NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Transforming Nightmares Through Creative Dream Work

I've been rereading Stephen LaBerge's book, Lucid Dreaming because of my strong interest in dreams in general, and lucid dreams in particular.  One of the recommendations he makes about dealing with nightmares is that, rather than avoiding them, to deal directly with nightmarish figures in dreams, which is a creative form of dreamwork to help overcome unconscious aspects that crop up in our dreams.


Transforming Nightmares Through Creative Dream Work

For most of us, our usual reaction to waking up from a nightmare is to be glad we've awoken and want to immediately avoid thinking about it. But I agree with Dr. LaBerge that avoiding the unpleasant aspects of dreams and thinking we're now off the hook is, as he states, a little like a prisoner who digs his way out of his prison cell only to find that he's in the cell next door.  You haven't escaped. You've merely exchanged one cell for another, and whatever unresolved issues you might be having remain unconscious for potentially more nightmares.

Lucid Dream Work with Nightmares While Asleep
Dr. LaBerge has recommendations in his book on how to do dream work with nightmares while in a lucid state in the dream as well as strategies for dealing with nightmarish figures while awake.  The main focus of the book is how to achieve lucidity in dreams while asleep, which can be a very exciting and useful state to achieve.  But learning to transform nightmarish figures after the dream by having a "dialogue" with them can also be a creative solution to overcoming nightmares.

Dr. LaBerge recommends that, even in a waking state, we can use our imagination to create this dialogue with the figure from the nightmare by asking this figure who s/he is and what message he or she might have for you.  This can be done with paper and pen (or on computer).  In order to do this, we must suspend disbelief while we're doing this exercise and not worry about looking silly.  Anyway, you're likely to be doing this on your own, so why worry about what other people might think?  You'd be doing this to overcome an unpleasant experience so it doesn't continue to recur.

Dream Work and Hypnotherapy
This same type of dream work can also be done with a skilled hypnotherapist who works with dreams and who can help you to get back into the dream state to do the work. It often feels safer to do dreamwork with a trained therapist, especially for recurring dreams, rather than trying to do it on your own.  It all depends on how comfortable you are doing the work.

Lucid Dreams

In any case, I recommend the book, "Lucid Dreaming" by Dr. Stephen LaBerge, which can be obtained in either paperback or as an e-book.  The advantage of the paperback is that you get a CD with helpful suggestions.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR clinician, and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.  I have also helped many clients to find creative solutions to their problems.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, please call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

You can also read my article about Dream Incubation.