A Dream Expert Told Us What You Should ALWAYS Do After a Nightmare
No one enjoys experiencing nightmares, but they can actually play a pretty valuable role in our lives.
Moving forward from bad dreams shouldn't be about forgetting they ever happened. We were eager to learn more about the subject, so we reached out to Lauri Loewenberg, certified dream analyst and author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life, who told us all about the power of nightmares and bad dreams, and how to harness it to make your life better.
Sweety High: What is it about nightmares that can leave such a lasting impression on us, sometimes even hours after we've woken up?
Lauri Loewenberg: The disturbing elements of nightmares stick with us because, when you're in a dream, it's your reality. You don't know it's not real and you're very authentically experiencing those emotions: the fright, the grief, the terror. Whatever you're experiencing in the nightmare is very real to you, and it's not unlike experiencing an actual, real-life experience. This is particularly true for nightmares, because as opposed to bad dreams, they're upsetting to the point that they jolt us awake.
SH: What should you do when you wake up from a nightmare?
LL: First, reassure yourself that it wasn't real and that it was just a dream. Second, realize that your subconscious gave you that nightmare because it's trying to get your attention about a real-life issue that needs to be corrected. You need to ask yourself questions. Your subconscious is trying to tell you something, and you have to figure out what.
What is the most upsetting thing in your life right now? Odds are that's what your nightmare is connected to, and is trying to help you with. As unpleasant as it is, you want to get back to the emotion you were feeling in the nightmare and ask yourself what real-life situation makes you feel the same way. If the dream is about being locked and stuck in something, ask what makes you feel frustrated and stuck right now. Is it something you're running from or avoiding? Ask yourself questions that will help lead you to the real-life issue so you can begin to constructively work on it.
SH: Would you say that understanding the root cause of the nightmare is more important than pushing your negative feelings away?
LL: The only way you're going to make a nightmare stop reoccurring is to face the real-life issue it's commenting on. They're actually the most important dreams of all because they're the most helpful ones. They're trying to help you with something you've either been ignoring, mishandling or that's simply too upsetting for you to handle. The nightmare comes to you, not unlike a slap in the face from your subconscious saying, "Wake up. You've got to take care of this issue already. Enough."
A nightmare shines a light on something negative in your life that needs to be corrected. Perhaps it's your relationship, or getting a toxic person out of your life, or stopping a negative behavior, or finally facing a bad situation from your past. Whatever it is, the nightmares try to force you to face them so you can move on from it.
SH: Is the same true for simple bad dreams, as opposed to nightmares?
LL: With any sort of upsetting dream, you'll want to find the real-life issue it's connected to and fix it. Just making a bad feeling go away doesn't do anything, even if it doesn't get to the level of nightmare. It's not productive, even if it might make you feel better temporarily. Always ask yourself what in your life brings out the exact same emotion that the dream brought about. Also, look at the day before. What happened yesterday that feels similar to this dream?
SH: What do you think is the most important thing people should realize about nightmares?
LL: Not to be afraid of them, and to welcome them. Because they're an opportunity to improve yourself. There's a very powerful lesson within your nightmares and bad dreams. Instead of waking up and being frightened, try to look at it as an opportunity in your life to correct something.
Want to learn more about your dreams? Click HERE for Lauri Loewenberg's tips on how to remember (and interpret) your dreams.