Control of Nightmares

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Nightmares in dreams can be truly frightening and disturbing, but it may be possible to control and limit them through lucid dreaming. (1870 engraving by Gustave Dore).

Control of Nightmares


Dream analysis is the first and most important step when one seeks to control or treat one’s nightmares. Analysis allows for the intrapersonal discovery of the emotions that are the driving force behind the dream. Once the dreamer acknowledges the fears and insecurities from her or his waking life that trigger nightmares, they lose the power they hold in the subconscious and are no longer a terrifying force. By seeking professional help with the analysis of dreams, the dreamer is able to discuss freely the specifics of the nightmares. The dreamer then becomes able to confront the fearful aspect of the subconscious.

It is the belief of many dream researchers that dream analysis enables the dreamer to more readily attain the state known as lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming takes place when dreamers are aware of the fact that they are dreaming and are then able to control different aspects of their dreams. If a person finds him-or herself lucid in a bad dream, one of the first steps to controlling the nightmare is the rehearsal of pleasant dream imagery. It is possible to do this regardless of what is happening in the nightmare. All that is used in this technique is the imagination to change the dream environment or to alter the experience one is having in a variety of other ways. Once the dreamer is able to call upon pleasant scenes at will, he or she is then able to start actively influencing the content of the nightmares. By taking an active role in the themes of the nightmares, the dreamer is able to manipulate an outcome that is neither fearful nor stressful. When he or she is able to develop a plan of action and then take steps towards its implementation, it greatly enhances one’s confidence. Not only is this a very empowering experience, but many people have found it useful in the treatment of some cases of insomnia because it helps one fall asleep and prevents the reoccurrence of the same nightmares in the same night.

Upon awakening from a nightmare, it is often recommended that one record any details that can be remembered into some sort of dream diary. It is most effective to write the entry immediately after awakening. It is useful at any time after the dreams have occurred, but the sooner a nightmare is written down the more details are likely to be remembered. The journal is useful as a reference when interpreting the dreams later, but there have been cases of nightmares stopping altogether by the mere act of recording them.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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