In the previous post about what kind of physical activity you can do when dealing with trauma I introduced the concepts of low intensity and high intensity exercise emphasizing the importance of low intensity work when you are in first working with your trauma. In this post I am going to show how to use your dreams to help monitor the way you do physical activity.
The general rule is that the worst the dream is in terms of its content the lower the intensity of exercise you should be doing. What happens to most people when they have a nightmare, for instance, is that the nightmare wakes them up, and then they are left with a huge amount of fear in their mind as well as negative emotion in their body usually in the form of tension. The worse the nightmare, the longer the negative energy will stay in the body and mind. If you have done the work I have recommended in Dreamwork: Module 1 (https://gum.co/FbZe), you will see that the goal isn’t to forget the nightmare or suddenly let go of the fear. The goal is use the nightmare as a springboard for your own transformation. When you have a nightmare, the goal of the exercise is to dissipate the excess tension which will calm the fear enough so you can work with it. You need very long walks. When you do a yoga or stretching position, you need to approach where the stress is in your body, and gently hold it without forcing yourself through the stressed area. This also dissipates, but keeps you mindful of the fear. At the same time that you do the long walks you need a huge amount of processing. The more the fear the more the processing because the nightmare is the signal that you are at the beginning of a process of unleashing new potential.
The danger of a nightmare is the desire to forget it. This is absolutely the worst thing you can do. The tendency for a lot of people is to do really high intensity hard work when they have a nightmare or big fear because it allows you to temporarily forget the nightmare. The nightmare goes away with really hard work, but after some time it comes back with a vengeance. This is where you see professional athletes break down. They repeated go to high intensity hard work without processing.
If you are generally emotionally stable or have already done a lot of trauma work, then the day after a nightmare is a good one to suspend training and do a lot of meditation and walking. A long walk in the forest followed by journaling is ideal. Always feel free to send me your dreams and I will be happy to give you some feedback. firstname.lastname@example.org. Counseling work is all the better.
A person coming back from a prolonged nightmare like war should not do any intensive exercise at least until the nightmares of war have ceased. Recurring nightmares put you in recurring fear. You need low intensity exercise to dissipate tension and then a lot of therapeutic work to convince the mind that it is no longer in danger. War like conditions which are the same as childhood or adult abuse take a fair amount of work because the mind has such a hard time letting go of believing it is not at war even when it is in a peaceful surrounding.
If you are relatively healthy and you are doing inner work to change yourself, there will come a stage when the dreams will change from all negative to a mix of negative and positive. This lets you know that you are on the right path, that the change is happening. At this point you can have a mix of high, low, and medium intensity workouts. The danger, when you are in this stage, is to think that because the high levels of stress and tension have left your body, that you still shouldn’t process. This would be a huge mistake. You should do the processing in inverse proportion to the exercise. On low intensity days you do high amounts of processing and I on high intensity days you do less processing. Remember that the purpose of high intensity exercise is to forget pain which is good when you can handle a challenge, but at this stage you still have work to do before the new potential is in place and becomes habitual.
The last stage of development is the challenge stage where the dreams are mostly positive. At this stage you can just take the energy and really challenge yourself in the outer world. This is a good time to go after a big physical goal that requires a lot of work. In this stage forgetting is a good thing because you are forgetting or letting go of your old patterns and using the new ones habitually.
What if you don’t remember any dreams at all. This means that whatever happened to you in the past doesn’t want to be remembered at all. The way to get to the memory of the nightmare in your life is to do very short periods of high intensity exercise. The challenge you put your body through will begin to wake up the memory of the trauma, but you need to have counseling services on hand because it will be intensive inner work that you need. At the point when do the intensity, you are going to meet some bad stuff. There are supplements you can take that will assist the memory as well. Just have the help on hand.
Going through the stages example.
Let’s say that you are a person who is moving from being cold and overly rational to warm and loving. When you do the walking part (low intensity), you can begin to dissipate tension associated with being warm and loving. The tension is going to be some kind of intense fear of being abandoned. This is pretty universal for some cultures like northern Europeans. You will always end up in your dreams feeling afraid and alone. As you come to grips with abandonment you begin to find closeness with your true self and others. At this point the intensity of work can be introduced. Your dreams will have less alone feelings and more positive emotions around being together with others. Over a period of time you can continue to process until the level of loving and warm feelings inside have reached a point where you can start to include all kinds of diverse people into your life. At the point when you are ready for high levels of diversity because of the progress with closeness then you can also push the physical challenge. The physical and social challenge will be matched and the dreams will be positive.
Just about the time you are feeling great about the warmth and loving progress in your life that you have made, then a new set of capacities will want to evolve in you. That is just the nature of being a human being. The dreams will start back at the nightmare stage. When you think the growth process is over, bam, a new one strikes. The difference between this set of dreams and the last ones, when you first started nightmare work, is that you already have a memory of how to work through a process. So for exercising you don’t have stop the challenges set in the previous stage, but you still have to do the processing. Whenever i have a really negative dream I make it a point to take a really long walk and then give myself a long time to process the dream. The best money you will ever spend in your entire life when dealing with a nightmare is some hours in counseling with someone who knows what they are doing. Better yet if they give you ideas on how to exercise while you are processing. In the old paradigm counseling was seen for weak people. It had a sense of shame to it. It meant that you couldn’t tough it out.