We all have them: those dreams in which we are hounded by our fears and wake up just before we are eaten by the wild bear, attacked by scary assailants or plummet into the deep.
When we wake up, we often discard those ‘nightmares’ as quickly as possible and dump them into the waste-paper basket of the night. But in reality, this tactic is not only a missed opportunity, it is counter productive as well. Because nightmares do not only have important messages for us, they also tend to come back again and again, when their message is not received.
One of the reasons we would rather get rid of nightmares is our human tendency to want to avoid pain and fear. It is a logical consequence of being incarnated in a physical body.
The body wants to experience pleasure and avoid pain. It is an instinctual survival mechanism.
But even where the physical body is concerned, it is unwise to ignore pain and remain unconscious of it: it is a signal that something is wrong.
It is wise to take your hand off the stove when it is hot. It is unwise to ignore pain in your body, because it might be a signal of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed, and could get worse if there is no intervention.
Another reason we like to forget nightmares as soon as possible, has to do with the fact that many people still tend to take all dreams literally.
A young man once came to my first ever dream class with a dream that freaked him out completely: it was a dream in which he witnessed his own funeral. He was afraid the dream foretold his imminent demise. But after some delving into the dream and his associations, it turned out (as is often the case with dreams about death) the dream was merely illustrating a psychological transformation process. He was ‘burying’ his old self, his old way of being so to speak!
Another reason is the fact that nightmares often portrait the things we fear. We don’t like to feel fear… it takes courage to face our fears instead of running from them. But when we can muster the courage to turn around and face our fears instead of running from that which follows us in our dreams, the rewards can be substantial.
For instance, I have a regression client who had been plagued for years by nightmares in which she was chased. Almost every single night, she was hounded by criminals, groups of aggressive adolescents, men with evil intentions, etc. She was always on the run. Sometimes she was caught, often she could get away. But she kept on running.
We decided to go back into her most recent nightmare to open dialogue with that which was chasing her. In this particular dream, it was a group of teenage kids in a playground who bullied her and wanted to hurt her. When we went back into the dream, the kids looked like a kind of demons. When we confronted them and asked them what they wanted, my client discovered the demons were her own fears! They were the fears that had begun in childhood, and had never been addressed. We decided to heal them one by one, in inner child work, all in one session.
At the next session, she came in and told me she had not had one single true nightmare in two weeks!
But the best example of a healing nightmare was the dream of a young man in my practice whose birth town was overrun by deadly monsters. They killed everyone in their path. Nor running, nor playing the hero provided a solution: eventually my client was himself killed in the dream by a monster that slashed his throat in an almost impersonal way.
My client had the courage to step back into the dream in a guided visualization exercise. He confronted one of the monsters, who told him it was nothing personal: they had been sent by a higher authority. I got goose bumps. We were probably in for a surprise… and indeed: when my client went in search of the ‘boss’ of the monsters, the one who had sent them, he came face to face with… Archangel Michael.
The energy of Michael was almost palpable in the room. He told my client he had sent the monsters to teach him a valuable lesson about power and male energy. The monsters showed him that neither running from his fears, nor the ego-game of playing the hero to obtain recognition, tactics my client knew well, were manifestations of real strength.
The solution was to stay his ground and be rooted in his own strength, calmly and securely. Real self-confidence.
Subconsciously my client took on the bearing of a knight at ease, his hands on the pommel of an invisible sword. Goosebumps. What a beautiful manifestation of true strength, of male energy in balance. A spiritual warrior.
This nightmare also demonstrated beautifully how eventually, all fear is a part of the divine game, the road to self-realization we all take. The ‘monsters’ are just servants of Source, and did not come into being to plague us, but to help us grow. Everything in the Universe, even ‘evil’, ultimately serves Source, and us as manifestations of Source on our road to Ascension, the total realization of the divine Soul.
Now, you don’t need to visit a dream worker to face your nightmares head-on (though a little help might be nice, or for some, even essential): it is possible to do it by yourself in the comfort of your own living room. Here is one way to do it.
This exercise works best if you have some experience with visualization, meditation and inner transformation work.
1. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed for at least half an hour. Settle in and make yourself comfortable.
2. Do a short relaxation exercise and ground yourself.
3. You might want to call in some helpers you feel comfortable with. For instance your guardian angel, Archangel Michael, your guides or totem animals etc. Perhaps you want them to draw a protective circle or bubble around you made of white light in which you can travel safely. You can choose any helpers to go with you into the dream.
4. Choose a moment in your dream in which you want to step in. For instance, some time before it gets really exciting or scary might be best.
5. Imagine yourself really being there. Feel what it is like. Experience the colors, the energy, the atmosphere, any sensory data you can. Feel your feet on the ground, the air on your skin. Make it as real as possible.
6. Then make your way through the dream environment to the time and place where you meet the person, animal, or situation that frightened you so much when you first had the dream.
7. Take your time to meet up the scary part of your dream. Realize that they are probably a creation of your own with a message. You can ask them any questions you like. For instance: Who are you? Where did you come from? What do you want to tell me? Is there anything you need from me? Is there anything you would like to give me?
Just be open minded and let the answers come. Don’t try and force anything. Let the dream speak to you. Listen. Don’t be surprised if the ‘monster’ transforms before into you eyes into a valuable ally or a suppressed part of yourself!
8. You might also want to take some action to conclude the dream story differently. For instance, you might want to make peace with a dream character, or even throw a party. Or you might want to confront a dream character and assert yourself where before, you were too frightened to. Whatever feels good to you.
9. When you feel you are finished, take your leave of any friends you’ve made, thank them and thank your helpers. Make the conscious decision to come back into your body, into the present moment. Breathe in and out deeply a couple of times. Shuffle your feet to ground yourself and wake yourself up. Open your eyes. You’re back from your dream journey!
10. You might want to write down the story of your new dream, and give it a title, draw a picture or write a poem to landmark what you have learned, experienced or transformed.
If at any time you feel too uncomfortable or frightened to continue during this exercise, just call on your helpers, make the decision to come back to the present and do so. You are free and in control at any time.
Please note: people who have a history of trauma, suffer from flashbacks and/or have a diagnosis for PTSD should only do this exercise under the supervision of a trained professional.
If you are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative disorder or use drugs, you should skip this exercise altogether.
This article was published on Expanded Consciousness
Wendy Gillissen, M.A. is a psychologist and registered past life therapist in the Netherlands. She is the author of award-winning spiritual novel ‘Curse of the Tahiéra’. In her spare time she plays the Celtic harp and likes to hug unsuspecting trees.