What Are Nightmares Telling Us?

Nightmares are dreams that are terrifying, stressful, and anxiety-provoking to the point of waking us up abruptly during sleep.  Such imagery breaks through the barrier of sleep into wakefulness and can feel so real it leaves us perplexed.  Upon waking, we’re often unable to know if it was a dream or if it was real.  Blood pressure becomes elevated, heart rate increases, confusion, fear,   and other somatic sensations can be felt in association with the dream imagery.  So why is it that after many millennia of human evolution, frightening nightmares still persist in the human psyche?

When examined closely, it appears that nightmares are very adaptable in that they are alerting the dreamer to a waking day situation that needs to be dealt with.  Whether it’s a situation from the past or the present, there is some waking day condition that is detrimental to the dreamer.  The condition can be life threatening, simply upsetting, or anything in between.  It can be emotional, physical, relational, or all of these entwined into one.  The most important concern is that whatever it is, it’s significant enough to wake us from the sleep state to get our attention.  That is, the psyche is making itself aware of a significant life condition and doing so in a manner that’s difficult to ignore.

A nightmare is calling attention to the dreamer to “wake up” to something in waking life that needs to be changed or acknowledged.  Hence, nightmares act as an internal alarm system for us, alerting us of impending danger.  The danger could be something that needs emotional healing, physical healing, or attention.  It could be a relationship we are ignoring and because of this, it’s starting to sour yet we’re unaware of what we’re doing.  It could be a health issue that needs to be attended to before it gets serious.  It could be a past emotional pain resurfacing because it was never fully healed. In other words, nightmares are waking us up and calling us to become a more expanded version of ourselves.  They wake us up to pay attention and make necessary changes for our own growth so we do not repeat the mistakes of our past.  They are a friend warning us that we need to change something because it’s vital for us to do so. Like a family member who yells at us to wake because the house is on fire.  Interestingly, if we ignore the message and continue with the same behaviour in waking day, we get burnt over and over again.  Interestingly, when we ignore nightmares they tend to recur because our own psyche will not leave us alone when we’re in imminent danger.

So the paradox of nightmares is that their purpose is to wake us from the drama of waking life and to expand our consciousness into a state of greater awareness.  They wake us up from our very own patterns of thinking and behaving.  The cycles can be of pain and suffering, repetitive behaviours of playing victim or villain, or whatever it is that consumes us while we’re awake.  These may be cycles of good and bad relationships, happiness and boredom in our work, family situations, health challenges, illness, or any of the myriad of situations that are the scenes playing out our waking life.  They are all scenes within waking life to wake us up to a much bigger reality.  Just as dream scenes are part of one reality, wakefulness is part of another, and we can wake up from that too.

So what does it mean to “wake up” in waking life? It means we are no longer living unconsciously and making choices without realizing what we’re doing.  We are not in bad marriages blaming the spouse.  We are not in dead-end jobs and blaming the boss.  We take full responsibility for what we’re doing and the choices we’re making.  We realize that we are the masters of our own lives and we start living as if this is so.  No blame.  No victims.  No villains.  From here, life choices come from a place of self-awareness and are made consciously rather than reactively.

In this awakened state we can hear our own voice when we speak.  We can feel our body as it moves and breathes with life.  We see each of our actions as purposeful and very much alive.  We are awake to our own life-force and we participate with it.  We are aware that we are aware.

Of course we can always go back to sleep if we wish and forget that we ever knew how it felt to be in the new awakened state.  We can go back to our repetitive patterns of joy and suffering, living as if life is coming at us and we’re all simply victims to that force.  However, our best friend and commandant will be there once again to frighten us with dream imagery and yet another nightmare, until we wake up once and for all and only then, is the nightmare over.

