Dealing with Dreadful Dreams

Many people often have anxiety dreams the night before a job interview. Common attributes of anxiety dreams include missing a bus, train or plane, losing car keys and maps as well as getting lost on the way to the interview. These dreams are noted for their pronounced feelings of dread, unpreparedness, confusion and lack of resolution or clarity.

Anxiety dreams can often leave us feeling bewildered, drained and tired. Waking up from these dreams bathed in sweat or twisted up in knotted bed sheets is not exactly the best way to start a day, especially one in which you will meet a potential boss for the first time.

Here is an example of an anxiety dream a woman had prior to a job interview:

I enter the office building where I am to meet the CEO of a major corporation. Everything appears normal until the lobby elevator doors open. There are no elevator cars…only thick ropes covered with what appear to be grape jelly. A security guard walks over, hands me one of the ropes and tells me that I must climb to the 23rd floor. I refuse. Suddenly, I am pushed inside, and the doors slide shut. I have no choice but to start climbing in the elevator shaft, and I am afraid. My hands begin to slip on the jelly. I look up and see two clowns wearing three-piece suits laughing at me from the 23rd floor. I get about halfway up the shaft, but then my hands slip and I fall!

It is important not to take anxiety dreams like the one described here literally, as if they are foreshadowing an inevitably disastrous interview in which nothing will go right. Anxiety dreams are one of the unusual, although distressing ways our unconscious minds communicate to us when we are ignoring or resisting something. We might be dismissing a new perspective or putting off a problem when an anxiety dream occurs.

Work Toward an Understanding

One way we can benefit from the unconscious mind is to work with dreams in a creative way, instead of responding to them with fear, exasperation or, worse, trying to interpret them on the bus ride to the interview. Yet many of us are reluctant to do so. Working with dreams can seem irrational or silly. We tell ourselves we just don’t have time.

f you are reluctant to share dreams with others, consider what the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who worked extensively with people’s dreams throughout his career, once remarked. “The unconscious mind takes the same attitude toward the conscious mind as it takes towards the unconscious.” In other words, if we are fearful of what our unconscious mind has to offer us, it will exaggerate and distort that very fear, mirroring it back to us in a dream. This is the unconscious mind’s way of communicating that fear in a way we can no longer avoid. The more we try to avoid the message, the more intense our dreams become.

When we creatively and regularly work with our dreams, we can diminish the frequency and intensity of reoccurring nightmares and anxiety dreams. If we approach the unconscious as a realm of wonder and creativity, the unconscious will offer up powerful, confidence building dreams. Our family, friends, employers and co-workers will notice how relaxed we are and that we are able to communicate clearly with them.

Dreams are one of the things all of us share, and through them we can come to understand one another more effectively. By simply taking a closer look at our dreams, we positively influence those around us. Clients often report that after dream work sessions not only have they themselves changed, but others around them have changed as well.

What follows in this article are some dream work psychniques I often use to help people improve self-image, reduce anxiety and boost confidence prior to interviews and other public performances. I use the word psychnique instead of technique, because we are using our psyches instead of a technical apparatus.

Take Another Look

I discovered an effective method in the book Dreamworking by Strephon Kaplan Williams:

Write down of your dreams. Choose a character from the dream, and then imagine you are looking at yourself from that character’s point of view.

When I first tried changing the point of view in an anxiety dream I once had, I was genuinely surprised at my appearance. I looked nervous and self-conscious. I fidgeted and seemed unaware of my surroundings. These traits revealed themselves despite my confidence in a current project. The experience was similar to the same kind of shock when he hear our voice for the first time on a tape recorder or when we see ourselves on a video tape. I didn’t recognize that perception of myself. I t was much different than looking into a mirror. Try it for yourself.

Did You Dream Last Night?

Don’t worry if you have trouble remembering your dream. Keep a journal by your bedside, and if you have a dream, write it down in the morning. Also, a small tape recorder is a wonderful way to record dreams. Many times in the middle of the night, after waking up from a dream, I will reach for the tape recorder and narrate the dream. More detail and vividness is captured this way.

If you’re still concerned because you can’t remember your dreams, check out Dream Work by Jeremy Taylor. He lists several methods for maximizing dream recall.

Use Your Imagination

Dr. Jung conceived a method for enhancing creative and intuitive abilities called active imagination. He created this during a time when most people emphasized the analytical and rational mind. Still, he recognized many were cut off from the nourishing sources of their unconscious minds. In the dreamwork I do with clients, I have modified Jung’s method somewhat and named it Interactive Imagination.

Here is a very effective interactive psychnique to try prior to a job interview or presentation in front of your boss or co-workers:

1.Choose an anxiety dream or nightmare you have had that really caught your attention, and write it down. Make sure you highlight key symbols, people and places.

2. Close your eyes, and imagine that you are back in the dream. You have the choice to go wherever you want. Feel free to explore the dream. Pay attention to your breathing as you go along. Is it becoming constricted, or is it steady and relaxed? Make sure to alleviate tension and relax.

3. Pay close attention to how you respond to the dream you’re in. Are you nervous and tense, or are you at peace? remember that you have more options and alternatives than you did when you were having the dream. You’re awake now, and you are in control!

4. Now go up to one of the characters that appeared in the dream-someone that may have been the source of the anxiety-and offer a gift to them. How do they respond? Are they surprised? Do they become defensive? Pay close attention their reaction.

5. Now ask them to give you something back. Take note of what they give you. If they give something that you consider negative, keep asking until they offer you a pleasing gift.
(As an example, one client offered a hummingbird to a dream character. that person offered a rose quartz crystal in return, but after other useless items, such as trash were offered.)

6. Now take what has been offered to you, and imagine walking into the room where your upcoming job interview is taking place. Picture handing the object to the interviewer. How does he or she respond? You will know the answer simply by paying attention to whether you are tense or relaxed.

Remember: these are not the actual people in real life, but how the unconscious mind responds to your attitudes towards them. This is one of the many dream work methods that you can use to enhance your chances of having an effective and relaxed job interview or presentation. Remember that these psychnique can be applied to many different situations-the work environment, school or home.

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