Nightmares as answers to what’s troubling you

Being attacked by self, events, and/or others can leave us feeling helpless, angry or depressed.

A sea urchin with no spines is attacked by an ugly toad intent on the urchin’s destruction. But the seemingly defenseless urchin sends out tentacles from beneath and wraps them around the toad’s neck. I am appalled and grossed out as I watch this aggressive dream.

“What is going on?” I wonder as I awake from this nightmarish scene.

As I review this dream trying to gain some insight to its meaning aggression and conflict seem to be the main theme. I am both the urchin and toad, the attacker and the attacked, the aggressor and the victim. The usual suspect comes to the fore i.e., my penchant for self-punishment. But it’s more than this same old, same old story. 

As I watch helplessly the political realities of certain egos plotting to dominate the government with little or no regard for people’s lives, countries making invasion plans for no other reason than to dominate and make themselves important, random mass shootings for the same reason, and in my own tiny corner of the world a violent incident that has pitted well-meaning people against each other I am feeling overwhelmed with things that I can do nothing about but watch.

Add to all that my own self-criticism for not living up to my own standard for being and I create the inner turmoil that this dream represents. The dream brings to the fore what I try to ignore, the feeling of helplessness and depression that keeps me angry at the world and at myself.

For some reason facing this anger helps me to settle, for the truth is I have a right to be fearful and angry but need and want to also face the fact that am not totally helpless in that I can change what I do with that fear and anger. I can resist the tendency for my emotions to take me over and still do what is right to do with what is in front of me. In short, I need to be gentle with myself in all things and not give evil for evil.

As I finish up this blog, I am reminded of the poem by Max Ehrmann, the Desiderata.

Desiderata

GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

By Max Ehrmann © 1927
Original text

I hope that you can keep peace in your soul,

Bob

A week of dark night dreams

•Racing around town on a self-propelled scooter at breakneck speed and weaving and dodging.

•Men jumping without looking into deep holes, crevasses into the underground.

•I’m walking into a room. It’s greyish and dark, dank, cold, and empty. It feels lonely and abandoned. I see no windows with the room feeling small but unending.

•Someone is attempting to stab me in the stomach and then shoots me with a rifle.

Lots of internal conflict and warnings about being too reckless. An overall malaise seems to have enveloped both my waking and sleeping dreams. A sense of being attacked by others and by myself permeates these dreams.

I have not spent enough time exploring what’s going on with me, so my dreams take over to focus my attention. I’ve been too harsh on myself lately as well. This has created an unsafe place and empty void within me. I need to let up on the self-attack and focus on what I’m doing.


“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses”.

–Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the mole,

the fox and the Horse

It’s the season of change, endings, and the harvesting of what you’ve sowed. 

During this time of year our dreams can be the portal to other realms of knowledge and awareness. Wakeup!

These images from our deeper psyches are often found in the the mythologies of many cultures and represent pretty much what they do to all societies. After all, where do our myths come from if not from the dark caves of our hidden selves?

Dreams of…

Jack-o-lanterns: childhood dreams and memories. A reminder of a changing of something or the end of something.

Witches: The negative feminine or one’s fear of being manipulated (bewitched). Old feelings associated with one’s mother. If a witch of the west she could symbolize endings and dark events or feelings. They can represent unlikeable parts of ourselves or others. Has someone cast a ‘spell’ on you? She may also symbolize something magic in your life, something positive and yet unexplainable. Note that witches in a dream can be either nurturing or overpowering or both if reflecting a conflicted state or relationship.

Magic: Don’t believe everything that you see or hear. Are you trying to solve a problem through wishes and hopes i.e., through magical thinking? Are you being influenced or perhaps controlled by something that you can’t see? If a magician (or wizard) shows up, he or she may represent your inner wisdom or your desire to control and dominate. They can also represent illusion. Are you or is someone trying to fool someone or yourself? Are you hoping to change something or looking for transformation? Do you need to transcend something in your life? 

Ghosts: Is something from your past haunting you? Is your subconscious trying to make you aware of something? Do you have guilty feelings about someone or some event? Perhaps you are feeling insubstantial, like you don’t belong. Have you “ghosted” someone i.e., where you have cut off communication with someone without explanation or are being ignored? A violent ghost (or poltergeist) could reflect an inner conflict or some violent part of your own nature.

