Teeth falling out...
Feeling like you're back in school and you're naked and you can't find your clothes...
A shadow or someone following you that hides in the shadows...
Apocalyptic and violent dreams...
These are common themes that we hear about in nightmares or dreams. Naturally, clients will tell me about their dreams, and not the happy fluffy ones where they fly around the world like Superman or are otherwise a hero. Typically, as counselors we hear the dreams that cause discomfort or fear. Some of them may be reoccurring. Some people want to understand them. Others even want to control them. Though I'm not a dream expert and don't analyze dreams from a particular theoretical model such as Gestalt therapy (i.e. "step into the dream or become the dream"), I have found that dreams can be easily understood, especially when they are of the nightmarish quality. Therefore, I'll give a brief explanation in this short article.
1. Examine the dream for its process first, NOT its content.
Many of us look at the dream for their exact content and try to find hidden meanings or revelatory information. Rather than that, look at the process of it. What does the dream feel like? What emotions are going on? What are the five senses that are experienced? Put aside the loose teeth and the school nakedness and look at the dream's emotional processes. There, you may begin to find commonalities such as feelings of shame, worthlessness, fear of the unknown, fear of vulnerability, etc. Write those emotions down as you review the emotional process. For example, a dream of the apocalypse is not likely a foreshadowing of doom and destruction. It actually can be a representation of fear of the unknown or fear of being harmed by the unknown.
2. Review your current life and what is going on and compare it to the dream emotional processes.
Let's face it, though life is good it has its downs. During those times we tend to fall into feelings of worthlessness, fear, anxiousness, depression, etc. This is a normal process and doesn't necessarily mean that something is terribly wrong. Sometimes, our dreams can be a reflection of our thinking and emotional processes. Sometimes, the dreams can teach us that "hey, you're not feeling okay right now!" You may already know that, but some of us do our best to ignore it. In this case, the dream is just trying to process your subconscious thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, our mind tries to figure things out for us or to bring subconscious concerns to our awareness for us to figure out. Nightmares may not mean that there is something wrong. It may just mean that you are human and have some work to do.
As you review your current life circumstances and compare them to the dream process, make sure to write them down or even say them out loud. This helps to make it real and can even decrease the anxiousness or fear surrounding it.
3. Ask yourself, "What can I do about it?"
If you learn that there are things that need to be worked on, make goals and follow through with them. If it's something you can't do yourself, ask for help! There's no shame in it. We're here to lift and buoy one another up.
In the case of severe nightmares that come about from trauma...it may require professional help. If that is the case and you're looking for help, the database on www.psychologytoday.com is great! You can find a local compassionate professional to help you through it.
That's all for today.