From Electric Dreams 6(4)
Some time ago, a “20/20” TV broadcast featured dreamworker and radio host Kathleen Sullivan. Kathleen, who is the author of *Recurring Dreams,* described her dream of an eagle caught in a web. She interpreted her dream eagle as a symbol for herself, caught in the web of alcoholic addiction. She was able to use that insight to change her life, to stop drinking and, as a result, her recurring dreams disappeared.
On the same program, another dreamworker, Gillian Holloway, spoke with four people who were suffering from recurring nightmares. Like Kathleen, she used symbolic interpretation in an attempt to match dream content with current life. Afterwards, two of the people interviewed felt that the use of metaphor and pun unlocked their dreams’ meaning and revealed helpful information. But the other two weren’t so convinced.
That symbols reflect current life is only one possible meaning for dreams. And to pinpoint the “meaning” of nightmares doesn’t necessarily settle queasy and painful feelings or prickly and fearful emotions. Even those dreamworkers who usually take a passive approach to dreams will agree that a troublesome nightmare is cause for action. Some examples of “behavioral dreamwork” techniques are: re-entry visualization, cognitive belief work, Senoi and lucid dreaming.
Furthermore, to focus solely on “symbolic interpretation” can miss the literal cause of the trauma. Just as with any type of dream, each possible stimulus for nightmare must be considered in order to match it with the appropriate action. When dreams are multi-layered, several methods might be used in conjunction.
Here are several possible explanations for nightmares and suggested responses:
1. A metaphor for current life attitudes and activities. When you change your life, the dream changes. For example: you quit a job with a demanding boss and your chase dreams cease.
2. A metaphor for a bio-chemical glitch or surge. For example: You dream of your own body’s dismemberment, as the pictorial equivalent of intrusive thoughts. Because this sort of nightmare is the result of the mind-body system not functioning at optimum (and expressing mental or physical illness instead), it can require physiological intervention such as diet or drug therapy. Conversely, drugs and normal hormonal changes can trigger it. For example: you dream of tidal flooding just prior to your menstrual period. A light touch of behavioral dreamwork techniques can shift content to a more positive metaphor to describe the sensation.
3. A psychic copycat of a current situation. For example: your sister has repeating nightmares. You “dream her dreams” because you are in psychic resonance with her. Your dreams end when hers do. Or they cease when you break the psychic bond with her, using cleansing or cutting rituals.
4. A repetition of a past traumatic event in current lifetime. For example: you dream of your recent rape, a childhood assault or your wartime battle. This type of nightmare is so deeply etched in the psyche that it can require heavy use of behavioral dreamwork techniques to modify the content and emotional intensity.
5. A depiction of a past or probable life. For example: you dream the last events prior to your violent death. A request for new information may provide additional dreams to shed light on the events surrounding this nightmarish experience. Treatment involves the sort of behavior modification techniques used for traumatic nightmares.
6. A depiction of the future. Confirmation occurs either when the dream comes true or when you change your life so it won’t come true. For example: you buy new tires so you won’t literally slide off the highway, as you keep doing in your dreams.
Methods that determine meaning plus techniques that modify behavior comprise the full tool set to resolve a troublesome nightmare, recurring or not. But selecting the appropriate tool depends on what is actually stimulating the nightmare to occur. There is no one-size-fits-all tool for nightmare work. So, don’t rely on that first hammer you bought, when what you really need is a crowbar or a monkey wrench.
Linda Lane Magallón Dream Flights
1. historical link inactive December 2101