Have you ever had nightmares? Why do we have them? What can we learn from them? James had a pretty typical childhood nightmare.  Now he is eighteen and struggling with issues of low-self esteem and depression. Can understanding an old nightmare help him to deal with his life challenges today?

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

I am not able to speak with girls that I am attracted to.

I don’t like how I look; I don’t like how I am physically.

I aways feel guilty about everything.

 

Tell me a dream you remember.  It can be an old one, a repetitive dream, a nightmare, or one that you’re sure you understand.

I lived upstairs in the night while I was dreaming, my dog would come up the stairs, scraping the wood on his claws. I would be lying in my bed in the dream. A huge black monster would come into my bed. I would hide under my blanket. He would uncover me and I would wake up, terrified. It would only be after I awoke that I realized that the sound of the dog’s claws had created this dream. I had this nightmare many times during my childhood.

Why do you think that you had this dream?

Well, my dog was scraping with his craws…My brain took the sound and put it into this image.

If this dream were playing at a theater, what name would be on the marquee?

Scared by A Black Monster!

These are the characters in the dream, beside yourself…

the bed, my blanket, my room, the black monster.

If one character had something especially important to tell you, what would it be?

Black Monster!

 

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are this or that character in your dream and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Black Monster, are you a character in James’ dream, yes?

Yes!

Black Monster, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I get climb up the stairs, get into his room and pull away his blanket. I’m angry with James. I want to harm him!  Strangle him!

After you strangled him, what would you do next, monster?

I would disappear.

What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I don’t like anything about myself. I’m big, dark, dark, evil, and physically strong.

What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

I don’t know. I’m a monster! I come up and kill people! I’m evil! It’s not good…I shouldn’t do it. It’s kind of sad. Nobody should do something like this…My weaknesses are that I probably don’t like light.  I don’t like  life, either. Light is light and positive.  It would show me. Everyone could see me! I don’t like life because life for a monster is not a good life. Nothing matters.

Monster, what aspect of James do you represent or most closely personify?

Probably the part that always punishes himself and makes him feel guilty.

When James was a little boy and had these dreams, what did he need to be punished for and feel guilty about?

I don’t know. I don’t remember.

Black Monster, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

I would like to change.  Just turn into thin air.

Why would you want to turn into thin air, monster?

To be away would be better than to be a black monster.

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

What’s it feel like now that you’re thin air, monster?

I’m away and I can’t harm James. I’m nothing. I don’t have thoughts. I’m just away, just vanished.

Thin Air, how would you score yourself 0-10, in confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, peace of mind, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence: 10 Nothing can touch me!

Compassion: 0

Wisdom:   ? I know everything and nothing! I’m both!

Acceptance:   ?  Nothing matters any more.  I don’t care.

Inner Peace: 10 If I don’t think about anything, don’t worry about anything, if my mind is free and calm then I am at peace!

Witnessing: I0 If I’m at peace and my mind is clear life cannot get to me. Life can’t hurt me any more.

Thin Air, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

You are enlightened! Pretty great but pretty boring! There is no fear so nothing can harm you! Without fear or feelings you would be in neutral; you won’t fear. Life is about feelings – hate and love. You wouldn’t really be alive.

How would James’ life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

His life would change. He wouldn’t have that much fear of failure. He wouldn’t fight in his mind. He could do many things he can’t do now.  He would be happier.

If you could live James’ life for him, how would you live it differently?

I would put away the fears that are not healthy. I would reduce them. I would make him more confident so he would feel freer and would not have so many chains.

If you could live James’ waking life for her/him today, would you handle his three life issues differently?  If so, how?

I am not able to speak with girls that I am attracted to…

I would be more confident that James could speak; there wouldn’t be the fear of failure, that a girl would laugh at him.

I don’t like how I look; I don’t like how I am physically.

I would have him accept how he looks. He can’t change it much, so he should accept it.

I aways feel guilty about everything.

I don’t feel guilty about anything.  I don’t have fears. If something happens, so what? The guilt is pointless and ridiculous!

What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of his life?

Getting rid of the guilt

I would take risks with girls

I’m not lazy; I am awake and alive! I’d focus on that!

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for James to imagine that he is you and act as you would?

When he’s feeling guilty.

When he talks to girls.

When he thinks about his body.

Why do you think that you are in James’ life?

As a Monster I came to get him to hurt him! I came to James as thin air to help him see what he is and to make his life better. I want to change what the monster has done, to make it right.

Why do you think a person would want to scare themselves?

I don’t know!

James, what have you heard yourself say?

I was scaring myself. I learn can stop scaring myself.

If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?

I can choose to let go of my fear.

James was encouraged to read over this interview at night, before he goes to sleep, to change the pattern of his dreams. Dream drama, whether we remember it or not, affects our waking mood.  If we can change our dreams we can change how we feel about ourselves and our lives.

 

James was also encouraged to ask himself, at different times during the day  how scared he feels, on a scale of 0 – 10, with zero being terrified and 10 being not scared at all.  He is then to imagine his nightmare monster the size of that number – a “seven” monster would be smaller than a “four” monster, for example.  Then he gets to choose what he wants to do with this monster. Shall he stay afraid and make it bigger? Shall he ignore it, in hopes that it will go away? Shall he talk to it? What? Then James is to inhale thin air. When he does so he is to fill himself with the qualities of that air: a ten in fearless confidence, inner peace, and witnessing, and then see what that’s like for him.

 

Like James, we have a choice. We can avoid our fears, in which case they get bigger, or we can forget them, like Harry Potter does Voldemort, and conquer them.