Nightmares are just a means of allowing hidden fears and feelings to emerge, but because they emerge in the way they do, they can be extremely difficult to control or mask them.Note the word can be, it does not say they cannot.
Survivors often relive the abuse they suffered in the form of nightmares, and often it can manifest into what seems almost real, in that they "dream" what might have happened, or could have happened, which is often even scarier.
Here are some of the factors that permit nightmares to occur
1. Meeting/seeing someone who resembles your abuser, allowing the memories to creep back.
2. Hearing or reading about another persons story of abuse, which may mirror the abuse you suffered, which then awakes hidden thoughts, fears and feelings for you.
3. Feeling ill, depressed, lonely or sad, often leading to enforced isolation, and the downward spiral continues.
4. Being stressed, including holidays, visits to people's houses, etc.
5. Being humiliated by someone, left feeling powerless, which evokes bad memories for you.
6. Seeing news programmes or tv scenes depicting children being hurt or dying.
Many things on a daily basis can remind you of the past, so one way forward is to talk those fears through, and gradually see that whatever did happen to you, you were in no way to blame.
In order to release that feelings you need to let those feelings of blame move back to their rightful owners, which is the people or person who created them for you, namely your abuser(s)
Although the following sounds easy, it will take time, its not easy, but is possible and in doing so, you will get restful, undisturbed sleep.
To begin with, you should take a look at changing your bedtime routine; this can take many forms, so here are just a few that could work:
1. Changing the physical layout of your room, perhaps moving the bed to somewhere that feels safer, maybe facing the door.
2. If you leave a light on, turn it off, don't read before you sleep, or do if you don't.
3. Turn off the radio if you listen to one, or perhaps leave a radio on to help you rest, and feel safe
4. Instead of surfing the Net, watching TV etc, change the routine, read a book, listen to music, arrange things for tomorrow.
5. Reflect back aloud on the day you had, what went wrong, what could have been done better, and finish off with what you achieved, all this will work to put you in a calmer frame of mind.
6. Take a bath, with music, candles, incense sticks, whatever works for you.
7. Join a session of relaxation classes, and learn how to relax
8. Avoid sleeping in the daytime, sleeping at the wrong time upsets your internal body clock, so get into a routine, and sleep will come to you.
Above all else, make sure that you have enough sleep every night, otherwise you will feel too tired, physically and emotionally to be of any good to yourself, never mind others.
Learn to trust someone again, allowing them to help you go leave the past behind, and go beyond the destructive feelings that you have
You can kick the past back where it belongs, rest assured this method works, continues to work for survivors, and it can work for you, so re-read it again, making sure you don't skip any of the advice offered, unless you want to that is
Still stuck, try this then ~ Some tips to help you control the dreams that may haunt you
It can help to write down what you've dreamed, (have pen and paper to hand, so you can write it down and get back to sleep again.)
1. Free Writing
Start anywhere and just keep writing whatever comes to mind. Don't censor or edit anything out. It's like free associating onto a piece of paper. Record everything you are thinking and feeling. If you get stuck, simply write "I'm stuck, I'm stuck..." over and over again until a new association comes up. Then keep writing.
Or write down each element of the dream, then write a stream of consciousness for each one. Compare what you wrote for each element of the dream. Look for similarities and patterns. Hold onto these writings - and go back to them later on. Days or weeks later you may see something that you missed the first time around.
2. Free Association
To unpack the various meanings of a dream, take each object, person, situation, etc. and free associate to them, one at a time. What does it remind you of? What comes to mind when you think of that element of the dream? Let your imagination go. Let your attention wander. Come up with as many associations as possible. Do this in your head, or talk out loud. If you let yourself go with this, something will come up - a memory, an idea, a feeling. It may not tell you "The Meaning" to the dream, but it will give you pieces to the puzzle.
Stressed? Dreaming dreams you'd rather not?
If you're stressed during the day, that stress will, without doubt, emerge during your sleeping hours, as that is the bodys way of dealing with stress.
Sometimes the dreams you have can be in the form of symbols or as enactments of different scenes but ones which bring out the same emotions - anger, frustration, grief - whatever is causing you distress, and understandably, some of those dreams are extremely disturbing.
You can turn this around and learn to interpret these dreams to try to identify exactly what it is that is causing you problems, and keeping a dream diary is often very enlightening.
If your dreams are really terrifying, they are deemed to be night terrors (nightmares) These can be a sign of more severe stress or a deeper emotional problem. You might want to look at the page on Post Traumatic Stress first for more information on the subject.
Normal dreams are a safety valve for the mind, allowing you to work through situations which have had impact on you during the day.
Don't expect your dreams to be make any sense or be coherent - they are usually a mixture of all sorts, and often fail to make sense, or can become confused with reality, making you doubt what you really think, plus you can get the odd few scenes which appear to come from nowhere! Try this next exercise to help you relax.....I know...you've tried all sorts of relaxation methods in the past, and none work!
Muscles are either tense or relaxed. If this were the whole story, there could be no benefit to be gained from relaxation exercises, because all you'd be doing would be tensing a muscle and then returning it to exactly the same state it was in before you started.
Muscles, however, don't work in isolation from the rest of the body. They are made of fibres which need blood and oxygen. Blood is pumped round the body by the heart and the rate at which it's pumped depends in part on how fast you're breathing.. The amount of oxygen in your blood also depends on your breathing - whether it is slow or fast, deep or shallow.
Let's assume you've tensed a muscle group as part of a relaxation exercise.
It takes effort to tense your muscles so those muscles require more "food", which for them is oxygen, carried to the muscles in the blood. The muscles send out signals that they require more oxygen, so the heart beats more quickly to increase the rate at which the blood flows around your body in order to provide it. Of course, this blood has to come from somewhere, so other parts of your body receive less blood, particularly the stomach, hands and feet.
Now let's assume that you relax that muscle group. The demand for food is back to normal. The muscles need less oxygen and therefore they need less blood. Your heartbeat will therefore slow down, as will your breathing. The blood supply to your stomach will return to normal and it can carry on the process of digestion at its normal rate. You are now relaxing.
Things go one stage further, however, and it is this which makes muscle relaxation exercises effective. It is as if after you've tensed and then relaxed a muscle group, your body says, "Whew - that was an effort," and relaxes even more.
Try it and see. Check and see roughly how tense your hand is at the moment, then clench your fist. Hold this for a few seconds until it starts to become quite uncomfortable. Then relax. The likelihood is that you are either stretching your fingers or shaking your hand, and will then rest it for a moment, This will make the muscles in your hand relax even more.
SEE? The relaxation opens the door for further relaxation of those particular muscles.
The key to good results when you are going muscle relaxation exercises is not just to tense and then relax each muscle group, but to rest those particular muscles for a short while after you've released the tension. You'll find that they are then far more relaxed than when you started. Keep this going, relaxing muscles slowly and often and the result will be that you will have no option to be feel relaxed, and refreshed after some practice
By the way, have you ever tried to fully relax your facial muscles? you'll be surprised how tense your jaw, mouth and cheek muscles are.