Posted by: Jenny Davidow | March 15, 2010

Nightmares: Shifting from Fear to Inner Peace

Sometimes I wonder what he dreams about.

 

 

Nightmares – Shifting from Fear to Inner Peace

by Jenny Davidow

      “This resolution to my old recurring nightmare was an epiphany.”

 

Dreaming is a universal experience. If dreams didn’t serve an important function, they would have been dropped by thousands of years of evolution.

Like me, you’ve probably watched your dog or cat dreaming: the feet tremble and churn through the air as your pet dreams he is running and jumping. He may breathe heavier and whimper, reacting to something he encounters in dreamland.

My cat Ziggy does this. But when he’s awake, I think his worst fear is of the VCR. Whenever I turn it on, it whirs and clicks, the red and green lights come on, and he freaks out. This silver box seems alive to him. It is something mysterious he can’t understand. Its inner workings are completely hidden to him.

As soon as it comes alive, Ziggy jumps and his eyes get big. His ears flex this way and that. He goes into stalking mode. He runs up to it wanting to scratch its green and red eyes out. Then he vaults a foot in the air when the DVD drawer pops out. Not knowing its purpose, he finds the VCR very stressful, an intruder. Sometimes I wonder if he has nightmares about it.

Ziggy’s reaction to the VCR reminds me of how many people react to their distressing dreams and nightmares.

Though these strange stories come from inside of us, they are something mysterious and alarming whose purpose we can’t understand.

Bad dreams seem like intruders that break in, make us jump, and leave us shaken and bruised.

The Inner Battle

I began noticing nightmares at about age 8.

I had a recurring dream that I was a soldier on a battlefield, running and afraid, overwhelmed by the opposing army.

In my early 20’s I explored many ways to understand dreams and developed my own steps, the Inner Dialogue, to explore my dreams and nightmares. Through the Inner Dialogue, I learned about a hidden part of me that, surprisingly, offered helpful messages in every dream, even the scary ones. I was able to finally decode my battlefield dreams.

Then I was amazed to have another — but very different — battlefield dream, ten years after that nightmare had morphed into a different theme.

In the new dream, I am meeting with the “enemy” on the battlefield, to negotiate a peace.

I see the other person face to face at last. We are up close and I can look into his eyes. I can tell from his expression and the light in his eyes that he, too, is ready for peace. The battle is finally over.

This resolution to my old recurring nightmare was an epiphany. I realized that something deep in my subconscious had been touched. My dreamwork while awake had shifted the dream from fear and destruction to peaceful reconciliation. This was only the beginning of a very significant shift in all of my dreams.

In the 30 years since my first dramatic ‘making peace’ dream, I have come to appreciate that most of us have an inner battle raging inside us, but it is hidden. The battle represents an inner conflict that may continue for years. Sometimes we recognize the inner conflict. Occasionally we connect our frightening dreams to our conflicting emotions and the events that may have caused them. But more often the internal grief, fear or conflict, and the life circumstances in which the problem arose, are buried deep in the subconscious and hidden from our view. Except in our dreams.

Do you have recurring nightmares?

Some studies indicate as many as 30% of us have a nightmare once a month. That figure is probably too low. In our culture, people tend not to remember dreams and don’t like to report these things. Dreams are given little attention or value because, the assumption goes, we have no choice or control over them anyway.

When I teach dream workshops, I ask my students, “Who has had recurring dreams?” Usually about half say yes. Then I ask, “Who has had or is still having nightmares?” At least a third say yes. Some have had the same nightmare for their entire lives.

Ninety years of feeling ‘lost’ in her dreams

‘Mary,’ a woman of 94, took my workshop and said she’d had the same nightmare for 90 years. Mary was remarkable. She came to the workshop with a very clear intention, motivated to finally understand what had caused her recurring distress.

In Mary’s dream, she was lost and couldn’t find her way. What made it nightmarish was a terrible feeling of powerlessness and loneliness, which she told me she’d endured throughout her life.

With my help, using the simple techniques I taught in the workshop, she had a dramatic revelation. She finally understood where that feeling had begun, at age 5, and why.

She told me that when she was born, her mother had died, leaving her alone with her father. As a small child she had perceived his emotional withdrawal as a sign that he did not love her. Now, with Inner Dialogue, for the very first time Mary was able to feel a loving connection with her father.

Her eyes filled with tears as she was finally able to say, “Daddy, where were you?” Then her eyes lit up when her “father” (as a symbol) told her he loved her. He wanted her to feel secure and happy.  He said he was sorry he hadn’t been a better father.

After the workshop, Mary continued her Inner Dialogue with her father. Positive shifts in her dreams emerged, and her wellbeing while awake also improved. She now had the tools she needed to ease the burden of the past — and to experience more comfort and inner peace in the present.

Read the full article about Mary, “Healing a Recurring Dream” at www.JennyDavidow.com

In my next posts, I will go into more detail to illustrate the way dreams can shift and change over time, especially when we pay attention to them.

Copyright 2010 by Jenny Davidow.
Reprint only with live link back to https://nightmarerelief.wordpress.com.

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Responses

  1. This is very helpful — not just a pat, “one-size-fits-all” approach. I can’t claim to be an expert on mind / brain (like, say, Oliver Sacks) but I read as much as I can on the subject. After all, the human brain is the most sophisticated structure in the known universe. This advice should help me better understand my dreams.

  2. Hi Jenny!
    Very interesting to read. Your first paragraph’s point that dreams serve a function is so true! As you said, why else would they have survived the evolutionary process?

    Looking forward to future posts.
    Thanks again!

    Stephanie

  3. Jenny led an extremely effective and productive dream work group for several of us over more than two years, which had to end when Jenny relocated. This is going to feel really really good to be in touch again with her thoughts and methods through the website and blog. I’m REALLY looking forward to spending time ongoing, following this blog. I’m grateful!

  4. Jenny writes a clear and concise explanation of working through a nightmare. I know I can relate to the need to be a gentle witness to my dreams rather than being tossed about by the emotional impact of some of the images and feelings.

  5. Jenny always helped me with dreams when she lived in Los Angeles.

    It’s nice to be able to read her blogs since we now live in far away states from one another.

    Thanks, Jenny, for touching the world with your expertise on dreams!!

  6. Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful comments. Great to hear from each of you! — Jenny

  7. Jenny is quite right in helping out this way — the dreams or nightmares are symbolic, not literal. Sometimes it takes much, much work to see exactly what they are trying to say. It is worth the effort, though — and her book has helped me very much in finding out how to do so.

    Thanks, Jenny


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