Just Say No to Nightmares

Fight back against bad dreams, urges David Jenkins.

While our waking lives are wet and cold and smell like eggnog, we experience alternate holiday seasons in our sleep, says dreamworker David Jenkins, who warns that the two often bear only scant similarities.

At his web site, DreamoftheWeek.com, Jenkins presents narratives of some Thanksgiving dreams in the words of the dreamers themselves. “I dream I am attacked by a flock of turkeys,” one woman writes. “They are enormous. I finally pluck up all my courage, I grab the leader by the throat, and I choke him. All the other turkeys run away. I look around and I am amazed to see I am outside my ex-mother-in-law’s house.”

Another woman describes a dream in which her family left her behind as they drove off to their Thanksgiving feast: “They either assume I can take care of myself or it’s okay for me to sit outside and isolate myself. I’m telling myself what really happened, though, is they … don’t know I’m not with them. They’ll find out soon and come back for me. But it doesn’t happen, and I sit there.”

Jenkins applauds the first dreamer for wreaking a kind of subconscious revenge on human “turkeys.” For the second, however, he advises a replay. Perhaps she could supply it with a better ending: “A dream is rarely a complete, closed story. Finish it: Escape from the monster, solve the problem, rescue the child. Using the faculties that are available to you as a waking person, go back into the dream and find new ways to end the dream,” Jenkins advises. “What would you do if this happened while you were awake?”

Such techniques are outlined in his book, Dream RePlay: How to Transform Your Dream Life, and in the drop-in dreamwork group that Jenkins leads at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalists Fellowship Meeting Hall (1606 Bonita Ave., Berkeley); its next session is Wednesday, December 30.

His techniques — such as naming dreams, reenacting dreams, and looking for puns in dreams — are aimed at empowering dreamers to become less passive during nightmares. Well over half of human dreams “involve at least one unpleasant experience, primarily of aggression, misfortune, or emotional anguish. You are usually in some kind of distress in your dreams,” Jenkins asserts, yet “we don’t have a clue what to do with them. … We are attacked, chased, trapped, shot, maimed, or killed. We feel terror, horror, disgust, fear, shame, and guilt. We find ourselves helpless in earthquakes, wars, floods, and hurricanes. We are excruciatingly embarrassed. We are urinating in the town hall, laughing at a funeral.”

Our waking self can escape, prevent, or defend itself against many such assaults and indignities. Our waking self can apply reason, Jenkins points out, or ask friends for help: “You ought to have the same rights when you sleep.” Noon, $10. BFUU.org


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