Is someone or you being too transparent or not transparent enough? Is there some unfinished business from the past?

Phantoms: These can represent fears and/or repressed memories e.g., things that go bump in the night. Do you need to face your fears? They can also represent illusions, delusions, and self-deception. Are you misapprehending something or someone? Are you or is someone misrepresenting something?

Graveyards: This is a place of endings, a place where memories or fears are buried and hopefully put to rest. Traditionally this is a place where the dead and the living come together especially during Samhain (Halloween) when the division between the dead and living thins and becomes more porous. Ancient Celtics and modern pagans celebrate this time of year with feasts and bonfires. The souls of dead relatives are thought to revisit and seek hospitality. They could be appeased by special food and drink, but watch out if ignored (Trick or treat).

Zombies: Where the dead rise from their graves. Where memories refuse to stay buried or refuse to die. They can also represent aspects of the self that refuse to go away. A zombie can represent yourself when you feel controlled by some basal emotion such as fear, envy, haste, or greed or jealousy. Has something died in you e.g., an emotion, ambition, hope, dream, or idea?

Death: This can symbolize and end to something or a killing off some part of you or the death of a relationship.

Werewolves (or any dark creature): This could represent repressed instincts or your animal nature rising and overwhelming you. It could be your ‘shadow self’ a part of you that you’ve tried to reject but that still influences your feelings, thoughts, or actions from time to time.

The Angel of Death or Grim Reaper: This can be a messenger from your unconscious mind where all your dreams come from. The image can symbolize an end to something (see also death above). Something or someone may be attacking you or may represent impending change. They can symbolize criticism, but the reaper may also represent self-criticism i.e., self-attack.

Skeleton or skulls: Something dead to you or skeletons in your closet where memories of events are hidden. They can also represent aspects of yourself that you are trying to kill off or thought you killed off but still haunt you. Note what your dream skeleton is doing and what you are feeling when observing or interacting with them. Skeletons can represent and end to something e.g., some idea, or relationship, hope, ability, behavior, or memory. If just a skull it can symbolize your state of mental health. They can also represent something that is not fully developed or in the beginning stages. If the skeleton represents you, are you just a a skeleton of your old self?

Mad Scientist: Don you feel like you are going crazy or somebody is acting crazy or irrationally? Are you or is someone having trouble controlling behavior? Is something or someone threatening you? Are you feeling a loss of control?

All the above dream images can come under the rubric of phantasmagoria and may reflect your unconscious biases. Are you having illusions of reality that may be affecting your ability to see what is real and right in front of you? All these images can have nightmarish qualities and be a wake up call from your unconscious trying to prod you into awareness.

*These possible image interpretations come from Morpheus Speaks: The Encyclopedia of Dream Interpreting.

The attack of a nightmare often leads to awareness and an opportunity for healing

I had a nightmare earlier this month. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace these high anxiety dreams as they often reflect that all is not well with me emotionally and that I’ve been suppressing harmful materials that I need to address for too long. All nightmares I’ve found demand attention in that they speak to circumstances both within and around us that require us to provide further awareness.

This dream suggested that I’ve been dealing with certain emotional situations in a too logical and rational way that never really deals with them. I can’t rationalize a feeling in that they aren’t usually rational. But when the feeling is too painful, I tend to bury it or make excuses for it or make up a story that puts it in a better light, which doesn’t hurt the eyes, the heart, or the soul. It’s a temporary fix at best but only serves to prolong the pain and never leads to resolution.

But some hurts never go away entirely and hide at the edges of everyday living, affecting the world we see and creating a hidden longing for resolution, for it is often only found in the healing of an emotional disconnect, separation, or a loss of love. When these disconnects happen, the soul that ever strives for wholeness urges us to step back and evaluate our actions and open ourselves to possibilities, even those that don’t seem possible.

Nightmares are not always something to be feared, avoided or suppressed, sometimes they are there for your health and well-being.

