Last night I had a dream where I was at a country bar in the wilderness with
a barn a few feet away. I stepped outside into the barn...as if I was drawn
to it. It was completely dark in the barn and I could see the silhouettes of
a few people walking out the door, down the stairs through the window on the
other side of the barn.
I stopped for a moment, admiring this aesthetic view,
when I saw the silhouette of an immense black wolf darting up the stairs past
the people into the barn. It ran at me so fast I had to turn around to look
at it smash into the other door behind me. Obviously I had nowhere to run; it
was much faster than I. Trapped, I suddenly noticed myself levitating above
it, not knowing how to get out. I could tell it wanted *me*, as it ran right
past the other people. Trapped and frantic, I awoke. I am twenty-one years
old, and should not be sleeping with the covers over my head, scared of the
Being pursued and trapped is very frightening, whether its a dream or in
waking reality. With dreams, however, there are many ways to turn these
nightmares into our advantage. While the specific meaning of a dream can only
be known by the dreamer, there are many approaches to common nightmares
available that are effective.
While it is often best to flee from aggressors in waking life, it has been
found that confrontation is the key to nightmare pursuers. What, after all,
could they really do to you? Ann Wiseman teaches grade school children to
cope with monsters and nightmares by drawing the nightmare and then adding an
intervention, like drawing a magic circle or cage around the monster. Left on
their own, kids often draw guns shooting the monsters, (T.V. influence?) but
with a little encouragement will begin to talk with the monsters and confront
them. "Why are you scaring me?" asks the child, "I just want to play!"
answered the monster in a play drama.
These skills translate into dream land where the children begin to confront
the monsters during the dream. And like magic, the monsters transform into
more creative relationships.
These techniques work well with adults too and if the Stewart/Senoi
anthropological evidence is to be believed, the technique of confronting
dream aggression is a skill that has been taught for long time in aboriginal
Jeremey Taylor, a renowned Unitarian dream worker, sees the nightmare as our
greatest dream opportunity for growth. It is like a dream with an extra bonus
if we can convert that which pursues us into that which creates and produces
with us. Jacob, it is said in the Bible, wrestled with a angel all night (a
dream?). The struggle broke his leg, but the result was the founding of
1. Write down the nightmare in as much detail
2. Be creative and magical. Come up with
a container to put this genie in, or this wolf in a cage.
3. Ask the nightmare pursuer, "What
is it you want?" If the desire is unreasonable, suggest some alternatives
for the monster.
4. Ask the nightmare pursuer, "What
gift do you have for me?" Jacob would not let go of the angel until
it told him his name.
5. Finally, when going to sleep, remind yourself
to confront all aggressors in your dreams.
Richard Wilkerson is general editor for The
Internet Dream E-zine, Electric Dreams, and director of DreamGate, the Internet
Communications and Dream Education Center. He writes the Cyberphile column for
the Association for the Study of Dreams Newsletter.