious to see her as her authentic self. Otherwise, I would have missed out on being a part of her transition journey.