Psyche’s Nightmares

I’ve had dreams where creatures have suddenly appeared and threatened. They would come from some hidden place, a place where all nightmare creatures hide until when we least suspect it, they jump out and scare us awake. The human psyche can be an excellent reservoir for hidden demons just waiting for us to let our guard down. The following excerpt is from Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale, due out in late 2021 or early 2022.

“There are many hidden artifacts and meanings within the fabric of older houses such as this. They are often ritually concealed by long-dead owners to protect or pay homage to the spirit of the house. Sometimes without warning, they can reveal themselves to us. They can come through its walls, cellars, attics, and fireplaces. This house is notorious for doing that.” There was an ominous tone in the old man’s words.

It was then that Adam noticed a sparkle that seemed to rise from below as though from a dark, hidden well beneath the floorboards. He couldn’t tell whether it climbed through the floor, from the abyss, or from the primeval chaos within him. He had seen this once before when it seemed to herald an impending change in awareness. The spark settled above the hearth, where the dragon carving suddenly became animated and uncoiled itself. 

As it grew rapidly in size, it reared its scaly and heavily muscled body and rose high into the rafters, snorting a stream of fire. Bending its terrifying head downward, it opened its fearsome jaws, and with teeth-gnashing and nostrils flaring, it let out the most frightening, bloodcurdling scream as it dived downward toward the cowering boy.

Its head was covered in small hissing and writhing snakelets like a medusa’s crown, and Adam could feel the beast’s hot, wet breath searing the back of his neck and soaking his clothes. Its long-outstretched tongue, which preceded its downward thrust, lashed across his face, leaving a nasty welt. Though crouching and barely able to keep his feet, he mustered enough resolve to turn and face his tormentor and confront it openly. It was as though the waking world universe was forcing him to own up to and face his demons and turn them into daemons.”

The transformation from an obstructive demon to a constructive daemon is always preceded by the protagonist facing their inner dragons and bringing them into a relationship. This action strips the demon of its power, the power of the dark that is destroyed when confronted by the light. That which we suppress and hide from grows within us and gains power over us. As with Adam in the story, our fearful nightmares come to us in the interest of our health and well-being. They present us with a chance to face what we fear or what disgusts us about ourselves and to confront it head-on.

Standing at the edge of the Abyss

“There I stood at the edge of a cliff high above a dark and forbidding abyss. The earth beneath my feet began to shake and as I peered over the edge I could just make out something huge crawling out of the blackness. In terror I tried to step back fearing that I would lose my footing and fall into the blackness and the cavernous maw of the creature below. And then I awoke.”

Yep, a good old-fashioned nightmare had gripped me and shook me to the bone, rattling my soul until I awoke to save myself. 

Sound familiar?

Apparently a lot of us have these dreamtime ‘cliff hangers’ that grab our attention from time to time, but what’s the message?

Lets look at the images for some clues. The cliff could be about being on the edge of an understanding, a solution, or an “ah ha” awareness. Perhaps it’s a critical point in life where you can’t afford to make any errors i.e. lose your footing. Falling itself in this case could be about failure or at least the fear of it. 

We have expectations for ourselves and others have expectations for us as well. This can put the pressure on us to succeed or at least not to fail. There’s also the fear of not being who you are by trying to measure up to some standard /goal that’s not your own. This is the stuff neuroses are made of. Stuffing these fears as a way of dealing with the pressures can eventually create the kind of nightmare I shared above.

How you got to the top of the cliff could speak to your ambitions and drive the risks you took or are taking. At the edge in this case might indicate that you are at your limit. If you were to stand tall against the fears it might suggest that you need to stand up to your fears.

Looking down into any abyss can be like staring into the unknown. This in itself can create great anxiety and the dream reflects that. This dream may also reflect an obstacle to your ambitions but can also suggest that you may be afraid of “taking the plunge or the leap of faith” into the unknown that often needs to happen in order to succeed at something.

But the abyss or void can also represent the depths of your unconscious mind and your uncertainty of what lies below. This unknown can also represent change, or the need for change stalking you. Clearly something is stalking this dreamer and it may very well be a shadow creature, a part of their rejected self that they have pushed down into their subconscious, but that is crawling menacingly out of its hiding place and forcing the dreamer to confront and deal with it directly. These shadows can also represent one raw ambition that needs to be confronted and tamed.

