Updated: Mar 2
I awoke this morning with anxiety. I dreamt I had a new job with challenging responsibilities and two bosses that were hard to please. In my dream I had a nervous stomach as I scrambled to understand my job and rush not to be late. I woke up with the same emotions, unsettled and rushed.
Experiencing anxiety dreams is not new to me. As a child, I had a repeating dream of an 18-wheeler pursuing me. I was overwhelmed. The huge semi always appeared with a face and personality. In the majority of my dreams I was under attack, pursued by bad guys and running for my life, all with a similar theme of fear and lack of safety.
During my Spiritual Director training, I was fortunate to attend several Zoom webinars with the late Jeremy Taylor, an expert on dreams, myths and social change. His book, The Wisdom of Your Dreams, is full of information from his decades of work with the dream world. I was surprised to learn that dreams come in service of health and wholeness. I always thought the opposite, but as I made my way through his book, I realized my dreams served to bring my attention to my inner pain. My dreams weren’t there to hurt me. My dreams tell me what my core issues are and what I’m clearing. My dreams help remind me to be gentle with myself as I go.
Every species that has eyelids dreams according to Jeremy. Taylor says that dreams seem to be associated with “restructuring of short-term memory into long-term memory and is a strong indication that the dreaming process is central to the creation of meaning in human consciousness.” That’s a huge statement. All of humanity dreams and all dreams structure human consciousness. Dreaming unites us all.
I loved his thoughts on the idea that as we dream, we go back to “God every night, dissolving boundaries of our ordinary egos, dissolving our worries about the passage of time and approach to death and separation, and we reach our deeper unconscious selves and the divine. But we forget upon awakening.” What a lovely sentiment that whether we are aware or not, we touch the divine in ways beyond our ordinary egoic selves.
Jeremy is famous for creating dream groups, and in his later years used the model to bring about social change. He amassed willing groups of individuals, divided by social issues like racism, gender, or something else. Skillfully and with time, he created a safe place where the two groups were able to share their dreams together and respectful attention was paid to one another, participants realizing that everyone had “ugly, scary, dark, powerful, sexy, violent, irresponsible, dangerous dream figures” and dreaming was a part of every human being.
With this self-awareness and self-acceptance came degrees of less fear and many of the people in the dream group started to withdraw the projections they had been making on one another. This ultimately raised the consciousness of the group and allowed them to be more aware and compassionate for the people they worked beside in their community. Dream work can definitely be a tool for nonviolent political, social and cultural change.
I know my unsettled emotions will dissipate as I go throughout my day. I also remember if they need help dispersing, I can take a salt shower or a salt bath to cleanse my emotional field. I don’t advocate using table salt unless I have nothing else. Sea salt or pink Himalayan sea salt is the best. If I’m in a shower, I put a healthy amount of sea salt on a sponge or washcloth and gently rub it all over, including my arm pits. If in a bath, I soak myself in a cup or two of sea salt with a nice warm rinse afterwards cleanses more than my physical sweat. I feel refreshed and clearer emotionally. I use my dreams to enhance my self-care.
From Breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.
All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do--
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.
The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.
Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.
Thank you. When we speak our authentic truths, it resonates, and it resonates universally in every one of us at the same time. The other thing that came up for me is about walking with death. Our nana had a stroke and is struggling. I read something about this. A gentleman said, “They keep waking me up. Don’t they understand I have a rich life in my sleep?” It really hit me. We just don’t know. All those decisions we make, if I was like that, I wouldn’t want to live. We make those decisions and we don’t know. I’m walking the path with nana and I am learning.
The dream theme was timely. In the last few weeks, I started doing dream work and writing down my dreams. I’m going through a new chapter in my life. Much to my chagrin, my dreams are revealing. I’m ready to move on but my dreams are saying something else. Clearly, I have more work to do. It’s pulling me in to what I need to work on internally to fully release and let go. I’m grateful to my dreams pointing out there is still more work to do. There are still some tasks I need to take care of. A timely topic.
Things emerge when we need to see them. They are clues to self-care. They tell me to be gentle with myself and their meaning will emerge. Maybe not on our timeclock.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had dreams that stretch over a few nights. I had an anxiety dream where I was left alone. The next night, I had a dream around the same situation and I couldn’t gather information. It tells me I need to drill down on detail and get more focused.
I highly recommend Jeremy Taylor’s book. I’ve been part of a dream circle for the last several years. In Taylor’s book, he talks about working in San Quentin trying to get the prisoners to open up. They opened up to each other when they talked about their dreams. I read another book about aging. The author said we don’t know what Alzheimer’s patients are experiencing but they could be living the happiest years of their lives.
I’m remembering in one of Shirley MacLaine’s books she talks about her father lying on a couch so much, and he told her he was traveling the way he always wanted to.
I’m glad you brought up this topic. I remember as a child and as an adult having anxiety dreams, of not being able to get away. Presently I’m having unpleasant dreams and some don’t make sense. I know there’s nothing wrong with me but I wonder why I don’t have good dreams.
One of the ways to encourage pleasant dreams is to go to those images while we are awake. During the meditation, I was picturing myself by a tumultuous river. I was on the edge and I was reminding myself I am not in the river, I’m on the shore. It’s okay for me to relax. The river is life, and I’m taking a break right now. So I created this little oasis on the shore and brought in loved ones around me. I can go back there again. I can enhance it with images that please me. This image invites me to dream dreams that enhance my well-being and my calmness, I believe. Work on the oases in our awake time to enhance our sleep time.
That sounds like lucid dreaming to me. I first learned about that reading the Carlos Castaneda books about how you can bring yourself into your dreams with practice. We are talking about happy dreams that we want to be in and anxiety dreams that we don’t want to be in. I think it’s a metric for where we are in our lives: I’m doing my work and am at peace, I’m having pleasant dreams; I’ve got more work to do and have hidden beliefs I need to work on, I’m having anxiety dreams. Neuroscience shows that what we do in dreaming is create an 11-dimensional space in our minds. When we wake up, it dissipates. If there’s a dream I like, I just start imagining that 11-dimensional space and it brings my dream back.
Thank you for this topic. I am in a dream group and I have long periods of dream drought. Recently, I’ve been remembering my dreams. Last night, I had a semi-nightmare. I was able to record it this morning, but had a few other chunks I didn’t have time to write down. And then, lo and behold, your focus today is on dreams. So during the meditation time, I wrote down the other chunks. Thank you for that. I’m having occasional nightmares and I think they may be related to the Covid situation. I’m going to remember what you said about salt baths. Thank you.
For years, I’ve had dreams and can interpret them. But I have one dream that k