Despite the terror a nightmare causes, it is a positive event in your life. The mind cleanses itself of bad dreams and disgusting thoughts through nightmares. It's a sign that your dreaming self considers you strong enough to learn something about yourself or fix some problem. However, you may have to work hard to turn the negative into a positive. It could be emotionally taxing but will be worth the effort in relief. .
As various as our own personalities, nightmares often include being chased, brutalized, isolated, forced to do horrible things, and all manner of mayhem humans can think up..
Our nightmares are responses to both inner and outer havoc. I don't have nightmares often, but when I do they are often provoked by the news like this one in 2007:
I was in a prison hospital with very real, bright colors. A young man, an Arab, lay on the operating table. He was scared. I put my arms around him. I could feel his heart beat and his trembling. Then the staff took over. They began to disembowel him while he was still alive. They were really enjoying the process. I could see one blue-gowned man pull out guts and lay them on the table. The horror of it awoke me. .
The day before the dream, I had heard about some cases before the Supreme Court of death row victims remaining awake and feeling great pain before death finally came..
Also on TV a Muslim called himself an alien in America. I'm reminded of World War II when Japanese and Germans were interred here in the U S because the people couldn’t tell the good guys from the bad. The same thing is happening now in some places.
The darkness in my soul mirrors the times. I dream about these things because I’m a part of the mind of the world. It’s not all wonderful to be a part of the whole. To be aware of cruelty, to experience it from the point of view of the victim and of the perpetrator—that’s hard to bear..
When I awoke from the nightmare, I felt breathless. I was sweating and my heart thumped in my chest. I didn’t want to write it down but couldn’t get it out of my mind. As I wrote, my physical symptoms abated..
It's possible such dreams are flushing out the system, making sure all the parts work okay. The dreaming self creates the upsetting scenarios to get us emotionally revved up. This works much like our immune system where we catch a cold then manufacturer the anti-bodies to cure it..
When we move from waking to sleeping, we prepare to dream by beginning rapid eye movements (REM). We continue to breathe and our involuntary functions continue, but sleep paralysis keeps our arms and legs still so we don't act out the scenarios we are dreaming. Sometimes, when a person becomes aware that his body is paralyzed during this transition, he becomes fearful and a nightmare results. .
Alien abduction nightmares often include stories of sleep paralysis, which is a normal passage from waking to sleeping when the body's processes change. .
If the person realizes what is happening with the onset of a nightmare or troubling dream, he might be able to convert the experience into a lucid dream. The trick is to realize one is dreaming then change the plot to something more palatable or even enjoyable. .
A recurring dream with no variations in the scenario could indicate post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Don't think for a minute that it just happens to veterans of wars. They do suffer from PTSD frequently, but so do people who are victims of car accidents, floods, fires, hurricanes, and other manmade or natural disasters.
Those who have been abused as children or adults are prone to PTSD as are people displaced by political unrest and victims of crimes. Just watching Nine Eleven happen on TV and the events of the following days caused one third of Americans to suffer from sleep deprivation, according to a Pew Research Center Study. .
Previous unresolved issues in our lives can make problems worse for those who suffer from nightmares or lack of sleep. .
Nightmares are often repressed memories that surface so we can deal with their effects in our lives. The more bizarre the dream, the greater its importance..
Trust each dream as an effort to achieve greater clarity and inner peace for the dreamer. Whatever fragment of a dream is available, even if it's just seeing an image of a tiger, work with that. The next time you have the nightmare, turn and face the tiger. Ask it, "What it is doing in your dream?" It might dissolve into a kitten and become a dream ally..
Recurring dreams where the same scenario repeats or something similar happens tell the dreamer that there is work to be done. The good news is that our dreaming selves know we are capable of dealing with the underlying conditions that cause the dream. .
Nightmares can represent repressed events from our life, often unresolved problems from childhood, for example feeling unloved by a parent or bullied by classmates. Repressed memories of mistreatment by others or abuse by adults, whether physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual, often result in nightmares. .