There is of course danger afoot, perhaps decisions are to be made, risks to be taken, barriers to be overcome, but in confronting these perhaps there is wisdom down there as well.

In short, even the scariest dreams come to us with our health and well being in mind and shouldn’t be rejected out of hand. 

Lost at sea

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A sad and very dark dream filled my sleeping space not too many nights ago. When I awoke I jotted down the essence of its feeling, the images having become but wisps in the light of day.

Water, symbolic of my emotional state. When I just stuff my unhappiness under the rug or down deep into my hidden psyche because I feel helpless to it the unconscious will only let me get away with it for just so long then it bursts forth in an unsettling dream, demanding to be heard.

 

The dream (often my dreams read like a poem):

 

There’s a Sadness like dead matter floating down through the water deep

I’m enveloped by panic and struggling to regain the surface

Thrashing about but only treading

Until the weight of it all drags me under

 

 I can only distract for acceptance is not yet here

When will I know? Will happiness ever return or

Is all I’m doing is just giving in? Trying to let go brings depression

Is letting go just giving up?

 

 I wonder if there’s a bottom?

Maybe it’s like a black hole, never ending

Until you’re crushed beyond recognition.

Or will I just sit at the bottom and be eaten up by the darkness?

 

 How did I fall off the boat?

Was I pushed, did I jump?

Was I careless or too awkward?

When did I realize that I was never going to get home?

 

Home, I don’t know what it looks like anymore.

It’s been so long I don’t really remember it.

Was it peaceful? Was it happy?

Did I love? Was I loved? Did it matter?

 

I really want to go home!

Maybe if I just stopped struggling

and let it

sink…

 

 

 

 

What threatens our well-being

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Jogging along a mountain path a panic stricken young man passes me in the opposite direction with a pack of howling dogs hot on his heels. As he careens around the corner a few of the dogs break off from the pursuit and begin to surround me. As I stand there petrified one creeps up behind me and menacingly begins to nip at the back of my neck. I want to run but can’t move. The others start to move in on me and panicked I will myself awake.

Yep it was a good old-fashioned nightmare. These typically come to us when we are not paying attention to something urgent or something threatening in our environment so after writing it down I went looking for what was happening in the waking world that would manifest in my dreams as these attacking dogs.

The night before I watched part of the Impeachment proceedings against the American President. The process has been very upsetting including the President’s behavior up to and including his inappropriate actions that drew the condemnation and investigation that has lead to his being held accountable. His verbal attacks and those of his political party have seemed so vile, vicious, polarizing, and demoralizing that I’ve found it too distressing to watch all that is going on so in order to stay centered in that quieter place within myself I’ve been trying to change the negative narrative in my head. Of course this never works because as with anything we try to suppress or any negative narrative we try to write over it remains waiting for a chance to make itself known like the palimpsests of ancient manuscripts where hidden writings beneath later writing can reveal new and often deeper material.

Many psychologists believe that much of the distasteful material we suppress so that we don’t have to deal with it only festers beneath the surface informing our feelings, beliefs and actions usually in a negative way. In short, this material doesn’t disappear but works its power beneath the surface until we bring it to the light and deal openly with it.

Over time I’ve learned that my dreams have access to this material and will occasionally and in the service of my health and well-being come forth in a nightmare to give me opportunity to deal with it.

Biting dogs can be about disloyalty, aggression (felt or toward another), and/or betrayal. “Biting can also represent ‘biting’ remarks your own or coming from others both of which I find I am doing and feeling. It’s hard to not take the President’s nastiness personally even though he’s not talking about me but he does represent an attack on values, things I hold dear, such as being open and working with others, being civil, empowering and not demeaning others, caring for someone other than myself, honesty, integrity and willingness to work for the greater good. These are things that I think both sides of the current civil unrest could agree upon though the finer definition of each might be negotiable.

