Treating PTSD With Lucid Dreaming
Even though there seem to be an almost infinite number of things which divide humanity – skin color, gender, wealth or the lack thereof, etc. – humanity does share commonalities too. We all eat and drink and breathe. We all need to interact with others, to love and be loved. And we all dream.
In times past dreams were considered of more importance than today. They were seen as portals to other realms, communications with the future, the gods, or with those we loved but who are now gone. Today though dreams are often considered nothing more than interesting, devoid of any real value or meaning. However, that perspective is changing as science learns more about dreams and what they mean for our health and well-being. This includes their relevance for treating such mental health issues as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD occurs when a person has experienced or witnessed a terrifying event. Although this trauma is often associated with wars and soldiers it can and does happen to anyone. A man in a car accident, a woman who sees someone murdered, those who are the victims of crimes such as rape and violent muggings, etc. The symptoms include anger, fear, nervousness, nightmares, and guilt. While these are all normal symptoms at first, for most these symptoms fade away after a month or so. For the PTSD victim, they do not. The symptoms stay and they are not able to live their lives and function as well as before.
Clinical psychologist Dr. J. Timothy Green’s article, “Lucid Dreaming in the Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, discusses how he has used lucid dreaming to treat some of his PTSD patients.
One of his cases dealt with a 12 year old girl who had suffered severe injuries when she went to help her brother when he was being attacked by two dogs. Although her physical injuries had longed heal, she still suffered from nightmares of being chased by these two dogs and hiding behind a tree. These dreams were, of course, accompanied by a great deal of fear.
Dr. Green then, “explained lucid dreaming to her and suggested that each night as she fell asleep she mentally and emotionally visualize herself back into the dream at the point where she was hiding behind the tree. As she imagined herself behind the tree, I suggested she say to herself, “This is my dream.” I explained that if she was able to become aware that she was dreaming, there is nothing to fear from the dogs who were only images in her dream. This being the case, she could then change the dream in any way she wished to.”
Two weeks later the girl came in and told him that she had followed his suggestion. When she found herself aware that she was dreaming and behind the tree again, instead of cowering in fear she had stepped out and told the dogs that she “wanted them to turn into hot dogs, which they did.” After eating the hot dogs in her dream, her nightmares never returned.
Tools for Wellness has products that provide both more information about lucid dreaming, such as Dr. Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold’s excellent book “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” , but also products such as the REM Dreamer Lucid Dreaming Induction Sleep Mask Device that can help you in achieving lucid dreaming.