Most nightmares are variation on a few basic themes. This page is all about the basic themes and what options you have as you re-create your dream.
"There are no bad dreams." Buddha
Nightmares are the dreaming mind trying to resolve a conflict. Exploring the content of the dream can lead to profound insights into who you happen to be. Here are some of the most common sources of nightmares.
- An attempt to solve some deep issue
- Residue of an unresolved painful issue or experience
- A conflict between your ideal and your reality
- Self punishment for a violation of your moral code
- Outcry from a disowned part of yourself
- Energies not well utilized
- Overindulgence in food, drink, and/or drugs
The Most Common Scripts are:
- Being Chased by a Monster
- Naked in public
- Falling or dropping through space
- You have lost something precious
- It's the BIG Test, and you didn't study, or you took French not Spanish...
There are lots of variations on these themes.
The Buddhist deity Baku eats bad dreams and turns them into good ones.
The essential issue in the nightmare is to discover what elements from the past, mixed with current events is making you rerun some old script you use to deal with it. Insight into the source of the nightmare and adjustments to how you act in the world can usually transform a nightmare into a very pleasant experience. When resolved, they usually go away or become transformed into benign stories.
Tina had the classic nightmare that is shared by high achievers. She was rushing to the classroom to take the exam and got there only to discover that she had taken the wrong course and had no idea what any of the questions were about. Embarrassed, she'd wake in an agitated state. It is the classic failing nightmare. There are dozens of variations.
The theme of failing where you'd normally succeed is very common among people who have achieved great things. Eighty per cent of Harvard graduates report the failing nightmare. Tina graduates from college in three years, with all A's and top honors. She had always been the very best. That nightmare about failing recurred periodically for 20 years before she began to examine it with guidance.
Exploration of the dream led her to reevaluate how hard she drove herself and what it means to fail. She had a change of mind about success, gave herself some room to do things just for the fun, and not go for the top.
Subsequently, she had a breakthrough dream in which she was going to the exam but it turned out to be a party, the professor gave out sheet music and they all sang songs for a while.
She reports that elements of the failure nightmare still recur occasionally, but they are benign, or the story line ends up in a stress-less frivolity instead of a sweat.
So What do I do with My Nightmare?
First, get to the root of the issue with some dream work...
In the day world:
- Identify the Day-mare that is the trigger for the nightmare
- Invent alternatives that might help resolve the day-mare.
- What can you change in the day world that will resolve the day-mare?
- Confront the daymare and change something
In the dream world:
- Invent alternative ways to engage the nightmare.
- Call for friends to come and help you.
- Confront the nightmare.
- Take a different tack. Do it differently.
Being chased by a monster is a classic nightmare. It is universal. Every country and culture reports the nightmare of "being chased by a monster." It is probably linked to a very primitive survival tactic. Makes good sense. The idea in dream work is to switch ground on the nightmare.
- Ask the monster if it likes ice cream or it is frightened of you.
- Ask if it has a mask on.
- Is or is standing in for something else.
- Ask the monster if it has bunions. I've pulled a lot of thorns out of Lion's paws...
The idea is to try the nightmare a different way. The idea is to open a new relationship where you don't do the old thing anymore.