How to Learn from Your Nightmares in Twelve Steps
- Category: Psychotherapy and Recovery Work
When energy is suppressed, squeezed into a smaller and smaller container, it eventually can tear the container apart and surge forward. We see it in our kitchens when water reaches the boiling point and the spout of the tea kettle catches the steam. You hear the whistle and know it is time to make tea. The surge is useful information.
But boiling soup or sauce will blow the lid off an unwatched pot.
A nightmare is information, an alert, guidance and a warning all at once. When suppressed and unarticulated energy in you is no longer contained it can come surging forward into consciousness in the form of a nightmare. You wake up shaking and frightened. You want whatever the images are to go away, go back to oblivion. You are relieved you are safe and that it was “just a dream.”
But It’s not just a dream. It’s an important aspect of your life that demands entry into awareness. You are frightened because the information it carries may be disruptive to your point of view and the way you live. Burying it only allows it to rally itself in the dark hidden place within your psyche before it erupts again. Repeated eruptions are increasingly intense. Disregard them at your peril.
You are the power and resources to welcome nightmares. They provide wonderful opportunity to explore, understand and nourish neglected aspects of yourself. The nightmare usually presents itself in a frightening image. It takes that form to get your attention, to wake you up, to send out the warning siren.
What to do with a nightmare:
1. Grab your pen and write down the dream.
2. Describe the frightening image in detail.
3. Sketch it.
4. Describe what it wants
5. Describe what it is doing.
6. Describe what it wants to do.
7. Describe what it seems to want from you.
This gives you a good start. You are paying attention to something in your psyche that is desperate for that attention.
8. Give yourself a rest
9. Later in the day or in the nex few days, look at the nightmare again.
10. Now, in writing, ask for information from images in the dream.
11. Write down the responses you are given.
12. Allow yourself to be surprised. Youare on your way to discovering guidance from the wisdom in your inner self.
The more you write the more you contain your images, and the more your awareness can work with the meaning below the image.
Once you begin a dialogue with the images you will discover the important news you are trying to give to yourself. Fear turns to gratitude and appreciation. Then you begin to make new choices based on your newly discovered internal truth. Life gets better.
pix: Salticidae eyes, The eyes of a jumping spider at around 8:1 image magnification taken with a Pentax *ist DL;
Date Summer 2007
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license
Joanna is a Los Angeles psychotherapist in private practice and author of Healing Your Hungry Heart: recovering from your eating disorder.