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Sexual abuse dreams

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A couple of years back, I’ve been having dreams of being molested as a child for two consecutive nights. In the meantime, I had ignored the dreams but I must say that whenever I think about it I felt disturbed. However, I had managed to keep it from everyone all this while – even my clinical psychologist whom I used to work with for 13 months.

My new therapist hinted to do psychoanalysis aka “digging” to uncover my disordered eating issues. When I heard that, I went into a “panic frenzy” because I’m afraid of what would come out. And then this dream came back to haunt for the first time. I began to wonder if it has contributed to my general absence of interest with sexual relationships, and the constant fear of being followed by men or that something would happen.

In the dream, I was about two years of age. I was carried by a man (whose identity I couldn’t recall, but I have a slight feeling that he was someone who might have played a part in taking care of me), sat on a bench or raised surface, had my private parts touched, and then let go. I remember a sense of terror in that little girl (me).

Of course, I have absolutely no memory of what has happened. I mustered enough courage to ask my mum if she knew anything about abuse – but she said no. Now, I can’t get the dream out of my head…even though I no longer dream about it.

Is it possible that the abuse took place, or can it be just a random nightmare? Or can it signify something else – like another form of abuse? Thanks for your help.

Sexual abuse dreams

Answered by on -

A.

I appreciate you taking the time to write. The dreams sound very uncomfortable. Let’s see if we can deal with them in a helpful way.

I am a firm believer in the fact that dreams come along to help us cope with something from the past, present or future. Your disturbing dreams lend themselves to the meaning you have ascribed, namely, being abused. But there are too many unanswered issues and an accurate understanding of the or meaning is unknown. Sometimes dreams are symbolic, so other feelings of being violated or victimized may be emerging with this imagery, and sometimes they are fragments of memories.

But the difficult part is coping with the intrusive imagery, so my emphasis is to take a functional problem-solving focus on this dream. Let’s deal with it the way it is without interpretation.

The technique is called dreaming-the-dream-forward and treats your dream like the first and second act of a three-act play. Instead of the dream ending where it does — dream it forward. Add a third act that brings the dream to an okay place. This may take some experimentation, but the idea is to evolve the dreaming imagery to a place that does not distress you so greatly. Play with the imagery and content until you can evolve the ending. Be creative – it’s your dream.

Psychology Today’s website further describes Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT). It instructs one to follow three easy steps:

“1. Jot down a description of a recent nightmare. If this nightmare is too upsetting, pick another.
2. Think of a way to change the nightmare. In developing IRT, Krakow recommends leaving this open-ended, so that clients can decide for themselves how the nightmare should end.
3. Set aside a few minutes each day to imagine this altered version of the nightmare. Paint a mental picture that can boost the likelihood of the nightmare being changed in a positive way.”

I will encourage you to work with your new therapist in the here and now about your anxiety. Rather than the past (which sounds too upsetting to explore for now) allow yourself to ask what issues in your life now may be activating a dream of being violated or victimized. This should help focus your effort on coping and understanding the purpose of the dream.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

Sexual abuse dreams

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Sexual abuse dreams. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 15, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/10/sexual-abuse-dreams/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Jun 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Jun 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.