Every night, just before I settle down to sleep, I ask God to help me be a Christian in my dreams, to know Christ’s constant presence there, and even to see his face. I started doing this because for the last six months or so nearly all of my dreams have been vivid, disturbing, distressing and sometimes frightening.
I began writing about this issue on the 27th of October 2022. If you would like to look back through this thread, here are the links to some relevant blogs:
27.10.22: Dreams: https://wp.me/p45bCr-cHj
12.11.22: A dream (for E.M.): https://wp.me/p45bCr-cPy
24.11.22: In my dreams: https://wp.me/p45bCr-cVN
6.12.22: In my dreams: https://wp.me/p45bCr-cZ0
9.1.23: Bad dreams: https://wp.me/p45bCr-d5w
Starting to understand
Yesterday, at last, I started to understand the purpose of these dreams:
Through them I repeatedly face situations, relationships, dilemmas, difficulties and turning-points which are similar in essence to those I have actually experienced during my life. So, as I work through these challenges again and again in my dreams, I have many opportunities to practice dealing with them more effectively.
In the past
In the past, when alarming things happened to me in real life, I simply reacted instinctively, like a cornered animal, unable to think about, or to control, my response.
Depending on the particular circumstances, my behavioural repertoire included getting upset, losing my temper, panicking, running away, anxious avoidance, being filled with dread, and saying nothing to the person concerned.
Sadly, none of these makes for a happy, healthy emotional life. Indeed, they create further issues by exacerbating and perpetuating existing problems. I can say this with complete confidence because I’ve spent my life wrestling with such issues, and struggling to overcome them.
However, to my delight, I’m now beginning to gain some significant insight into my bad dreams:
Firstly, they help me to connect my psychological issues with the serious damage done to my conscious and unconscious mental development by my mother’s emotional abuse.
Secondly, now aged 70, I observe that at last I’m beginning to react differently to challenging events in my dreams. This suggests that the assertiveness skills and emotional stability I have consciously worked so hard to acquire and develop as an adult are now slowly being integrated into my unconscious mind as well. I attribute this change to the prayer I say each night before sleeping, and thank God for this very significant form of gradual healing – the healing of my bad dreams.
One major theme
One theme that really stands out for me is the difference it makes when I speak out openly, directly and honestly in my dreams, rather than feeling helpless, powerless, silenced, weak and afraid.
It’s easy to see that the pattern of fear, silence and avoidance, unconsciously developed for the sake of self-preservation during my childhood, has been the underlying cause of my long history of anxiety, depression, panic attacks and phobias, especially the agoraphobia and claustrophobia which have characterised and dominated my life.
Understanding this makes me realise, yet again, that God really does bring good from everything, even, in my case, the mental suffering and ingrained defence mechanisms which result from having a narcissistic, controlling and emotionally abusive mother.
My guess is that as I become able to deal more skilfully with the difficult situations arising in my dreams, the bad ones will gradually cease. However, even if they continue, their fear factor will be greatly reduced by my responses to them being very different. So yesterday I added a new line to my final prayer of the day:
Please let me know your presence in my dreams. Whatever I experience in my sleep, may I face it with you, and deal with it as a Christian, speaking the truth in love directly, openly, confidently, and honestly.
I ask this through your own dear name. Amen.
STOP PRESS: Last night I had a potentially very distressing dream about being lost in London, exhausted and unable to walk. This is a standard agoraphobic/chronic illness nightmare for me. To my amazement, on waking, I remembered how I was able to ask for help from a stranger, and that although I was fully aware of my situation, I wasn’t afraid. Isn’t that truly amazing?
God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17; NLT).
God can tell you what it means and set you at ease (Genesis 41:16; NLT).
Keep on seeking, and you will find (Luke 11:9; NLT).
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NKJV).
We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).
God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28; NLT).
Fun with fermenting
Yesterday I looked carefully at my raisin starter, and found tall, thin filaments of mould growing on it, so, sadly, it had to go into the bin. However, I’m still confidently making my usual yoghurt and buttermilk, so I haven’t given up fermenting altogether.