The news of the world can often be stressful but nothing seems to be hitting home quite as much as this quarantine. With all of the uncertainty, are you having long days of anxiety and even longer nights of nightmares? Or maybe nightmares are just an occasional problem but you’d still like a way to prevent them?
Let’s practice a little imagery rehearsal for good dreams. Imagery rehearsal is a technique that is used, especially in people suffering from PTSD, to transform dreams to a positive experience. We’ll do just a taste here and I encourage you to look into it further if nightmares are something you’ve been struggling with.
To start, think of a stressful dream you’ve had. Really go into the details of it in your mind. But when you get towards the end, instead of the stressful outcome you’ve previously experienced in the dream, I want you to imagine a better outcome. The great thing about dreams is that anything can happen. You can even imagine magical powers, or a person or superhero that swoops in to save you. You can imagine that you can snap your fingers in the dream and instantly be in your favorite place. Just think of something that would feel satisfying to you and reverse the negative feelings caused by the dream.
Have an idea of your new dream during the day and then ‘rehearse’ it. This means imagining the dream as it usually happens and purposefully imagining the more positive outcome, over and over as one would rehearse a play. Really get into the feeling of how powerful, or relieved, or safe, you feel in this new rendition. Once you’ve practiced this in your mind during the day, do so right before bed.
There is a part of your mind that is conscious during sleep and will remember what you’ve told it to do. It may take several nights of rehearsal but the outcome can be very powerful to change the dream.
Once your stressful dream, or nightmare, is no longer an issue, you can use this practice to just create enjoyable dreams to experience, or to give you ideas or solve problems at night. It can be such a powerful experience to realize how much you can use your brain as a tool to feel good, even during the seemingly unconscious act of sleeping.
If you’d like to know more about how you react to difficult situations and get a free recording and tips to empower you to shift the way you feel, take my Free Quiz
Alicia Ruelaz Maher, M.D.