If such memories emerge for you, there's no reason to feel ashamed or frightened. Find someone to support you in analyzing your dreams and reclaiming the memories. It could be family, friend, or a professional counselor. The important thing to accept is that you are ready at some level to deal with the emotional fallout or your dreams would not occur..
An author friend of mine, Beth Blake, tells of her daughter's nightmare that became a positive learning experience for both of them, once explained by a therapist.
When my daughter was a teenager, we had a sweet black lab named Pepper. Pepper was a big dog who loved to cuddle and, despite her size, was the gentlest dog on earth.
One night, my daughter had a bad dream. She dreamt she went into her room, and it was filled with snakes crawling all over the floor. Panicked, she ran to the living room to find me and screamed for help. I handed her a gun. She ran back to her room and shot the snakes, one by one. Instead of bullets, water shot out of the gun. As soon as the water hit each snake, the snake turned into Pepper, ending up with a room full of Peppers..
A therapist I know, Lillie Weiss, author of Dream Analysis in Psychotherapy, and Practical Dreaming: Awakening the Power of Dreams in Your Life, told me that the snakes represented scary problems in her life. As usual, she ran to me, her mother, for help. Because she was a teenager by now and not a child anymore, I did not go with her but instead gave her the tools (the gun) to handle the problems herself. When she attacked the problems (the snakes), the problems went away and were replaced by our loving dog, Pepper. .
The dream frightened my daughter until I explained to her the therapist's analysis.
All dreams, including nightmares, bring new information. A dream scenario might seem like something you've dreamed many times, but you are either not following the path toward wholeness that you need to follow or there is something new to be gleaned from the dream..
Fear of cancer surgery provoked a nightmare that became a compelling inspiration in the life of another author friend, Cherie Lee..
Two nights before my scheduled mastectomy surgery for breast cancer, I had the worst nightmare I’ve ever had. Pregnant human-animals used their extending jaws to eat part of my body, my breast. Flesh tore from my body, but I did not feel pain. Blood and urine pooled on the floor under stacked cages of creatures. Everything stank..
My heart raced, my body trembled and I wiped sweat from my head as I sat on the edge of my bed. Frightened, I told myself to write everything I remembered down. It had to mean something..
As I wrote my notes, my heartbeats slowed. I wrote faster feeling I’d lose some details if I didn’t rush. By the time I finished scrawling my notes, I realized my fear had fled. Did the act of writing that nightmare down make my fear disappear? I had no clues but I did feel everything would be all right.
To help reassure myself, I whispered, “This is a great story outline. You’re going to survive and write it, too.”.
My self-talk convinced me to go get a drink of water and go back to bed. I quickly said a prayer and had a warm feeling inside me. Soon, I slept peacefully and woke refreshed the next morning..
After my surgery with my recovery well on its way, I focused on writing every day. I made notes and organized emails to remind me about my feelings dealing with cancer. Those notes lead to a published booklet, which covered my feelings as a survivor, as I sought ways to encourage women to get their mammograms as well as let them know having breast cancer doesn’t mean an automatic death sentence..
An even more wonderful result, the nightmare inspired my first fiction publication in a horror anthology. It gave me courage to pursue my dreams of writing fiction..
Our nightmares and troubling dreams work toward greater wholeness, greater self-understanding, and spiritual growth. .
Here's a Tip
• If you have a nightmare, try to understand. Ask yourself why you are afraid. What about the dream makes you not want to finish it? Why did you awaken instead of turning the dream to something positive?
• Invoke your dreaming self. Ask it to become your friend. Ask it to send a dream figure who will help you deal with the nightmares, like an angel or a puppy.
• Re-enter your dream and continue it while you are awake.
• Remember the dream has come to serve your best interest. Try to figure out its meaning in both your dreaming life and your waking life.
• Stay alert for moments when you realize you are dreaming and try to take control of the dream and turn it to your satisfaction.
• There have been reports that some nightmares lead to diagnoses of illness, such as cancer, in time for treatment to be effective. Scan your dreams for such information for your health's sake.