These are outdated beliefs based on superstition and ignorance that not only cause unnecessary fear, but can also deprive us of the precious message of nightmares. Because nightmares have an important function for our well-being and can make a major contribution to our emotional well-being and personal growth.
Nightmares are dreams that involve events and situations that trigger fear, aggression, horror, or panic. No, they are not nice dreams to have.
Yet as a therapist and dream worker I always get excited when a client presents a nightmare: they are important dreams that give us a lot of precious information.
By working with my own dreams and those of students and clients for years, I have noticed that all dreams actually come from an institution that is essentially good toward us. This is the interplay of our higher self, our subconscious and superconscious, and our helpers. All dreams are ultimately intended to promote our growth, awareness and healing. Also the ones we experience as ‘annoying’.
Now nightmares are of course pre-eminently bad dreams to have – but they are very important. I see them as a kind of “red alert” from the dream world: here is a dream that says: “Watch out, wake up, this is important!”
Different types of
When understanding, or “interpreting” nightmares, it is always important to realize that there are many different types of nightmares. They have different origin, symbolism and different function. It is also important to know that dreams can be both literal and symbolic . The same goes for nightmares.
One of the most common questions students ask when it comes to nightmares: If I dream that I or a loved one is dying, is that a prophetic dream? This misconception is based on ancient superstitious beliefs about dreams dating back to the ancient Greeks.
With the answer I can be short: No! Most of the time, dreams about death are symbolic. Death often represents a major change, a transformation… or our fear of it.
Below are some common types of nightmares.
Some nightmares are mainly about processing unpleasant or even traumatic events. It is known that people with PTSD often have recurring nightmares. The ultimate purpose of these fear dreams is to process the bad event or trauma: whether this is in the distant past, or whether it happened yesterday. A good therapist or dream worker can even use these nightmares as an entry point for healing therapy sessions.
Some of these nightmares don’t become apparent until years later, when the dreamer finally understands what the situation really was like back then. For example, as a child I had nightmares about an invisible evil that threatened me and knew that I knew it was there. It was totally evil, unscrupulous, and laughed at my fear.
It took many years before I learned that this evil, hidden presence was my own father, who mistreated me behind closed doors—something that had long been totally hidden and repressed. It was only when the nightmares were understood in the right context that they started to heal – confirming what I had always known.
There are also nightmares that show us very clearly what the truth of a current situation is – precisely because it is not pretty, and could get us into trouble if we don’t act and change it.
Example: the ”evil twin”
For example, I had a client who dreamed that her boyfriend consisted of two people: an “evil” and a normal one. In the dream, this partner had thrown her guitar on the fire. The evil version of him had the key to the house and sabotaged all her attempts to escape.
Upon further investigation, it became clear that this friend had major psychological problems. Besides a nice side, he had a very unpleasant, disturbed and destructive side. He systematically sabotaged her attempts at self-expression and attainment of her soul purpose (the guitar) with devious, destructive behavior.
Her nightmares kept showing up over and over again, until she broke off the relationship — and could finally start living her own life without fear.
There are also nightmares that want to warn us about certain situations, lingering physical and medical problems, people who are not good for us, or the outcome of decisions we are about to make. These can also be literal or symbolic.
two to twelve
For example, I had a client who really wanted to quit smoking, but started again after the first attempt. She dreamed of an alarm clock that had a “snooze” button shaped like the dent of a cigarette in an ashtray – with a lit cigarette in it – and the alarm was set for two to twelve. She woke up started.
Nothing explicit happened in the dream itself – but she felt it was an urgent warning to stop smoking. She did and never started again.
Yes, you wouldn’t expect that! Some nightmares, when properly treated, turn out to be hidden gems of spiritual inspiration and intervention. For example, I had a client who had a dream in which his hometown was attacked by some kind of zombies who were killing everyone. He wanted to play the hero, but was also killed in the end.
As we delved deeper into this nightmare, we found that it showed him that he had a tendency to adopt some sort of victim-like behavior in his daily life in order to be the hero. To create the appearance of male heroism. An ego trick that didn’t exactly get him further in his life. But there was more…
When we went looking for the true source of the zombies, in a ”back-in-your-dream” session, we came across: Archangel Michael . He wanted to teach the dreamer about true masculine strength, which does not need theatre, ostentation and recognition from the outside.
Archangel Michael’s energy was so overwhelmingly present in the therapy room that it left me speechless. I looked at my client and saw that he had unconsciously assumed the pose of a knight at rest: hands clasped together as on the knob of a sword, with the point resting on the ground. A moving example of serene masculine power.
So nightmares can bring us in touch with our power—if we’re willing to face our fear. For example, during a class weekend I had a student who introduced a nightmare with an intimidating bear in it.
We did a dream setup – where she was the dreamer, and I put myself in the position of the terrifying bear. In the bear’s position, all I felt was very grounded love – the bear wasn’t scary at all, the bear represented her earthly strength! She was finally able to hug the bear, and take the bear’s hug—a healing embrace of her own inner strength.
In a way, all our dreams, including our nightmares, show us the truth of our experiences. For example, a tarotist who was teaching a course and who had allowed a student to bring a neighbor along, who then behaved very unpleasantly and intrusively, dreamed that this woman was trying to enter her practice room in a bleak nightmare through the overhead light. The message was clear: she had to set a firm boundary for this uninvited student as soon as possible.
Embrace your nightmares
There are many more examples of nightmares, but with each I would say don’t run from your nightmare, but embrace her and listen to what she has to tell you. Don’t be afraid of the fear.
If you have the guts to face the nightmare, you’ll find that it wants the best for you, to help you heal, to help protect yourself, and to take your life to the next level – and prevent you from fall into unnecessary pitfalls .