Have you ever woken up screaming in terror after a nightmare that was so vivid you literally feared for your life – or perhaps the life of someone you love? We all have this experience from time to time, but if you’re unfortunate enough to experience frequent nightmares, this is no laughing matter. What you need is some way to realize that what you fear is not real because you are only dreaming. This awareness is the essence of lucid dreaming – the best way to overcome nightmares.
Why Do We Have Nightmares?
We are more apt to suffer from nightmares during periods of stress, sickness, relationship problems, or traumatic events. Alcohol and certain drugs or medications can exacerbate these tendencies as they tend to suppress R.E.M. sleep – the phase of sleep where dreaming occurs. If you go to sleep under the influence, you may sleep soundly for some time, but the mind will not be able to dream. Once the effect of the substance wears off and R.E.M. sleep can resume, the mind needs to catch up on its dreaming, and this often results in more intense experiences. If those dreams are nightmares – look out!
The key to understanding nightmares, however, is to understand your fears. Shining the light of conscious awareness on these irrational fears can make them melt away. The benefits will be felt not just in the dream state, but also in your waking, everyday life. The Australian Aborigines believe that the dream state connects us to the “Dreamtime” from which all life came, and attach great importance to resolving issues while dreaming. But whatever your worldview, lucid dreaming can reduce your anxiety levels tremendously.
Using Lucid Dreaming to Overcome Nightmares
The following examples are supplied by perhaps the foremost researcher on lucid dreaming, Stephen LaBerge, in his 1990 book with H. Rheingold, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. Their research suggests that it is healthier to adopt a conciliatory attitude toward hostile dream figures, rather than a ‘confront and conquer’ attitude.
- If being pursued, turn to face your pursuer. If it doesn’t disappear altogether, start a dialog with it.
- If attacked, show readiness to defend yourself but attempt a dialog. Or, feel love within yourself and attempt to extend this to your attacker.
- If falling, relax and allow yourself to land. You are not going to die: it’s a dream! Or, convert falling into flying and then go somewhere interesting. (This idea actually came from the Senoi people of Malaysia.)
- If paralyzed, remember that you are only dreaming and adopt an attitude of curiosity toward the experience. Don’t panic!
- If unprepared for a test, you could simply walk out of the exam room and avoid the situation altogether. Or, have fun coming up with creative answers to questions.
- If naked in public, remember that modesty is a social convention. In dreams, anything goes. So allow everyone else to get naked, too! (It’s okay if this becomes arousing!) Who cares what happens in the privacy of your own dream?
Of course, all of these possibilities depend on your ability to realize that you are dreaming and to exert a certain amount of control over the process. So how exactly do we do that?
Fortunately, a relatively new and inexpensive auditory technology known as brainwave entrainment offers a wonderfully simple way to enhance your ability to lucid dream. If you’d like to tame the fears that ruin your sleep, and convert your nightmares into exciting adventures instead, see for yourself at this website.