I used to have this dream almost every week where I would walk out of my bedroom. As I walked past the bathroom, the door would open and this monster would come out and chase after me. The dream would end as I jumped down the stairs.
This dream went on and on until one night, instead of running, I stopped and said hello to this monster. He said “hi” back to me. That is how the dream ended and I never had any of those dreams again.
–jason, age 14, male, single, NY
Welcome to “Conquering Your Fears: 101.” Judging by your dream report, you graduated from this class with flying colors!
Your dream is an excellent illustration of how people can learn to conquer their nightmares — by facing up to the fears they always represent.
In younger people’s dreams, monsters tend to be symbols for a wide variety of fears. As kids in a “big person’s” world, monsters often represent adults we know (or have seen) who frighten us. Adults, like monsters, are bigger and stronger than we are; and sometimes they can act mean, get angry, or yell at us — for no apparent reason.
Based on your dream, we don’t know what in particular you used to be afraid of. It may have been fears we all face growing up: doubts about our abilities, being nervous in social situations (like at school or with friends), or problems with your parents or family.
Once you decided to face your fears (you got tired of jumping down the stairs) the monster never came back. What’s the message of this dream? Monsters, like our fears, grow bigger when we “put them in a closet.” This is why it’s important, when you have a scary dream, to figure out what’s making you nervous. When you look at a monster straight in the eyes, he immediately starts to shrink — and usually leaves for good.
Congratulations on having the courage to face your fears!
Charles McPhee is a graduate of Princeton University and holds a master’s in communication management from the University of Southern California. He received his board certification to perform polysomnographic testing for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders in 1992. McPhee is the former Director of the Sleep Apnea Patient Treatment Program at the Sleep Disorders Center of Santa Barbara, California; the former coordinator of the Sleep Disorders Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA , and the former coordinator of the sleep research laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. Please visit his website for further information.