Some nightmares are an expression of extreme anguish. It often originates from a psychological disturbance within the physical body which usually arise from physical pain, fever, or discomfort. I use to have nightmares about being stabbed in the back repeatedly, only to wake up to a bad backache of which I suffered chroniclly. If I remember to take asprin before bedtime to relieve the pain, the nightmares ceased. This is true with any body pain. If you are prone to nightmares when you are physically hurting, then take something for the pain before bedtime.
Whenever my young children got sick, they would get scary high fevers (104F) and often experience hallucinations and/or nightmares. My daughter (at age 3) had pneumonia along with a high fever, dreamt she was in a house, on fire. I was able to tell her why she had such a scary dream and by taking her medicine, the bad dreams would go away. (No problem getting her to take meds after that).
Nightmares can also produce physical reactions as a result from a disturbing dream. If you dream you are running from something, you may experience your heart pounding, body sweats, and feeling exhausted upon waking.
Certain nightmares act as an emotional shield against traumas of childhood or traumas of life. Traumas of abuse from childhood my be deeply repressed in the subconscious and too painful to face while awake, therefore the nightmare reveals the truth of the past, for the purpose of healing. Having worked with many abused clients, I have seen a pattern of dreams and nightmares which a client will experience, one step at a time. By dreaming about the repressed event one step at a time, the shock is reduced considerably when the client eventually comes face to face with his/her abuser (in a dream).
By “steps” I am referring to stages. Whenever God knows we are ready to begin healing, the nightmares will begin. Its almost like reading a mystery novel, one chapter at a time. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and stirs up some unpleasant emotions. After you put the book down, you work through the emotions and when you are ready, you pick the book up and read another chapter.
Mary Ellen was a petite, natural redhead, fair skinned and soft spoken young woman about age 28. She came to me for help concerning reoccurring nightmares and wondered if I could help her interpret them.
“ I dream of the house I grew up in as a child, but the house is broken down and needs repairs done to it. When I go inside to look for my parents, I have this sense of doom. I go upstairs to my bedroom and open the door and the room is very dark. I feel afraid but don’t know why. I sense a presence in the room and I call out to my Mother. She doesn’t answer. The bedroom door slams closed and I am locked in. I wake up crying.”
After working with Mary Ellen for about a month I was sure she had been abused as a child but Mary Ellen had no recall of such experience. She had many signs and symptoms of abuse but no memory, so I asked her to journal her dreams every night and to keep a daily journal of her emotions and possible triggers which bring about her reoccurring anxiety attacks. For instance, Whenever Mary Ellen was around her Mother and Step Father, she would have an anxiety attack, not knowing why.
When Mary Ellen’s daughter turned age 3 she became anxious and over protective of her daughter, not knowing why.
Can You guess at why Mary Ellen was anxious during these times?
She was abused by her stepfather at age 3 and to this day her Mother denies it. It took over a year for Mary Ellen to discover all this as she faithfully came to my office for dream counseling.
God never gives us more then we can handle. He won’t show you anymore then you are emotionally ready for. By the time Mary Ellen identified her abuser, she had become much stronger in her faith and as a person. She had a clearer understanding about her anxious feeling and why she is so over protective with her daughter.
Had she not been ready to move forward, she would be given a similar dream, with different symbology or repeat dreams until she was strong enough to move onto the next chapter. God is a great therapist and know what you are capable of handling.
Whenever you experience reoccurring themes in dreams or nightmares, there is a distinct message that something is unresolved and needs attention. It does not always mean you have been abused. An abused victim will have a chapter book, unlike someone who continually repeats the same chapter.
Someone repeating something unwise or making the same mistakes, or making bad decisions, will have reocurring nightmares or dreams until that mistake or problem is resolved.
I remember as a teenager having nightmares of running away from a dark shadow. It turns out, the shadow was me and I was running away from myself. There had been some older girls in the locker room at school who use to bully me and I became very fearful of them. The shadow in my reoccurring nightmares was symbolic of my fear, and I needed to face the fear and confront the girls.
It took a few times of confrontation before I got results with the bully’s, but interesting enough, my nightmares changed in steps as if I were making progress. Once I made the decision to confront the bullies, I dreamt that I stopped running and turned around in my dream. I still woke up afraid but I was facing the fear.
Nightmares are to get our attention and not meant to scare us. They are scary because we are reliving the emotion within the dream which is why we should pay attention to the emotions. Are you afraid, lonely, happy, sad, etc.? Emotions are a signal to the subconscious as pain is a signal to the body that something needs healing.