My dreams are so obvious. The other night, I dreamed I was walking to my apartment (we don’t live in an apartment) and I realized I had no idea where it was. I had no idea of the address, even though I’d been there a million times. The streets were familiar, but not familiar enough. And I couldn’t ask anyone where it was, because I didn’t know how to ask.
I was terrified, and confused, and upset, and baffled. Now most often, I can stop the dream, I can tell myself “Hey, silly, this is a dream. Snap out of it.” This time, I didn’t--and I am still thinking about that, and why I didn’t do it. Usually, I can.
(And if that doesn’t sound like a dream of a writer who is a tough place in her manuscript, then I’m going back to Interpretation of Dreams and looking it up. But I am satisfied with that answer!)
Anyway, I don’t remember who told me about managing your dreams, but it sure works. And like all valuable knowledge, I got to pass it along to a pal at dinner.
She’d turned seven only two weeks ago, and was still getting used to her big girl status. The other night at dinner, my little next door neighbor, Ella, was seated at the grownups table, next to me. We had filet and horseradish sauce, which she gobbled with delight. She ate her caprese salad. As we waited for dessert—her mother’s birthday cake--we started talking about summer and the impending school year, and then she said, “Aunt Hank, can I tell you about something?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Well,” she said. “Last night I had a really bad dream. It was so scary!”
I shook my head. “Whoa, that’s difficult,” I said. “Do you remember what it was about?”
“Not really…” she said. Her voice trailed off.
I couldn’t decide whether she truly couldn’t remember, or if she didn’t want to remember. She’s 7, of course, so who knows.
“And when you woke up,” I said, “Did you still think it was real for a moment?”
Her eyes widened. “Yes, how did you know?”
“Oh,” I said. “We’ve all been here. But here’s the trick. When you’re in a bad dream, just let your brain understand that you know it’s a dream.”
“What?” She said.
I could tell she was trying to figure this out.
“Yes,” I said. “You just say—in our dream—I know this is a dream! And I want the scary part to go away.”
“Will that really work?” she asked.
By this time, the birthday cake was coming, but she was still focused on me.
“Yup.” I nodded. “It may take you a couple of times to do it. But just tell yourself, before you go to sleep, ‘If I have a bad dream I can make it stop. I will make it stop. And I will not be afraid of dreams, because I can control them. And I might even learn from them.’”
“Really?” she said.
“Yup. It’s all in your mind, right? And you can control what’s in your mind, if you just—put your mind to it.”
So we shall see. And Ella then focused on her chocolate cake with mint boiled frosting, dreams forgotten. Or at least tucked away.
But bad dreams are scary, right? (Although, yes, indeed, very interesting and revealing!) How do you deal with them?