This week, I’m on the South Shore running an intensive Veterans Retreat. It’s a chance to disconnect from everything, and spend uninterrupted time devoted to assisting injured veterans and first responders recover from trauma exposure.
We sit in a close knit circle, and start each morning by asking participants how they slept, and whether they had any new insights following the work we did on the previous day. Most importantly, we ask them if they had any dreams. Whether they’re good or bad, I’ve come to appreciate the value of dreams in trauma recovery.
No one likes having nightmares. As children, we’re taught to try to not think about them, distracting ourselves from the images that most disturb us.
The problem with trying to suppress thoughts is that it keeps them bubbling to the surface while we sleep. Let’s call it our nocturnal internal guidance system.
The brain knows what it wants to process. Whether we like it or not, bad dreams are our mind’s way of letting us know that we have unprocessed memories or emotions that need unloading.
So, I bet you know what I’m going to say next…the only way to stop the bad dreams is to work through the underlying cause.
It’s only by shining a light on our darkest places that we are able to remove the threat… see what needs to be seen so that we can move forward.
Strange as it seems, dreams (good or bad) are our friends. They serve as our inner compass, pointing us in the direction of where we need to look.
So instead of shying away from bad dreams, consider leaning forward, taking a closer look at what your subconscious is trying to tell you. It’ll generally point you in the direction of health.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong