How To Use Your Thoughts To Break Free Of A Nightmare

by Stacey Curnow on · 8 comments

Have you ever had the feel­ing that your thoughts were more foe than friend? For me, there’s always a theme to my stress­ful thoughts and they involve events over which I have no control.

In the spring of 1999, a tor­nado ripped a mas­sive old oak tree out of my back­yard and threw it into my neighbor’s dri­ve­way, crush­ing three cars. I’ve had night­mares about tor­na­does ever since. And ever since I was a lit­tle kid, I’ve had night­mares about being engulfed in tsunami-like waves.

Just last week, I dreamed that my son had a bunch of friends over to play. One of them opened the back door to go out­side and said, “Look at that cloud!” It was a fun­nel cloud headed right for our home.

I screamed for every­one to get inside, but I couldn’t find my son. In that moment of panic I real­ized I was dream­ing and told myself to wake up. But some­how I chose to find my son first. My panic con­tin­ued to rise as I searched for him in vain, and then, just as I felt the tor­nado suck­ing the air out of the house, I com­manded myself to wake up. I woke in a cold sweat.

Carl Jung said, “When an inner sit­u­a­tion is not made con­scious, it hap­pens out­side as fate.” No, I don’t think my dreams are invit­ing another tor­nado to come roar­ing up to my house, but I do think my recent uncon­scious expe­ri­ences pro­vide an oppor­tu­nity to look at other things in my life I con­sider unde­sir­able, or even night­mar­ish, and invite myself to wake up to the real­ity, which is storm-free.

Even in my night­mare I wanted to make things right — I wanted to find my son and keep him safe before I would wake up. How often do I try to force a con­clu­sion — what I con­sider to be a desir­able out­come — instead of find­ing what is per­fect in the moment? It hap­pens a lot. That’s why, I think, I chose to keep the night­mare going rather than wake up to reality.

A cou­ple of years ago I attended the “Who Would You Be With­out Your Story?” event hosted by Byron Katie. For three days she helped peo­ple wake up from what I con­sider the worst night­mares — death of a child, sex­ual abuse, chronic pain, addic­tion — and see that our biggest crises are our great­est teach­ers. She said, “If you see any­thing as the enemy, your mind gives you all the con­cepts to believe it. To break free, we need big teachers.”

I want to share a bit of dia­logue between Byron Katie and a woman who had a son, sis­ter and mother die from can­cer. She said she was in con­stant pain because of her losses. She said can­cer was the enemy and she hated it. Katie invited her to do the Work with her. I’ve shared Katie’s (to me) rev­o­lu­tion­ary process in other arti­cles, and you can read more here if it’s new to you. But here is her con­ver­sa­tion with this woman:

BK: What image do you see when you think the thought, “Can­cer is the enemy and I hate it.”

Woman: I see my son dying.

BK: Go back to what you were doing when he was dying…

Woman: I was lov­ing my son.

BK: That sounds beautiful.

Woman: He said, “I love you…forever.” right before he died. I guess I can hold on to that thought.

BK: What did can­cer teach you?

Woman: It taught me that I’m a lov­ing mother. I used to doubt that.

BK: Give me another exam­ple of what can­cer taught you.

Woman: Can­cer taught me to live. It taught me not to take any­one or any­thing for granted.

BK: Can­cer is a great teacher.

If you have a prob­lem with a per­son, or a con­di­tion, you find unde­sir­able, Katie invites you to put your stress­ful thoughts on paper and ques­tion them using her process.

The ques­tions edu­cate you. They teach you that it is not your sit­u­a­tion, but your thoughts about your sit­u­a­tion that make it unde­sir­able. If you do the Work, you learn to replace the stress­ful thoughts with non-stressful thoughts that are as true or more true when com­pared to the ones you’ve been having.

We think we want con­trol over unde­sir­able sit­u­a­tions, but don’t we all really want peace? After all, every­thing “out there” really is out of our con­trol. But our thoughts are under our con­trol. As long as we are aware of them, we can write them down, we can invite them to tell us what they want to say, and we can find out from them what we need to learn.

Bad feel­ings are an alarm clock, sig­nal­ing to us that we need to wake up from our dream. What do you do when you find your­self in a night­mare? Please share in the comments!


by Stacey Curnow

Stacey is a pur­pose and suc­cess coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your pur­pose and pas­sion, check out her FREE eBook, The Pur­pose and Pas­sion Guide­book.
Stacey Curnow
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