Nightmares: How to Change a Big Fear into a Huge Asset

Nightmares by definition evoke fear. This means that when you are facing that big snake or being bitten by one, the negative emotion you are feeling is FEAR. It is not anxiety or shame or guilt or grief or any other one. It is fear. To be good at changing a nightmare into an asset you need to be good at working with fear inside of yourself.

The first thing you need to know about fear is that it has a past. You cannot have fear unless you have had an experience where the fear developed. And just because you are dreaming about a snake biting you does not mean that you have had a negative experience where you have been bitten by a snake in the past. You have to remember first that dreams are mostly based upon metaphorically language. The snake is a symbol of someone or something that happened in the past. You are not born with the fear of heights or of being attacked by a bear or being burned. Fear is based upon an experience that is interpreted by the ego mind as threatening. It tells you that there is some part of your life where you do not have the resources to fully deal with what presents. So instead of being capable, the fear in your ego mind tries to get you to run away or fight or even freeze as a way of dealing with the threat. The dream simply tells you that you are in need of growth. A nightmare is a big message.

What is particularly interesting about a nightmare is the intensity. It makes you pay attention and stays in the memory easily. A lot of other dreams fade as soon as you awaken, but nightmares tend to stay with you. So how do you deal with it?

  1. Realize that when you have a nightmare it is for the development of a new process that you have probably not done a lot of work on previously. It means that something positive wants to come into your being so that you are a much more resourceful and competent person. With that in mind set aside some time to process the dream. It is well worth the effort. It is also important to realize that dreams tend to come to you as a kind of premonition, that if you don’t deal with the fear, then the negative will show up in real life. You can turn a potentially trying situation into one where you have a lot of competence.
  2. Write the dream in a journal or notebook so that you have access to it. Writing something in journal has a way of giving yourself distance from it which will lessen some of the fear. It will not get rid of the fear. It will just take some of its negative power away as you do the processing. If you find that it puts you into a really negative spin that you cannot get out of, then it is best to seek some help from people who are experienced in working with fear.
  3. Identify the primary negative metaphors and what they make you do in the dream. For instance, if you have a dream where there is a poisonous snake, then the snake is the metaphoric image you have to deal with. It may cause you to freeze or to try to kill it or run away from it. If you are in a house that is on fire, then the fire is the primary metaphor that is critical to understand.
  4. Identify what the negative metaphors stand for in the real world. For instance, a poisonous snake indicates that there are poisonous people in your life that are filled with jealousy attempting to take the easy way out in life. A bear chasing you is a symbol for a negative power source that is about to attack you. This can be hugely challenging so if you arrive at this step and have no clue, you can write to me at and I will help you identify what the metaphor represents. This is a very important step because it gives you a profound level of understanding before you do the actual transformation. Although it is not enough to just identify the meaning of the metaphor, it is a key step in going forward.
  5. Identify when the first occurrence of the fear experience was in your life. This is also a good key for understanding more profoundly what is happening to you in your life when you have the fear. The age and the circumstances give you indicators of what to do in the change process. A lot of fears beginning when people were very young living in their dysfunctional families or when they began school or had their first relationships. If something happened, for instance, when you were five, you will be acting like a scared five year old when facing the fear.
  6. Find the positive energy that is trying to open up in you. It is always the opposite in a positive direction of the fear image. So if a snake is trying to poison you, which means that there are poisonous people in your environment who are doing things in a negative way or behind your back to harm you emotionally, then what you are trying to open up to is sweetening people’s lives or encouraging people in positive ways. If you are being chased by a bear that has a lot of negative strength, it means that you need to develop positive strength and empowerment to do positive things for the betterment of others. Just like the metaphor this can be challenging to find out what is supposed to open. You can ask me if you are stuck.
  7. Identify if the fear presents a real danger in your life or is mostly imagined. If you have snake-like people in your environment doing negative things, it is not propitious to just start being sweet and encouraging to others even though that is what is unfolding. You also need to take steps so that you are protected from the venomous people and then gradually implement the new process in areas that are safe. If you are in an abusive relationship trying to develop empowerment, the abuser will have the upper hand, so you need protection and wisdom in gradually unfolding the new capacity. It will take time. The rule is to protect yourself and find safe ways to develop the new process. If you have been to war and have nightmares about it, but now you are out of the war zone and are safe, your mind will still believe that you are not safe. You may be learning how to create peace between people, but your ego mind is going to make you believe it is not safe and it will find ways to make you feel like it is a fight. The rule is to go slowly and in an ecologically sound manner. Take your time in developing the capacities. Start by doing them in small ways.
  8. When you begin seeing the new ability such as creating peace between people and there is no longer any fear, then your behavior will have a lot more choice to it. It will not be ruled by flight or fight or freeze. You will have more positive choices.
  9. Develop a modest plan with small steps and implement it. It will be the feedback you need to take the next steps.

in the next post I will introduce what to do with some other types of dreams where fear is not the primary negative emotion and some techniques on how to deal with the ego mind so that your true mind can function better.

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