The Benefit of Nightmares

sep 9, 2022

The Benefit of Nightmares

Walking down the street in the middle of the night, I am completely alone. It is quiet. The street is well lit with streetlights. Small apartment buildings and town houses line the street, but this does not look like the neighborhood I live in. Suddenly, a UFO appears not too far ahead ! It is floating just above one of the 3 story apartment buildings about 75 meters (80 yards) ahead to the left. I panic as I think to myself, “they are coming after me !!!” I want to run but I can hardly move. To my surprise and horror, I look down and see that one of my legs is cut off and bleeding ! Here, I wake up sweating in a state of terror.

This nightmare was the very first dream that I bothered to pay attention to. Like many people, I never really wondered about the meaning of my dreams upon waking; never mind taking the time to work on them. No one has ever told me of the importance of my dreams, nor had I met anyone who knew how to work with dreams in order to understand them.

This all changed in a dramatic manner several months later, when I was introduced to dreamwork by Jeremy Taylor in 2014. Not only did I learn a very effective way to work with dreams, I would also learn that nightmares are dreams that carry particularly important messages which the dream wants to ensure that we remember. In Jeremy’s words, “A dream assumes the form of a ‘nightmare’ to ensure that the content of the dream will not be forgotten,” because “[i]f the nightmare is remembered, then the dreamer(s) can do something positive about all the issues that the dream(s) raise.” By working with this particular nightmare of mine and the possible meaning it carries, I was able to consciously process the feelings of loneliness, trauma, and be assured by a knowing that wholeness, or healing, would not be too far ahead. The inner strength and confidence that I was “imbued” by as a result of working with my nightmare cannot be easily described, but it was real and it carried me through a difficult period of my life at that time.

More than fifty years of dreamwork with people from a diverse range of background and cultures convinced my teacher Jeremy beyond doubt that “all dreams come in the service of health and wholeness.” While we may disagree with Jeremy’s observation upon waking from our own nightmares, my experience in working with dreams in a life coaching or community setting for the past nine years has also shown me consistently that nightmares offer insight that we urgently need, because we are consciously (or not) ignoring life’s call to make the needed changes that would help us heal and grow.

Next time a nightmare comes to visit you, perhaps you will consider taking some time to work with it. I would certainly love to have you join our “dreamwork in community” so all of us can work together to discover the wisdom of your nightmare. Until then, I pray for you as well as for myself that we may each develop a meaningful and growing relationship with our dreams.

Illustration credit: FrancesCoch

H. D. Lee

Article by H.D. Lee

Founder of Nomadic School. Committed to the spiritual adventure of his own life and the role of midwifing beauty, goodness, and truth into the world, H.D. Lee is here to share what he has learned through his teachers and peers in transpersonal psychology, spirituality, and the arts. Read more