Q. I am 22, and just suffering from depression. I do not know what has caused my depresssion or if there is a cause, however I have done lots of searching within myself. I have found that I have strange dreams and nightmares. I have had a reoccuring nightmare of being intimate with my father, not always involving sex, but being intimate. When I have this dream I feel guilty and scared. Every time I have the dream it feels like the first time, but then I remember that I’ve had the dream before and I pretend like I didn’t dream it. I have never asked anyone about this dream, I am too scared. I am afraid that it’s just a dream, but I am more afraid that it may have really happened. I struggle with trust issues, and I always have my entire life, especially with men. I do not know if this ties into these dreams? I am starting to feel awkward around my father. How do I make this dream stop, but most of all how do I know if it’s more than just a dream?

A. To know what these dreams mean, I would have to talk in-depth with you about various aspects of your life. With few exceptions, it is difficult to interpret a dream or set of dreams without having more knowledge of an individual’s personal life. But, having said this I do have a few thoughts regarding your dreams based on the information you have provided.

It is not uncommon for memories of sexual abuse to surface through dreams. For various reasons, these memories can be buried. One reason may be that the abuse was too difficult for a person to deal with at the time that it had occurred. The memories may be psychologically blocked through unconscious defense mechanisms, namely repression. This may explain why you do not have any conscious memory of this event. It is possible to forget events that did occur.

Another reason you may have no memory of these events is that the abuse occurred when you were very young and it can be difficult to access these memories. Many people cannot recall much information about their lives before the age of four or five.

The fact that these dreams keep occurring may indicate that they may be true. Reoccurring dreams are usually signals that important information is trying to be conveyed. Generally, reoccurring dreams are saying “pay attention, this is a problem or issue that needs to be resolved or dealt with.” It may be that a message is trying to be conveyed to you. In your case it may be that what is trying to be relayed to you is something about sexual abuse and your father.

You also have very strong feelings associated with the dreams. This is another indication that the dreams may be true. Another sign that these dreams may be accurate is that, by your own observation, you have been struggling with trust issues regarding men. If your dreams are true, the sexual abuse could explain why you have had, your entire life, trust issues with men. It might also explain in part your depression. All of these aforementioned factors signify that you may have experienced some form of sexual abuse.

You may never know if these dreams are true and accurate. But I would suggest that you pay attention to them. They may be trying to send you a message. The dreams may stop once you acknowledge that it is a possibility that the abuse occurred. It’s equally possible that the dreams may continue to reveal more of what may have happened. You, however, will not be able control your dreams, no matter how hard you try.

Usually these dreams begin to occur at a point in an individual’s life when he or she is psychologically ready to hear them. This might explain why they are occurring now.

I suggest that if you are having difficultly fully understanding these dreams or if you are having trouble handling the information that may be being relayed to you about your father, consult a therapist. A therapist can help you adjust to this new information and may even be able to work with you, using this new information, to address your trust issues with men and your depression. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Jun 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Nightmares of Sexual Abuse But No Memory of it Occuring. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/06/02/nightmares-of-sexual-abuse-but-no-memory-of-it-occuring/