The current unrest has been useful I think in that it clearly and keenly highlights what we really value and what can destroy or diminish the expression of that value. It also highlights the negative effects of unchecked, unmanaged, and paralyzing fear, at least in myself. My own undealt with fear has sometimes made me into a biting dog so that it is also I who visits my dreams as a pack of dogs threatening my own well being.

 

There is a nightmare dreaming itself onto the land

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There is a nightmare dreaming itself into our world, sucking the blood from our minds, and eating the vitality of our souls. It spreads itself through ignorance, fear, and arrogance endarkening the land and withering all that grows upon it.

Certain elements of villainy from various religious faiths describe certain acts, images and words as being blasphemous to their religion and then feel the need to retaliate with death and destruction and with the greatest blasphemy to their faith possible– that of turning a loving religion into one of hate.

These are clearly people who are in touch with only the shallowest aspect of their being i.e. their egocentric-self. Their mental chatter is so loud that it has cut them off from the divine and led them deep into the darkness of their own fearful, angry, and rejected soul. The princes’ of darkness believe that they shine light upon evil but one cannot bring light to anything with a torch of blackness.

It is their own darkness that they project onto others, their own pain and fear that they spew blindly across the landscape. I say ‘blind’ because for them there is no light only the blackness of a soul cut off from the divine. They are a symptom of the spiritual and political crises that are spreading across the globe– a symbol of the polarized mind and disconnected soul.

Stop them we must but only by spreading the light that animates us all without falling into the black hole of evil that they have become. Banish the darkness by speaking in love, not hate, have fear but not be consumed by it, quiet the mind so you can see the divine in everyone. Stand up to those who have lost their real soul, those who have replaced it with the false idols of their egos.

The shadows of these false idols are cast upon us all and all but make it impossible to see the light.

Remain steadfast in the light of the knowledge of who you really are. Don’t ignore the nightmare but deal with it in the light. Reach for your enlightened self and not your gun for your gun slays both the “other” and yourself.

Confront the nightmare that is dreaming itself into our world, but let it not take you with it into the hell it has created. Remain steadfast in the light of the knowledge of who you really are and cast your light upon their darkness.

Forever falling down the rabbit hole: Sometimes what surrounds the dream is the message of the dream.

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I had a dream recently that during its course was rather benign but became nightmarish when I awoke. Upon awakening the feeling of the dream morphed into near panic as I lay in bed trying to recall it so as to write it in my journal. It felt as though I had become possessed by something not of this world– something almost demonic.

As I pondered it a feeling of emotional overwhelm, loss of control, and alienation began to grow until I could stand it no more and forced myself from the bed. As I walked it felt as though I were falling down a hole– a rabbit hole. Then the main character image of the dream came to me and stood there in my memory with a big Cheshire Cat grin.

Ahh, the Cheshire Cat, an alien story arc that once read long ago left me with both confusion and understanding mixed together in an anxious soup. Somehow the dream was suggesting that I needed to move on from the arc of my life into another story. Somehow I was feeling alienated from the story I was in.

It reminded me of the story of Alice in the Wonderland books by Lewis Carroll where she fell down the rabbit hole, and that I was always falling down the hole but choosing not to notice.

And the Cheshire Cat grins as Alice asks, “Would you tell me please, which way I should go from here? “

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t care where. “

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

“As long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that” said the cat, “If you only walk long enough.”

I too don’t know where I am going, nor do I even know where I’ve been, or where I am now; forever falling down the rabbit hole.

“Have I gone mad?” … “You would have to be mad to dream me up.”

And I realize that it is I that would have to be half mad to dream this world up.

Life to me is seeming more like a riddle with no answer as with the Mad Hatter asking Alice, “Why is a raven like a writing desk? Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.

Since I awoke something seems to have changed once again.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘who in the world am I?’ Ah that’s the great puzzle.”

Upon awakening from the dream and not knowing who I was– not knowing who I am– have I ever? Perhaps not, I think. Oh shit, do I have to throw all of the story I’ve created out the window?

Anxiety sets in, even panic and like Alice I feel as though I may drown in my own tears. I want to return to the old story but as Alice said, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

“Little Alice fell

D

O

W

N

The hole, bumped her head and bruised her soul.”

Haven’t we all?

________________________

Everything in quotations is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll