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How to cure nightmares( both a period and a question mark)

From the time I was ten until twenty-seven I had the same nightmare every single night. It was, I can tell you, a real nightmare. The nightmares were made worse when my parents’ physician prescribed sleeping pills to give my parents a good nights sleep. Yes, my parents’ physician gave me( a 10-year-old girl) sleeping pills so I would stay asleep through the night. You see, my nightmares were an annoyance to my parents. What was an annoyance to them was a terror for me. The usual pattern of a nightmare is you have it and then you wake up. Maybe someone comes and sits with you and tells you everything is okay and coos to you kind words about how you are safe and nothing can hurt you. That is not what happened to me. My pattern was have the nightmare and then stay stuck in the nightmare thanks to the pharmaceutical wallop I was given each night before bed. And so instead of waking  and escaping from the terrifying man, who was trying to kill me, via waking, I would keep dreaming( or more accurately, nightmaring) and my parents sleep went undisturbed.

I quit having the nightmare when I was twenty-seven. I remember the last time I had it. I woke up from the nightmare and I had had it. I was sick of this guy chasing me and threatening me and telling me he was going to kill me. I was sick to death of it. I woke up from the dream and said the following, “go ahead, kill me”. And that was it, that was the last time I had that nightmare. As soon as I gave the monster permission to kill me he lost interest in the chase.

Well, my friends, for the last six months I have been having a repeating nightmare. The details and locations of the nightmare change from night to night but the theme of the dream is EXACTLY the same. In the dream Keith has left me or is leaving me.  And each time I have the dream I wake feeling sad and scared and shaken. He is usually right there next to me in bed when I wake from these nightmares. Sometimes he isn’t and then I get really freaked out. I had ANOTHER one of these doozies last night. When I woke up he wasn’t in bed and I felt extremely scared and anxious and almost inconsolable.  He was only twelve-feet away and working at his desk, but in my post-nightmare haze it felt like he was in Siberia and I was in the nether-regions of the Moon. When he heard me crying he got in bed and told me he was right there and it was just a dream, only that didn’t help. It’s a dream I have almost nightly. It’s a dream I am SICK to death of. It is a dream that my analyst and I keep trying to analyze away. My fantasy is that if I could only crack the code of the dream and figure out exactly why I am dreaming it then it will stop tormenting me.

For a while I thought it was an anxiety dream. I was afraid that he would leave me. I finally found love and I was afraid I would lose it. I worked that interpretation through to its logical conclusion, only the nightmare came back the very next night. Keith suggested that perhaps it was the banana I was eating before bed that was causing the nightmares( Keith tends to blame bananas for everything from mosquito bites to nightmares. I am not exactly sure what bananas did to him, but they are for sure a culinary scapegoat). I quit eating the bananas the nightmare remained. Then my analyst asked if I was perhaps leaving him and my dream was making it the other way round? Well, there’s truth in that. When I feel scared and my attachment issues are activated I do find that I want to run away. I want to be the one who is leaving and to not be left. And I am REALLY in this relationship and being REALLY in it makes me feel vulnerable and afraid that he might leave me( my waking anxiety about this tends to go to, “he’ll die and I’ll be alone”). Whenever that feeling hits the surface I want to put my running shoes on and run away and protect myself from the pain of losing him.

This morning when I told Keith how sick and tired I am of having him leave me every-night. He told me, “I wish I had a pill for you to take and make it go away.” I told him I wished he did too.

Today I will go see my analyst and I will talk about this dream again. I will tell her that we have to figure it out. I will implore her to give me an interpretation that will satisfy my psyche and liberate me from this “Groundhog’s Day“.

I do wonder if doing what I did with the other nightmare would work with this one. Only I can’t bring myself to say out loud, “Go ahead and leave me.” I just can’t do it.

12 Responses to “How to cure nightmares( both a period and a question mark)”

  • I understand not wanting to say those words aloud! But maybe you could say something else, like, “Even if you did leave me, I’d be okay. I’ve been okay before and I will again.” Just a thought.

  • Oh, I can totally relate. I used to have a similar recurring nightmare where my bf was leaving me. I didn’t stop having them until I attended some dream workshops hosted by the local Jung society. Up until then, I had talked about them in therapy but I never seemed to get anywhere and I still kept having them. I finally realized that nightmares always ended with me yelling and screaming at him and backing him into a corner until he couldn’t speak, which is exactly what my mom used to do to me. So, in some ways it was less about the fear of him leaving me and more about fear of turning into my mother. Once I hit on the mom aspect of things, I stopped having the dreams.

  • Well… This is what I think. I think saying that might just work, of course I am not going anywhere, just to let you know .
    Those damm bananas are another story though !!

    • Keith, I mean this in a perfectly respectful, bounded, and appropriate way: I love you! You are awesome –so awesome that you are deserving of dear Belette. Also, I agree with your advice, particularly if Belette uses BLissed out Grandma’s phrasing.

  • My kidlet has some pretty bad dreams, herself. (She is paranormal sensitive – which is the main culprit of the dreams) I may not remember the fact that she had the dream (Ambien), but the next morning I wake up with my 21 yr old sleeping in between me and the hubs.
    Bananas ARE The Devil. They give me mini asthma attacks..

  • I had recurring nightmares all through my childhood, and still occasionally have nightmares although not as often.

    I hope you manage to get rid of the buggers, and btw can Keith be any nicer?

  • Sending up prayers for peaceful, restful slumber.

    Bananas before bed? High glycemic index – no good, make mind too active (sorry can’t help quoting my sweet elderly Chinese lady neighbor). I second (or is it third now?) Keith on banana-mozie theory.


  • I can tell your sweetie loves you :).

  • I’m late to this conversation and I sincerely hope you’ve banished this nightmare by now. If it is about fear of losing Keith go ahead and banish it. If you are afraid of running, which does make some sense in a weird way you have to banish that part of yourself. Maybe you have to tell the runner to stop running, that running solves nothing and is only self-defeating, that you aren’t going to run again and that the runner can’t hurt you, only himself.

    Oh, and I agree about bananas before bed…too much sugar.

    I had recurring nightmares all through my childhood, and occasionally since, but at the moment I am nightmare free.

  • Being afraid to lose something (especially love) is not a place we want to be… Fear is creating these nightmares… Just like you faced your fears and your previous nightmare went away, so will this one… You need to be strong and not be afraid of it… Remember the Law of Attraction, like attracts like… So if you are always fearing, you will always fear because you are in that state and what ever state you are in comes right back to you…
    Be strong and remember that this is only fear that you will be telling this to and maybe you’ll break away those chains that bind you to that fear…
    But I can tell you this, too much fear can manifest itself so be careful and make this fear go away now…
    Read or listen to The Secret from Rhonda Byrne and The Power from Rhonday Byrne…
    Wish you the best girl and hang in there and knock fear out of your life for good…

  • I have awful nightmares, I am regularly slashed, beheaded, lose limbs, really horrific stuff. I wish someone would sedate me before bed. We should FaceTime in the middle of the night!

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About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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