03/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What To Do When Dreams Go Bad

Midway through a sound sleep you suddenly wake up, heart pounding and head filled with horrible nightmare images. Instantly wide awake, you replay the bad dream over and over, wondering what it means and why it had to happen to you. While everyone else is asleep, rest eludes you as a thousand fears ricochet through your mind. What do you do next?

Welcome to the world of nightmares. Everyone has them, though they usually become less frequent as we age. But no matter how old we are, we can still experience that feeling of helplessness when something happens in a dream that is just so wrong. And we wonder, is it us? Did we do something wrong? Could we prevent something bad from happening in the future if only we understood the dream?

Most of us go back and forth between thinking about how to interpret the dream and how to respond to it. If it is a dream of an intruder getting into our house, we naturally will go around and check all the locks and windows. If it's a dream about a car crash the logical thing to do is have our car looked at by a mechanic, just to be safe. But once we attend to the literal concerns the dream raises, things get trickier. In most cases, we are left with the uneasy feeling that maybe we aren't "getting" a more important, symbolic message that the dream is trying to communicate.

This tricky ground is the subject of my brand new book, What To Do When Dreams Go Bad: A Practical Guide to Nightmares. Prompted by a nightmare of my own last year, I investigated many different ways to understand and work with nightmares. The result is a book that covers both science and spirit, presenting practical as well as esoteric techniques for integrating the powerful messages of our disturbing dreams.

Nightmares are a rich source of creative ideas for novelists and composers as well as scientists and inventors. Nightmares can come to warn us of impending health problems and conflicts that can be avoided if we start paying attention right now. They tell us when our lives are out of balance, and show us our buried emotions and ambitions so that we face our fears and in so doing gain wisdom and maturity.

I believe that we ignore nightmares at our peril, but I am also in favor of having a little fun when things get really serious, so the book is laced with humor and compassion for our foibles and failings. Nightmares are the means by which our psyches deliver urgent information from the depths of the unconscious into our daytime awareness. Most importantly, this can include valuable tips about where to go and what to do when we are most in need of direction and guidance. And in the difficult downturn we are experiencing right now, we need access to all the hidden stores of wisdom we can get.

Because this book is self-published, I am actively pursuing all leads for publicity, interviews, author appearances and reviews. If you have a suggestion that might help, please drop me a line in the comments, or on my website. What To Do When Dreams Go Bad is currently available through, Serpentine Music & Books, and several independent bookstores in the Bay Area.

It is a great feeling to complete a huge project like writing a book, but I never would have even begun were it not for a dream that scared me out of my wits. Above all, I encourage everyone to be curious about bad dreams, not fearful. When we stay in those early feelings of fear, we don't allow ourselves a full range of motion in responding to the dream. But when we let curiosity guide us, the result is a richer, more satisfying life filled with accomplishments that most people only dream of. 2009-02-22-dreamsgobad.jpg