A psychologist friend and I were getting lunch at a military event where we volunteering — I said something about working with nightmares to her. A Soldier approached me and said, “Can you do something about nightmares?” “Sometimes” I told him.
We don’t understand why nightmares occur.
Here are some things we can do about them:
1. Talk out your nightmares with a psychologist. Talking about nightmares chan change them – makes them go away, come less often, or be less toxic.
Go through them slowly – maybe you can only do a little at a time. Include the emotions you felt in the dream, and the emotions you feel as you tell it. A well trained psychologist may catch themes of the dream that you did not. Or you might see things you didn’t see before.
Here’s an example: You might talk about a nightmare about Iraq. as we go through it, you realize the nightmare has themes that sound like your experiences as a child – just like the enemy could lurk anywhere, your alcoholic father could change “on a dime.”
2. Write out your dream in some detail. Then — change the ending so it’s less painful. This method was pioneered by a group at the University of New Mexico, and they report positive results.
Here’s an example: You dream about a Marine you were with when he died. Maybe in your rewrite, all of the Marines are with him, he gives you a message to take to his wife, and you all say goodbye.”
3. Leslie Martin, DSW, at the West Los Angeles VA, suggests you talk to yourself and say, “Bring it on! I can take it!” She’s been working with vets for more than 30 years, and she says it can work.
4. If you continue to have nightmares, ask your physician if you might benefit from a medication called Prazosin.