We’ve all had them. Those scary dreams that make us wake up in the middle of the night with a shudder. The dreams that produce a feeling of panic, the ones that feel so real we hope we wish we didn’t ever have to sleep again so we wouldn’t have to relive that experience.

            The dreaded nightmare.

            If you look up the definition of nightmare it’s described as a very bad dream that frightens a sleeping person. Simple and true…up to a point.  A nightmare taken at face value is scary, often filled with horrible images you’d never want to encounter in your waking life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that looked at from the right perspective, a nightmare can be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.

            In a literal sense, a nightmare is a wake-up call. It’s a shock to the system, a message sent from your subconscious that says, “Pay attention to me. I’m trying to tell you something important you need to know. Right now.”

            Unfortunately, for most of us, the only parts of the call we understand are the urgency and that a nice comfy night of sleep has been ruined. We feel the horror, the mystery, the dread of it, and with that, totally misunderstand the message being sent.

            That’s because our subconscious, where dreams incubate, is incapable of operating in literal language, such as English. It’d be a lot easier if it did.  But the subconscious doesn’t operate in the same way the rest of our brain does.  The subconscious deals with symbols. It may care about real things that might have happened before you put your head down on the pillow, but it doesn’t relate to it in the everyday language we use when we’re awake.  It all makes perfect sense to the subconscious. It doesn’t mean to scare you. It just doesn’t understand that you don’t speak the same language.

Here’s an example to illustrate the point. Say you have a dream in which you die. You wake up shivering, wondering if it’s a premonition of some evil that will befall you during the next day. You wind up tossing and turning for the rest of the night and make a mental note to check on the whereabouts of your will the next morning.

            However, if you understood the workings of your subconscious, you could have saved yourself from a sleepless night. You would realize that a dream about dying isn’t a premonition of your actual demise from this planet.  It more than likely means something totally different, a “death” or ending of something going on in your life: a change in career, in a relationship, in a belief system you’re ready to give up. The exact meaning will be different for everyone, depending on what real life experience is going on at the time.

            Looked at from that perspective, the death dream is not so scary. It’s the subconscious’ symbolic way of bringing a change to the forefront of your consciousness, giving you the chance to process how to deal with it in your waking hours.  When its symbolism is decoded, it gives you the opportunity to complete the dream more to your liking.  Getting back to the example, if you dream about dying and in your waking life you’re unhappy in your job, the dream might be telling you it’s time to  “let that job die” and seek out a new one.

            So a nightmare is actually nothing more than an incomplete dream.   Nothing really scary about that, is there?

            Even better news is this–You can change the outcome of any bad dream by completing it in your waking hours. This is a concept called Dream Recrafting, and we’ll explore it in more detail in coming months.