“Help me stop dreaming!” Is that possible? Well, a dreamer honestly emailed me and asked me to help her “stop the dreams.” I think she meant just the bad dreams but if she wanted to stop all her dreams, that’s not a healthy option for any human being! All the symptoms of sleep deprivation, such as the inability to concentrate, stress, disturbances and even psychosis, are considered by many sleep researchers to be from lack of dreaming, not lack of sleep. The time spent in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep is absolutely required for our well-being.
To put an end to the scary dreams is another question. For me and most of today’s dream workers, we tend to think that “there is no such thing as a bad dream” because all dreams come to further our health and personal growth. Dreams move unconscious material to conscious awareness so that we may be able to process our feelings, grow and change. Most healthy people have a bad dream now and then, and after working with them, they generally find that there is something just below the surface of their conscious awareness that is trying to get their attention.
In the case of the dreamer in question, she sent me enough dreams to blog about for a year, so I could only speak in the most general sense. You can do this for yourself as well, when you have a lot of material in one dream, or in a group of dreams to work with. It will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed from too many dreams or symbols. Simply zero in on situation or the central image in each dream and the feelings that they generate. For example, in this case, we found the following situations followed by the predominant emotion:
- Danger/ fear
- Forgetting/ concern or anxiety
- Dirt and mess/ distress
- Reunion/ clarity (Note: clarity isn’t considered an emotion since it is part of the thinking process, but it was the dreamer’s description).
Once you understand the main situation and the feelings that go with it, ask yourself if there is anywhere in your life that feels the same? In other words, “what situation in my life feels dangerous and makes me feel fearful?” “Is there any situation that feels like a ‘break-in’ or invasive in some way, where I feel fear?” What occurs to you may not resemble your dream scenarios at all but it may trigger a connection or awareness of some time in your life—past or present—when you felt the same way.
While nightmares may be normal, frequent nightmares are clearly telling you that something within your psyche is bothering you or is out of balance. In this case, our dreamer said that she takes good care of herself but I would suggest to all dreamers that emotional self-care be included in your daily routine. With nightmares, the answer doesn’t lie in the cessation of all or even some of our dreams, but in working to understand their messages. Sweet dreams!