writing

Let’s talk about dreams again!

My very first post here on girlheartbooks was called ‘Let’s talk about dreams’ because I love dreaming and it’s a very important part of my writing process. I also teach other people how to harness the power of their dreams.

A lot of people who come to my workshops say they don’t think they dream very much, although science shows that we all do dream, every single one of us, every single night. Some people think they only have bad dreams, so they’re not sure they want to remember any more, but they don’t really only have bad dreams – it’s just that bad dreams are the ones we’re most likely to remember.

My nightmare - a high, rickety bridge

My nightmare – a high, rickety bridge

With bad dreams, we often wake up right in the middle of the action, teetering on the high rickety bridge, or running away from the huge lion, or standing up to give a presentation and realising we haven’t got any clothes on. We’re lying there in bed,  breathing fast, heart thumping, senses on high alert, feeling as if we haven’t woken up because we’re still in the dream.

Creative dreamers do what writers do – they create a happy ending. So instead of lying there waiting for the dream to fade, they imagine they’re back in the dream and take control, bringing the dream-story to a satisfying conclusion.

If you always treat your nightmares in this way, several interesting things happen. One is that your dreams feel less scary, and you start to remember more. The other is that your dreams really do become less scary, because you start to resolve bad dream situations within the dream, without having to wake up. It’s like you’ve cleared a trail consciously towards happy endings and your dreams start to follow it all on their own.

You don’t have to wait until you have a bad dream to try this out. You can write down a nightmare you’ve had before and then keep on writing to create a satisfying ending. It doesn’t have to be realistic – which is just as well, since dreams are pure imagination. So you can grapple or tame that lion, or reel back and remember to get dressed before you have to give that presentation. It doesn’t have to take long, either – just a few moments of imagining.

Everyone has nightmares and most of us have particular nightmare situations. For example, I rarely dream about being chased, or drowning, or getting lost, and I’ve never dreamt about failing an exam – if I have a scary dream it’s most likely to be about falling from high places.

What are your most common scary dreams?

17 thoughts on “Let’s talk about dreams again!

  1. My scary dreams can be anything.I had a dream about going up into outer space recently (something I will never do) and someone opened a window and we all started choking. Or another dream I had was when my pet turtle died. I don’t even have a pet turtle,so I really don’t know how I dreamt that.

  2. My scary dream, can’t really remember them but, i’m ALWAYS back at school, the dreams I can remember. Nan says its called ‘going back to your roots,’ when I was happiest.

    • A lot of people dream about school, Laura. One of the reasons I enjoy hearing other people’s dreams is because it makes you notice what’s in your own – and what isn’t. Hearing other people’s school dreams makes me realise I NEVER dream about school, and never have. Interesting, isn’t it?

  3. I haven’t really had bad dreams since I was small, but back then they were all about being kidnapped.The other night I had the best dream ever- I was going on a road trip with my friend and Danny from the Script (???), and there was a song on the radio that we were singing along to and Danny said I had a lovely voice!! (I don’t).
    This was right after I watched The Voice UK. Isn’t it weird the way we dream about stuff that we did during the day? (Sort of!)

    • Hi Nuala – being kidnapped, that’s a nightmare I’ve never even thought about – how interesting! Your road trip sounds amazing and really joyful. I love that kind of dream, and you’re quite right, we often do dream about stuff that’s happening in our waking life

  4. Ooh, how horrible! Next time, try imagining the dream on to a triumphant break-out, Jade. See how that feels 🙂

  5. I generally have really panic-ed dreams about work and failing exams and as a rule the baddies all wear glasses!

    • n.b. I also find that discovering the roots and what caused the dreams to make it less scary – fear of the unknown vanishes and you realise it is just your imagination.

      • Hi Katie – that’s v weird about the glasses! I agree, if you can see a reason in your waking life for having the bad dream then you can rationalise it, but the link isn’t always obvious – that’s when it’s good to have an alternative, and use your imagination rather than your reason to tackle it

  6. When I have a nightmare that I can remember it often involves hiding in a cupboard or under a bed or table or in some other rubbish hiding place whilst group of wolves, axe-wielding zombie, prime minister coming to tell me that I have been banned from reading, walk around in the room I’m in. And nearly always they see one of my feet or a shadow and realise I’m there, turn around and are just about to kill me/ ban me from reading books when I wake up. I’m going to start sing your suggestion now, it sounds cool!

  7. I’m impressed that you’re such a determined champion of reading, in the face of wolves and zombies and everything! You love feeding your imagination, being such a book-lover, so I think you’ll really enjoy using imagination to come out from under the table and see off these tyrants – go, Faolan!

  8. I used to dream occasionally about oversleeping and missing an exam. Then I DID oversleep and miss an exam (waking up straight from a nightmare didn’t make the situation any less terrifying). Guess what? I STILL dream about oversleeping and missing exams, and it’s no better for knowing what to do when that happens.

    My other recurring dreams are:
    1) being trapped in a sort of never-ending plain of train-tracks and having to dodge back and forth across the lines to avoid trains (this one, oddly, usually ends with me escaping, somehow getting past a group of scary drunks and running down the side of a main road, and being collected by my dad in his work van – but he will be very angry in the dream because I was out past my curfew, and the dream will end with me dreading getting home because that’ll be when my parents punish me) – pretty sure this one is because of my fear of level-crossings (they might trap me);
    2) being a ghost – having died in some really stupid way like falling down the stairs and smashing my head against the wall/shoe-rack – and being completely imperceptible to everybody, so I’m totally alone even though I’m still in the world and can still see and hear everybody – I think this one is because I’ve sometimes gone for a week without contact from my parents or friends (holidays, in my Uni accomodation), and the isolation starts to get to me after about five days;
    3) running around an abandoned supermarket looking for vital things, but there’s almost nothing and other people keep grabbing it all so I’m going to starve – no idea what that’s from;
    4) finding myself in one of the showers in my old secondary-school PE block (which will be spookily empty), but someone’s stolen all of my clothes and kit etc so I have to find some way of getting across the grounds to the Gym building where the spare PE kit is kept so that I can at least have something to wear while I try to find my uniform – usually ends with the bell going and the entire school’s worth of pupils flooding out along the paths towards me (wrapped in a curtain or something), may have something to do with the day when I thought it was non-uniform day and it wasn’t so I had to dash madly through the main building to the lost-property office to borrow uniform until my mum could drop mine off at lunchtime (and they had no shoes in my size, so I was in trainers all morning and got pestered about it nonstop – I eventually had one of my infamous screaming-abuse-at-everybody moments, before calming down a bit and lying that my sister had hidden my school shoes).

    Never been able to do anything about any of those dreams, because they have no logical “good ending”!

  9. What a great set of bad dreams – thank you for sharing 🙂 The point about creative dreaming is that it isn’t logical – it’s creative! So you imagine a good ending when you wake up, as you would bring a made-up story to a good ending. Dreams are pure imaginative substance, so in some ways trying to approach them rationally often does bring you up against a brick wall, unless it happens to be one of those dreams you wake up from feeling ‘I know what that was about.’ Next time you have one of these dreams, why not give it a try?

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