Nightmares can be extraordinarily frightening experiences. Even though they are not actual real life events, our body reacts as if they are, releasing adrenalin into our system and causing us to be filled with anxiety and fear.
Nightmares are an urgent alert from the sub-conscious mind that there is something in our lives that needs to be dealt with – immediately. It’s important to understand what the nightmare represents so that you can face your fear and start healing. Often, simply interpreting the nightmare, as you would an ordinary dream, will bring to light the information that you need.
Nightmares and Children
There are many reasons children may have nightmares. There may have been an event that triggered it, or they may have stress that they cannot cope with. When your child has a nightmare, it’s important to acknowledge it. Never say to them “it was just a dream, go back to sleep.” When a child has a nightmare, they need support and understanding.
If your child wakes from a nightmare in the middle of the night, first off, comfort them. If they want to talk about it, let them. If they want to take extra measures to insure that the nightmare doesn’t return, assist them in doing so – this will empower them. Then help them return to sleep, letting them know that if they want, you can discuss the nightmare in the morning.
Introducing your child to a “dream guardian” can be very helpful when it comes to dealing with nightmares. The dream guardian is a favorite character or animal that they can interact with in their imagination. Most children are very good at imagining, so visualizing their dream guardian fighting off any frightening nightmares should be pretty easy.
With a recurring nightmare, it is best, if possible, to try to remember what was happening in your life when the nightmares started. For instance, a child whose parents divorced may dream of being in a car crash (being out of control). As the years go by, every time they feel a loss of control, they may dream the car crash dream. It’s important to note that as a child, yes, they would have felt they had no control, but as an adult they can remember that even when things seem out of their control, they can still control how they react in any given situation.
Recurring nightmares may also come from a traumatic event. If a child was in an actual car crash, they may have recurring dreams where they are in a car crash. An adult who has recurring nightmares due to childhood trauma may need to seek the advice of a professional if they cannot sort out the dream on their own.
The Senoi people of Malaysia believe that nightmares come when we are ready to grow. And it is true; nightmares present an opportunity to confront and conquer our fears so that we may experience healing and personal growth.