Post Traumatic Nightmares
Post traumatic nightmares are quite different from your regular bad dreams.
Whereas normal bad dreams are random sequences of scary events, post traumatic nightmares are real life events that the dreamer has experienced, re-terrifying them in their dreams.
The dreams are usually exactly the same as the real life events sometimes with small parts changed and produce strong emotional responses.
Being repetitive in nature they generally will continue on and on until the person has fully let go of the event sequence.
According to dream experts, post traumatic nightmares, can be seen in terms of evolution, as a part of the flight or fight mechanism gone awry.
In evolution, such dreams probably served the important purpose of keeping us highly anxious about an event repeating itself.
For instance if a beast attacked somebody then having nightmares about it would keep you on your toes that it could happen to you!
However, in today’s world, rather than keeping us on our toes these dreams keep us in a state of constant stress. Reliving the horrifying events again and again.
Most important is the need to understand that having these dreams after traumatic events is a natural way of coping with your distress.
In their normal progression the dreams will get less anxiety provoking over a period of time. As the trauma is resolved there is less focus on the events that occurred and the dream sequence will be mingled in with every day events.
Unfortunately some people do not have natural mastery over their dream situations and the dream continues on in its full horrifying form.And this can be very frustrating and distressing for the dreamer, because they just want the dreams to stop.
Help for Post Traumatic Nightmares
If you are experiencing persistent bad dreams after a trauma, the most important thing to realise is that what has happened has happened, there is no controlling the past.
BUT what you can control are your dreams. Below are some techniques that dream workers employ to help sufferers of these dreams:
• For instance, instead of standing defenseless in the dream confront your aggressor. Or instead of standing still you could try running away, or instead of standing by looking at other people experiencing devastation you could go and help them.
• By changing the events in the dream you gain more confidence in handling yourself in waking life.
• Focus on your dream while awake and practice more positive scenarios playing out or better endings for the dream. By going through the dream during the day, you can rehearse an ending you like and by paying attention to it, you will be more likely to dream about it.
• While falling asleep repeat this practice and go over the way you want your dream to go, make the ending positive. Change whatever is the stress producing aspect of the dream. Repeat how you want your dream to go, again and again before you fall asleep. And go to sleep with that as you’re last thought.
• You could try a technique called dream incubation: while falling asleep ask yourself a vital question with relation to your trauma and then go to sleep repeating this question. The more you repeat and think about your dream question the more likely you will be to dream a response to it.
Have confidence that you can change your dreams, your dreams are an inner guide through hard times, use them to your advantage and you will be better equipped to deal with life’s stresses.
If you would like some more information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or would like to seek professional assistance please click here
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