We all have bad dreams from time to time. They are simply a normal part of life. If we listen to our dreams, even the bad ones, they may provide us with clues to help us overcome our fears.
So Why Do We Have Bad Dreams?
If you want to turn your bad dreams in to a positive experience, it is important to understand what causes bad dreams. The stresses and anxieties of our daily lives are often translated into our dream material. This may even be true of past traumas, like the death of a loved one or the divorce of parents at a very young age.
Dream material doesn't have to be from the past to make it into our bad dreams. We may dream about simple, everyday things that we feel insecure about, like our performance at work or how our next date will go. These typical issues can often be bound up with powerful emotions in our dreams.
Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often dream about their traumatic event, including war, car crash, rape, or terrorism. The extreme levels of fear and stress these individuals experience around the event is translated into their dream material and plagues them at night. Knowing what causes bad dreams is the first step in overcoming their presence in our lives.
What Do Bad Dreams Mean?
Even if we don't consciously feel burdened by past traumas, they may make their ways into our dreams. This is a sign that we have unresolved tension around these issues, and our bad dreams are actually trying to communicate with us so that we can let those tensions go.
Dreams about being abandoned or being alone may indicate that we are having feelings of isolation and unhappiness in waking life. Dreaming about past opportunities that weren't fulfilled, like being offered a spot on a professional baseball team but choosing to go to college instead, may indicate that we are filled with regret and need to let go of the past. Even the dreams about every day occurrences can be telling us something; very often it is that we just need to relinquish control and relax.
So what do bad dreams mean? They mean that there is an issue or memory causing tension in our psyche. If we can find out what it is and let it go, our bad dreams will often decrease or go away altogether.
Having Bad Dreams Every Night
While occasional bad dreams are normal, having them every night indicates that there is an extreme level of stress or overwhelm that needs to be dealt with. Nightmares can be trying, but they are an important way to learn about ourselves and to help resolve inner issues.
Recurring bad dreams are common in young children who are undergoing stress, like being bullied at school or experiencing the divorce of a parent. The emotions that these children are unable to express during the day come up in their dreams at night. This is true of adults as well.
In order to work with the content of bad dreams, it is important to ask yourself what they mean. The disturbing feelings experienced in nightmares are often a rehashing of feelings experienced during the day, so acknowledging those waking feelings and letting them go is a powerful way to quell nightmares. Making a practice of replaying the nightmare in your mind and consciously changing the ending of the dream is another effective way to end the loop of fear and stress to create a new way of relating to the content.
How to Analyze Your Bad Dreams
If you have bad dreams, ask yourself the following questions:
- What emotions do I feel during my bad dreams? Do I ever feel those emotions in the daytime? During what circumstances?
- Do my bad dreams contain people, places, or events from my past? If so, how do I relate to those details?
- For bad dreams about the past; how can I let go of past events to move forward with my life?
- For bad dreams about something happening in the present; how can I work with my current situation to provide relief? Is there an alternative outcome I can create?
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