How to Stop Recurring Nightmares

First let’s look at some data on sleep. We spend one third of life sleeping! This is an important portion of our life. The studies so far have determined that our body and brain need this rest to recuperate physically and mentally.

Today’s scientists can now use sophisticated research instruments to understand the mysteries of mental functioning. Nevertheless, the functioning of the human brain is immensely complex and we still know very little.

In terms of mental recuperation, sleeping is a cleansing process, just like washing your dirty clothes. Sleeping flushes out the waste products just like a laundry machine.

Moreover, dreams helps the brain to sort out all the information that your were exposed to during the day. Therefore, the brain region responsible for memory decides what to keep and what to discard.

Now let’s look at the nightmares. Anxiety seems to be the main cause of these nasty dreams. Anything that worries you could become the trigger for nightmares.

Most people have nightmares once in a while whether because of an extremely emotional event in the past or a future event they dread to experience. For example, someone told me that he had nightmares for several nights after he watched how they washed the body of his father and prepare it for burial. A future event such as an exam or appearance at a court trial can also cause nightmares.

Therefore, at a both biological and psychological level, we need to experience nightmares. A bad dream is a necessary phenomenon. It prepares us to better face daily fears as well as acting as a discharge!

However, recurrent nightmares become a nuisance. They can even cause anxiety during the day since some people have flash backs of the dream during the day.

Here are two ways to stop regular nightmares:

1) Every night, siting or lying in bed, at your sleep time, imagine your recurrent nightmares. Start from the beginning of the nightmare but change the ending to a pleasant or funny one.

Act as if you were the director of a stage play. You are the director as well as the protagonist. Tell yourself how to act differently in order to have a happy ending.

Repeat this for seven nights. Each night change the setting the content of the nightmare. One night you can set the story in the ancient civilization (Greek, Egyptians, Aztecs, Romans, etc.). Another night see your nightmare as a comedy show.

2) You can also dedicate a time and space for writing out your nightmare. Set aside a time in the morning or in the afternoon. Sit at a desk in a room on your own. Make sure there are no distractions such as music, telephones, etc. Set an alarm clock for 30 minutes. Get few white papers and a pen. Begin to write out your nightmare in detail. Make sure you visualize as you write all the details of your dream. Feel free to get scared or cry as much as you want. Write and let the emotions flow.

Stay in the room and keep writing and feeling scared until the alarm goes off. Shut the alarm and stop writing. Tear the papers into small pieces and throw them away. Get out of the room and wash your face with cool water.

Practice this assignment for 7 days and let me know how it went.

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Seneca’s Counter Intuitive Advice for Anxiety

Some time ago a woman contacted me for online sessions. Her challenge was her loss of joy in life due to a series of health problems and anxiety.

In her own words, often her day would start well but someone would ruin it for her. She would get angry and then sad for not being able to respond to them in a serene fashion. She would feel frustrated because she would start the day with a positive mental attitude but someone would annoy her. She felt vulnerable and didn’t know what to do.

I told her to follow Seneca’s advice. According to this stoic philosopher “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” And the solution, according to Seneca, resides in the imagination. For this reason he recommends to start the day imagining the worse case scenarios. We can visualize that several people such as the neighbor, boss driver, colleagues, partner, and others or unexpected events ruin our day. Once we fantasize in our imagination our activities that could go wrong, our mind gets ready for in case it does happen in real life. It’s like vaccinating yourself against unexpected negative events.

Seneca called this exercise premeditatio malorum, which means the premonition of evil.

She decided to give it a try. After few weeks she wrote me this message:

“I write to you to tell you something exceptional! Today after almost four years I went to swim. And I did it! The feeling of immersing my head in the water was like a baptism.

It has been a long time that I wasn’t feeling so good!

I’m applying your advice on a daily basis. I begin to see results. I feel hopeful as well as thrilled. During a long time I had lost both of them.

I wanted to share it with you and thank you again.”

To book an online appointment click here.

 

The Two Emotions That Govern Our Lives

The two emotions that govern our lives are PAIN and PLEASURE. Pain makes us avoid unpleasant experiences while pleasure compels us to desire what is enjoyable. These two emotions are mother nature´s way for self-preservation.

All the other emotions are offshoots of these two primary sensations. The two other main powerful emotions that are related to pain are FEAR and ANGER. These two emotions influence our behaviour in a very powerful way.

Fear is the strongest of all emotions because it serves as a protective mechanism. Anger also has a positive function. It let us know when we, or others, are treated unjustly. Without fear and anger we would not survive in this world. Therefore, even if often we describe some emotions as negative, they are all useful in some context.

Our emotions become a problem when we are not able to manage them. Either we try to avoid the unavoidable or control the uncontrollable. Or worse of all, we delegate the responsibility of our emotions to others.

Our emotions are ours. Even if other people or certain life events cause us feel one of these unwanted emotions, ultimately, we are in charge of how we feel. We can always decide how to express them.

First we ought to recognize that what we feel is human. After acknowledging a certain emotion we must remember that it is fulfilling a purpose. For example, when you get angry, your mind and body is alerting you about an injustice. This injustice is, of course, according to your perception and belief system. This is a useful signal! The next step is to find a way to channel it in a healthy way without hurting yourself or anyone else.