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Management of Nightmares

Nightmares are unpleasant dreams which often result in waking from sleep. Although many people believe that dreams cannot be deliberately changed, there is a technique which can be used by some people to provide themselves with a measure of control over their dreams. This technique will be described. As with any technique, both instruction and practice are required to develop skill, and this will take time.

First, a word about how to think about dreams. One useful way to think about dreaming is that this is creative production by our minds designed to help us deal with difficult aspects of our lives. It is as if the mind has written a play, so that we get to be playwright, director, and actor. It is possible to change this play, so that it is written, directed, and acted differently.

Repetitive nightmares frequently involve scenes of danger in which the dreamer experiences a sense of helplessness. To produce more of a sense of control, imagine, first while you are fully awake, a different and more satisfying ending to the dream. The more satisfying version is usually one in which the dreamer actively copes with the dangerous situation portrayed. Some experimentation is often useful to explore possible options, and to settle on a variation which feels best.

Once having decided upon the new version of dream's ending that is the most satisfying, the next step is to practice this ending. This is done by consciously, deliberately, while fully awake, imagining the dream. This can be done several times throughout the course of the day, as a form of rehearsal, and should be done especially while in bed just before falling asleep.

Once asleep, if the dream recurs, then the new version can be used to change the ending of the dream. If you wake up from the original nightmare, then as soon as you realize what has happened, return to sleep with the intention of returning to the dream in order to carry out the new, revised ending.

With practice, this technique can be used not only to change recurrent nightmares, but also any other dream that is experienced.

In summary, with this therapeutic method, some dreamers can learn to change their dreams in a deliberate, satisfying way which allows them to continue their sleep until the usual morning time of waking. Remember that this technique requires practice. Over time, you may well find that it significantly improves the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling more refreshed in the morning.