Sweating, out of breath, heart pounding and blood racing. Opening your eyes, for a brief moment, panicked until you regain your senses. Yes, this is your room. Your stuff. You know where you are. Catching your breath. Calming your heart. Re-affirming that you are safe. That you are okay.
And so it happened again. The nightmare that comes every so often shaking you to the core. Or perhaps it’s THAT dream. The one that haunts you throughout your day. Wither nightmare or dream, you cannot shake the images and no matter how hard to try, you still feel unsettled.
It was only a dream. Or was it?
Dreams enliven our fears. Dictionary.com defines fear as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Our fears toy with what the conscious minds suppresses and the unconscious mind has yet to unleash. All the things you fear; your doubts, insecurities and phobias come out to play. Your fears do not only manifest in nightmares but in the context and landscape of your dreams. Often fears show up as unsettled dreams, those dreams that upon waking we feel uneasy.
Fear is primal. It’s a survival mechanism. It’s a life preserver.
In a world of self-help and improvement. Our fears can be pushed away or highlighted on the path to personal growth. We want to understand our fears. Get to the root of them, hoping to eradicate them. However, fear can be a wonderful driving force to propel you forward. To get you to take action. Without fear, where would you be?
Dreams can be a portal into understand your fears and how they manifest.
Types of fear that penetrate your dreams:
Personal fear: What are you afraid of? This is personal to you. It is where your insecurities, self-doubts, and phobias engage with you. If you are deathly afraid of snakes, don’t run to the dream dictionary or google. The images in your dreams are specific to you, we’ll get to universal meanings in a bit. But before you jump to the easy road. Take time to sit with the image that has shaken you. Remember you might be deathly afraid of snakes, but I personally love snakes and and dream about snakes would not be a bad dream. Now a dream about spiders, that’s another story. Take time to look at each dream or nightmare. What was it that you were afraid of? Why? Take time to sit with the emotions, images and memories triggered by the dream. Don’t censor yourself. We can edit later. Right now, we are getting to the root that you want to eradicate. (download this worksheet to help you uncover the hidden meaning of your fears)
Collective fear: This is the universal meaning I was talking about. Fear that is shared culturally and cross culturally. Things such as war, end of the world, monsters that can eat you and kill you. Now you can do a google search on the meaning of snakes in dreams. See if anything applies to you. You will be surprised on how much you have already figured out through your personal dream exploration. This can also be the fear handed down through DNA, the fear of our ancestors.
Shadow: is the parts of ourselves we do not like, ignore or pretend do not exist so we project onto others in order to avoid. (Want to understand your shadow better, check out my blog post on shadow). Shadow can be a holding place for our fears. Because we can place those parts of us we do not accept outwardly instead of holding them inwardly. Ever had a dream or nightmare where it seemed like you were surrounded by everything you did not like?
What to do when you wake up from a nightmare or bad dream:
First, let’s get you back to sleep, you can dive into the meaning of your nightmare, in the morning over a hot cup of tea or coffee.
Take some deep breaths. Focus on your breath. Counting in 4 counts, hold 4 counts, release 4 counts, hold 4 counts and repeat, until you feel your heart beat go back to normal.
Remind yourself it was just a dream, you are safe at home.
Turn on the light and leave it on if you need. No need to fuel your imagination with the dark.
Read, watch a video (nothing scary), do something to change the focus of your mind.
Nightmares and bad dreams are calls to wake up. What is it that you suppress? Ignore? Fight off? What needs your attention? Your fears show up in your dreams and nightmares because your soul wants to get your attention. It’s calling you to explore its messages. To dive into the content. To release. To heal.