Sweet Dreams,


Teresa L. DeCicco, PhD is the author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses” available at the BUY NOW button at the top of the page and in bookstores everywhere.  See more of her work at http://www.teresadecicco.orgwoman-702012_640


What I Know For Sure About Addiction

Addiction is a pervasive, deeply ingrained ailment that has no respect for age, gender, culture or socio-economic status. While some people are plagued with addiction or multiple addictions, others are victim to its effects by being in relationship with addicts; spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends.  Having been embedded into a family where addiction played a major role in the story of my life, there are a few things I have learned about this phenomenon.  What I’ve learned comes from my professional training entwined with personal experience where the two became a great force unto themselves.  The truth is, it was this combination of education and experience that allowed me to heal the effects of addiction because it plagued people I loved so dearly.  I needed to find out what this was, how it came to be, how it could be healed, and this is what I found.

Firstly, it seems that the substance or behaviour associated with addiction can be just about anything. It can be alcohol, drugs, food, video gaming, exercise, pornography, cigarettes, social media, sugar, or anything else that gets a hold of one’s will.  The pull and draw is so great that it literally overtakes resolve and determination.  The allurement is a force so strong it eventually changes a person into some unrecognizable, distorted version of themselves.  The substance or behaviour however, does not seem to hold all the power, for it does not matter what the object of desire may be.  In fact, when the object is removed or avoided, it’s often replaced with yet another point of attraction.  Alcohol is replaced with sex addiction.  Cigarettes are replaced with food.  Food is replaced with video gaming and drugs; the cycle can be endless.  So the source of addiction seems to be a deep and pervasive issue lying within the addict. It’s something that calls forth with a desire to be fed substances or behaviours, at all cost.  It’s as though there is an invisible intruder hiding within.

This secret intruder inside the addict will demand what it wants no matter who it harms or what the cost.  Though at first there’s great gain from numbing this mysterious prowler, eventually, it will rob its host blind.  Entire families will be destroyed, finances will be in ruin, teeth are lost, illness is ignored until everything and everyone is fed to this need.  Herein rests the truth about addiction.  It’s a complex neurological, psychological and emotional wound within an individual that wants to be soothed and numbed with something outside the self.

While the addict is fighting the inner battle or feeding the invisible wound, everyone exposed to this are then inflicted with a similar wound.  Children who try to love an addicted parent are left unloved with their own inner pain.  Spouses and partners who are feeding their addiction inflict a wound onto anyone who attempts to pair up with them in any way.  Parents are inflicted with a wound when a child is unable to reciprocate love because they are controlled by an inner tormentor.  The wounds from addiction are passed on to anyone involved with an active addict, so much so, that pain and suffering become contagious.

So how can the pain be stopped and the inner wounds healed in addicts and non-addicts alike?  There is in fact a healing force in opposite but equal power to the pain and suffering that can do this healing.  This invisible force of life is that which heals bones when they are broken and flesh when it is cut.  It can heal all things if it’s allowed in to do its magic and can heal wounds deeply embedded in the psyche. For addicts, this force of healing can be found in treatment centers, 12 step programs, in churches, and spiritual groups, to name a few.  It can be given many names, higher power, life force, essence, God, whatever name resonates, but the force is one and the same.  Though the road to recovery can be slow and arduous, it can also occur instantaneously for some.  Whatever the path of recovery for any addict, once it has been initiated and effort is put forth, the results are magnanimous.  Lives are healed. Families are mended.  Success is to be had in every single facet of life.  This is where everyday miracles lie.

So what I know for sure is that addiction and all those inflicted by the wounds of addiction by loved ones, can truly be healed.  There is a way and I have seen it heal many people over and over again both professionally and personally.  It has healed family members, friends, co-workers and it continues to heal those who are ready for a new life.  What I know for sure is that when one person heals the effects of addiction through the force of life itself, the whole world gets a little better.

With love and gratitude to those who are recovering or yet to recover,


Author of “Living Beyond the Five Senses”.  Available at the BUY NOWbutton at the top of the page and in bookstores everywhere.addiction pic