Sunday, December 6, 2009
Nightmares Can Be Great Gifts
The other topic (besides dream recall) that always comes up early on in a dream group is "nightmares." I put icky dreams in the nightmares category in my last post as a way to identify them with unpleasant dreams, but I agree with Robert Moss's view that nightmares are frightening dreams that are so scary to us we wake ourselves up rather than go on with them. In my experience, nightmares are the great wake up calls of the psyche.
I want to distinguish what I'm addressing here from dreams that are born of severe trauma to the human psyche; what is called the post-traumatic-stress dream. These are typical of psychic wounds of war survivors or to those who survive personal attack, accidents or natural catastrophes. I think the psyche is so severely impacted by these experiences that it takes loving therapeutic assistance to cross the bridge PTS dreams might offer to healing. It's not your everyday dream work or play, in my estimation.
I also see nightmares in childhood a little differently in that they may be a reflection of the child's standing, much smaller, vis-a-vis the world around, in addition to the control issues that come from being a dependent being. It's a normal experience that creates scariness forgotten by adults, perhaps; so, children's dreams may produce more monsters, etc. Helping a child in waking to confront monsters and create protective allies that make them feel safer in the dream world can carry into waking benefits for kids.
But your average nightmares are uniquely interesting roads to personal psychic healing. They are like red flags for us to pay attention. Even people who typically ignore their dreams take note of a nightmare.
I've found that when I've re-entered nightmares and addressed the dream threat in my journey, it's led to personal transformation and immense growth.
One favorite is My Huge Bear Nightmare of Memorial Day, 1984. Working with this dream, one of those real heart pounding, pinch yourself when you wake up nightmare experiences, was incredibly fruitful. This wonderful healing totem led me to address sore issues in my heart that needed to be aired and mended. In my dream re-entry, I cried my heart out. It was one of those amazing experiences when crying washes you clean. Breathing and meditating after this emotional experience, a beautiful chant came to me, a song. I've used it frequently ever since to capture the same divine cleansing of emotional tension.
Nightmares can be great gifts.