Why You're Having Nightmares (And What They Mean)

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Last night, I witnessed a handful of people be brutally murdered - in my dream, that is. I was in a warehouse, and one of the walls was made of glass, so I could see the masked gunmen as they approached, right before they shot everyone who was with me I the room. I woke feeling unsettled, to say the least. I have incredibly vivid dreams, in which I go through the experiences feeling as though they were actually happening. Moreover, most nights, I remember my dreams.

I've dreamt of men breaking in through my window to kill me. I've dreamt of of evil spirits, dark figures, violence, rape, and a whole sleuth of of morose topics. But why? What causes nightmares? And what do they mean?

Our dreams are a way for our subconscious mind to communicate with us. Freud understood this, and it's a widely accepted understanding in popular psychology. That's the real reason why most people don't remember their dreams: they're not ready to hear what their subconscious has to reveal. 

The first key to understanding our dreams is to recognize that they are symbolic. A dream about death doesn't mean that your untimely demise is upon you, and a dream about your teeth falling out doesn't mean that you have to rush to the dentist. 

Rather, our subconscious minds are conveying our fears, transitions in our lives, blocks that are surfacing, or emotions we're not willing to look at.

Oftentimes, our fears will surface at the exact time in our life that we are doing the best in terms of mindfulness, amount of joy we're feeling, and level of personal growth we're experience. As we become more conscious, we bring to light that which we've repressed. So what does that look like? Let's say you have become aware that your overeating is a result of you trying to push people await; you've done a lot of work on yourself, and in doing so, you've learned that your'e carrying the weight as a barrier because really, deep down, you don't want to let anyone in. As soon as you become conscious of that and start making radical steps in your life to shed the weight, your subconscious mind will send you messages - about how your transitioning, or things to let go of; it will show you where you've been fearful. Maybe you'll have a dream about your parents that will be symbolic of how you've been overeating because of something traumatic that happened between them.

Our fears arise the more conscious we become.

My dream about death, for instance, is a result of my deepening into my spiritual practice. I've been doing a lot of meditating, reading mindfulness texts, journaling, and repeating mantras. One part of my life is ending - or at least, it feels like it is ending, energetically; my dream about death is about my strong desire to let go of that part of my life - to quite literally, kill it off.

If your teeth are falling out in your dream, it may be symbolic of your not expressing your voice.

If you're drowning in your dream (I've had that happen quite a few times), you might feel overwhelmed because you feel the pull of your desires but aren't living them out in your waking life.

Here are the questions to meditate on when you have a dream that you are struggling to interpret:

What changes do I want to make in my life that my subconscious mind is calling me to make?

What fears/resistance/negative attitudes can I release? (Fear is at the root of all nightmares.)

How might this dream actually be positive?

Consider each question will sitting quietly, and then journal. You are the only one who can truly interpret the meaning of your nightmares, and if you aren't receptive to the messages your subconscious mind is sending you, it will continue to send them, so be sure to listen. Each dream is a doorway to a more self-actualized, empowered version of yourself. Each dream is a key to greater consciousness, greater awareness; your. nightmares are gifts to further the expansion of your consciousness.