There are several kinds of nightmares or “night terrors”. One type of nightmare is an acting out of fears and anxieties being experienced in daily life. A second type of nightmare is the result of a previous trauma, one that may have occurred recently, or years earlier. A third type of nightmare, the precognitive nightmare, is more rare, but still common enough to discuss here.
Some nightmares are considered mirror dreams in that they mirror your emotions back to you. These dreams can be relatively mild, or they can be terrifying enough to ruin a good night’s sleep. They are more common in childhood but anyone of any age can have a nightmare.
Humans are remarkably resilient. We try not to let things get to us. We can put on a brave face and go through our day without giving in to our fears and anxieties. If we don’t want to acknowledge or deal with a problem, we are perfectly capable of pushing it to the back burners of our minds and letting it fester there, barely noticed.
The trouble with refusing to acknowledge and deal with our problems in our waking lives is that our minds will often force us to deal with them in our sleep. What we’ve pushed to the confines of our subconscious mind will find a way out, often in the form of nightmares.
We do often get warnings before this happens. Anxiety can wreck havoc on the human body. Usually we just take a pill and go on about our lives. Often it’s only when we have recurring nightmares that we begin to seek answers.
Past Traumas Come Back To Haunt Us
Childhood traumas can become adult nightmares. This usually happens because something triggers a long ago memory and brings it to the forefront of the mind. This is a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, an anxiety disorder caused by seeing or experiencing a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death.
The trigger can be most anything. If a child was sexually abused, years later he could see a news story that mirrors his own, or he could see someone on the street who closely resembles his attacker. The look in a frightened child’s eyes can bring memories of your own childhood roaring back and nightmares can plague you repeatedly until you deal with the memories and put the past behind you.
Some people are blessed (or cursed) with precognitive nightmares. Though these can’t easily be proven, there are some remarkable stories about people who’ve had precognitive dreams. Abraham Lincoln was one. He told his wife of the dream he had about two weeks prior to his death. In the dream he saw a coffin in the living room and asked someone in the room who had died. Their answer was “The President of the United States”.
One man dreamed that his son had fallen into a lake and drowned. In his dream he’d taken his son to a lake and while his son sat on the ground by the lake tossing pebbles into the water, he’d run back to the car to grab something he’d forgotten. When he returned, his son was floating face down in the water, dead.
This man didn’t think much of this dream because his son was with him, safe and sound. Months later he and his son were invited to go on a camping trip with some friends. The father took the son to the lake, saw him sit down and begin to toss pebbles into the lake, and told his son to stay put, he had to run back to the car.
At that moment, he remembered the dream. He ran back and grabbed his son back from the water, realizing that the setting and their actions mirrored those in the dream.
Precognitive dreams, if real, can save lives.
In order to understand what your dreams are telling you, and to get the nightmares to stop, you have to try to remember exactly what happened in your dreams.
If you want to understand what your dreams are telling you, the first thing you might want to do is get a dream diary. This should be a blank journal, with or without lines. You should keep it with you at all times.
The moment you wake from a dream, write down all that you remember about it, no matter how small. Carry it with you because something might trigger a memory of a snippet of your dream during the day and you’ll want to write it down before you forget.
By keeping up with your diary you are making a conscious effort to remember your dreams and they’ll become easier to remember. You’ll also have a recounting of the dreams you can examine for symbols and clues to their cause and purpose.
Change Your Bedtime Routine
Sometimes getting rid of nightmares can be as simple as changing your bedtime routine. Skipping your midnight snack if you usually have one or having one if you don’t, reading if you normally watch TV or watch TV if you normally read, move your bedroom furniture around so it’s arranged in a way that makes you feel safer, wear less restrictive clothing, etc. Just change your routine around so that you’re going to bed with a different mindset. It really can help.
Talk it Out
Talk about your nightmares with family, friends, or a therapist. Get to the root of their cause and talk about how it made you feel. Get the nightmare out of the dark and into the light of day where it can be stripped of its power to make you afraid and banished from your life.
Pay Attention To Your Body
When you’re feeling anxious your body will let you know. Pay attention and deal with your anxieties before they become the stuff of nightmares.
Although nightmares can be a difficult experience to live through, many people have found success with these strategies, banishing their night terrors once and for all.