Painful Dreaming

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. When I was 7 years old, i spent the summer with my grandparents and my uncle, aunt and cousins. My uncle molested me throughout that summer. I never shared this with my family. They still don’t know. In fact, it had been a complete secret until I shared it with my therapist last year (whom I have been seeing for 2 years now). She is the only therapist I have ever seen. She is very good and I trust her more than I’ve trusted anyone – but I don’t really trust people that much. I have been dreaming a lot about things that happened that summer. They are so real and I wake up terrified, sweating, and short of breath. I feel dirty and have to take a hot bath in the dark (just as I did as a child after being with him). It has gotten bad enough that I fear going to sleep and will go for 2 or 3 days with only short naps during the early evenings (I tend to dream less during the day when there is light and noise). I have to push myself to go to work because I feel so completely extinguished before the day has begun – my mind feels so foggy. I have allowed my uncle to take over again – how do I control my unconcious mind? In therapy there is like a dam holding all this water back and i can only let just enough water out to keep the water from spilling from the top. Does this make sense? I begin to speak of that time and I literally can’t get the words out. And my therapist doesn’t push. She says we’ll take it slow. If I’m not pushed, I’ll always be too fearful to talk. So, if you know, how do I rid myself of these dreams? I appreciate any advice.

A. Be patient. The process is just starting with your therapist. The world of dreams is a complex and mysterious one. There is no way that you can control your unconscious mind. Dreams of any nature, good or bad, occur when the unconscious is ready to produce them and there is nothing that you can do to control them. If the dreams are so persistent and unending, there is a potential message that these dreams are trying to send to you, one in which it may be necessary for you to hear. All that you can do, with the help of your therapist, is learn to understand them and seek their meaning. If you do not feel that your therapist is not equipped to help you with this matter, perhaps she can refer you to someone who is more skilled in this area.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Sep 2006

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2006). Painful Dreaming. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/09/25/painful-dreaming/