Anxiety Dreams and Depression – The Super Ego’s Secret Attacks

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When I was young I suffered from nightmares.  I had horrible dreams of pursuit, capture, murder, the devil, possession, rape, pain, and monsters (Good old Creature Features!).  I slept with my quilt/blanket up around  my neck – no matter how hot I was.  My feet stayed in the middle of the bed.  Evil dark things lived under my bed.  My bedroom was closest to the front door and front stairs.  I would wake up in the middle of the night to sounds of stairs creaking, footsteps, and heavy breathing.  As I grew into adulthood my dreams started to shift.  My nightmares mixed with anxiety dreams.  You know the classics – I would forget my lines in a play or a song I was supposed to sing.  My boyfriend would chose another over me.  People laughing at me for a faux pas or failure.  Anxiety dreams began to trump nightmares.  They would come in waves – sometimes nightly for extended periods of time.  As I began therapy for depression in my mid 30’s, my dreams shifted once again.  I would have longer respites from my dark dreams.  But overall – they persisted.  After years of cognitive therapy I had my depression under control.  I made lots of changes in my reactions – creating healthy responses.  I asked myself questions daily, hourly, weekly:  “What’s the worst that can happen?  Is there another way to look at this? ”  I became a better mother, friend, spouse, and person.  However, my anxiety dreams persisted.

During the day, I began to acknowledge a small, yet powerful, voice that played havoc with my life.  I found out that it is called my Super Ego.  And, joy of joys, we all have one!  I prayed for that little voice that lived inside my head that told me I was fat, ugly, stupid, etc. to be quiet and go away.  I told it to shut up.  I hated it!  I felt like a victim of this voice….I have done so much work, why doesn’t it go away?  And, if the voice while I was awake wasn’t bad enough, I had those damn dreams at night.  One of my aha moments from therapy (and the Barbara Brennan School of Healing) was that our super ego works day AND night – hence, anxiety dreams!

The tenacity of these anxiety dreams would slowly wear me down over time.  During my nights and sometimes weeks of these dreams, I would HATE going to sleep.  I would wake up angry, frustrated, sad, humiliated and disappointed.  So, even though my life was improving by leaps and bounds, I looked at my pillow and bed with trepidation at night.  I hated waking up – always tired, in a fog, in a funk.  Sometimes this would be all I needed to take me over the edge and  into a time of depression – down the rabbit hole I would go.   As I have said before the super ego doesn’t go away.  It has a purpose – to make sure we don’t get hurt.  It is trying to protect us.  Developing a relationship with the super ego is a very rewarding skill!  However, I found that it doesn’t stop its night attacks.  There is more fear around the corner.

At the age of 40 I realized that it was time to change my approach to therapy.  My dreams told me that I obviously had more work – deeper work to do.  I heard of people who laughed, had great sex, connected with loved ones who had passed on – and even FLEW in their dreams!  “Pick Me!” I thought.  I want those dreams too!  So, I chose a new therapist.  When she asked me why I was there I told her that I really didn’t know.  Except, even with all of my previous work, these damn dreams still plagued my sleep and my life.  I wanted to find out why they are there – what are they trying to tell me – how do I make them STOP??!!

I found that if I look for themes and patterns in my dreams, I can begin to interpret them.  I realized that I was also in either/or thinking.  Waking up happy or depressed – there were far more options available to me!   Instead of putting me into a depressed mood, I can become curious – as my dreams can be enlightening, motivating, fascinating, and full of teachings.  With guidance I began to look for themes within my dreams.  Am I in school?  Which school?  Am I in a house?  Which house – mine now, the one I grew up in, someone else’s house?  I had dreams of weddings, dreams with Oprah and being on the Oprah show, dreams of water and being in boats, dreams where I am angry and raging, dreams with animals, dreams of babies…  Guidance or sneak attacks from my Super Ego that was the question.

 Over the last 8+ years I have realized that my dreams ARE trying to tell me something.  I have dream books, animal books, and use my husband, friends, and therapist to help me find the significance in any dream that I remember and stands out in the morning.  Also, I try to wake myself up when I realize that I’m in the middle of a “boring” anxiety dream and am feeling very anxious.  I remind myself that this dream is NOT part of my current reality – I’m not in school anymore.  I don’t have to prepare for a test.  I have a wonderful husband who is happy with me….  When I go back to sleep, the dream very rarely continues on the same path.  When anxiety dreams become persistent, I know it is time for a new life lesson.  I am not feeling good about me or a situation in my life needs my attention.

So, what are your dreams telling you?  Are you ready to become more curious?  Buy some books.  Start looking for clues.  It can be your Super Ego with a sneak attack – or it could be a life lesson for you to focus on!!  No matter what, don’t let your anxiety dreams make you spiral into a depressed state.  Stay curious – persistent anxiety dreams are just more clues into the work you need to do to bring more joy into your life.

Love to you