Applying a Unique Approach to Dealing with Nightmares


Richard published this on June 19, 2015

What should your attitude be after you have had an intense nightmare or have gone through a horrific experience in real life?

When most people begin working with what is happening with themselves,  the first goal they have is to get rid of the recurrence of the negative feelings.   When you are feeling a great deal of fear because the memories of some horror like being in war or being with an abusive person get triggered constantly,  the actual experience in your body of the negative emotion can be so awful that the only thing you can think of is getting rid of it as quickly as possible. Most people do a lot of coping strategies like alcohol or drugs or relationships to forget the pain.

As awful as the feelings are to cope with, the goal is NOT to completely forget the nightmare or keep it from recurring.  Nightmares in the dream world are just messengers.   They are not enemies to be killed and forgotten.  How could this be if they feel so intensely bad?   There is a key to doing internal work that is so powerful that once you learn it, everything will change for you.   What is the key?

The key is that almost everything you develop positively in yourself is preceded by something negative.   When I was 21,  a friend of mine convinced to begin running longer distances.   The first couple of days of running were so painfully awful that it was hard to imagine going back to it.   He told me that one day, if I kept with the running, that I would be able to run for an hour easily.  It was something way beyond my imagination because 15-20 minutes were really tough.  Gradually with many repetitions the pain gave way to more joy.  After a few months I was able to run for an hour.   It was exhilarating.

When you are developing a great new capacity inside, it is a similar and sometimes much more difficult process to get to.  If a young man goes off to war and faces the threat of having to kill someone or  of being killed,  it can put him into a really fearful place.   Long after the threat is over, even in the safest of places,  the fear remains, especially in his sleep in the form of nightmares.   Why do they persist? They persist because what he was supposed to be developing instead of how to kill others was how to live in peace and harmony with others, not war. The nightmare is a constant memory of undeveloped capacity. Since creating peace and harmony is such a big capacity to develop, the nightmares and fear serve as a reminder to him just how undeveloped these capacities really are. They will persist for as long as they are undeveloped.   So it isn’t really that we are trying to rid ourselves of the memories of war or of having been abused, but to develop new capacities that keep war and abuse from happening in the real world.   This is the journey of the soul.   The nightmares are the messengers of just how much progress we have  or have not made. When a challenge is big like creating world peace, the memories are there so that you won’t give up developing the new thing.

When I learned this key to development many years ago,  I started the habit of getting really excited when I had a nightmare rather than being really upset or despondent.  I realized that when I had a nightmare, it just meant that I had a lot of work to do inside of myself to develop something new.   This all began when I was fired from my employment for the first time.  I used to dream about the person firing me and me swearing at her.   When I woke up from the bad feelings, I just said to myself that I have a lot of work to do to detach from what she did and then keep helping people with the transformation work.

So the key to a nightmare or the key to working with memories of abuse is that they are just messengers that something big and positive wants to develop inside.   When you can get excited about the new thing, the memories and nightmares, though they may persist for awhile, are not so intense.


When I first read your post entitled “Dealing with Nightmares in the Real or Dream world” I had just had a nightmare which was shaking up the way I felt about myself and the way I felt about every area of my life. I felt so much fear days after the nightmare that when I woke up each morning I didn’t think I could do all I had planned to do because I felt so much fear.

The nightmare I had can be found online at (Tag: Black Truck, Construction Worker, Hospital)

I took your advice, Richard, and despite the fears I was experiencing I got excited about the nightmare. I found this gave me a lot of energy and I felt curious and interested in the people and things around me. Whenever something challenging came up, (and a lot of challenging surprises did happen!) I just felt I could take it with stride, the path was always clear and I felt this helped to restore a sense of security and safety, of peace and happiness.

It is nearly three months now, since I had that nightmare in the dream world, and it’s been nearly three months of some “nightmarish” things happening around me in real life. But looking back now and reflecting on what I used to be afraid of and after changing my attitude and approach the fear is not so intense anymore. It feels good to not be afraid of something as much anymore.

The reason it is so important for me to find areas of my life where I am still holding on to old fears and learning to let go of them, little by little, is that I believe the message of this quote is true, “Love cannot dwell in a heart possessed by fear,” (from Baha’i Writings). In the past three months since this nightmare and since applying your approach to acknowledging and moving through the negative fears to the positive virtue which is trying to be developed, I have learned about Love in a whole new way.

This opening of Love within my heart, where there used to be Fear, has changed the way I view all my relationships and it has deepened my connection with some people in my life who are really important to me, family, friends, co-workers.

In my conversations and my interactions, with less fear, I feel more relaxed, more easy-going, more comfortable, and more willing to take healthy risks and make mistakes in learning about developing skills in the direction I want to go in. I have also found myself able to see where I used to slip up and make big mistakes which didn’t move me in the direction of my goals and have been able to make better choices.

I know I am at the beginning stages of learning how to do this but I wanted to share with you because what you wrote in June 2015 was really helpful and it was a part of moving me towards more success in life.

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