Dear Dream Tending and Imagination Community,
In the world of today nightmares are a common presence.
There are many theories about the origins and function of nightmares. Sometimes they are said to symbolize everything from unsettled aspects of our personality to early traumatic experiences that exist just below the surface of consciousness. Nightmares may symbolize acute dysfunction in our relationships, the onset of illness, or reactions to movies we watched just before going to bed. Other times they may be graphic reminders of environmental destruction, like the consequences of global warming and acid rain, or societal dysfunction like the devastation of war. Whatever the cause of nightmares, we always experience them as a real and terrifying threat to survival. Everyone experiences nightmares. The question is, how do we deal with them? When we feel terrified, overwhelmed, helpless, and alone, what can we do to work with these difficult images? Sometimes we try to simply ignore them. We deny their existence or attempt to explain them away. Soon enough, however, we discover the futility of such approaches. While nightmares can sometimes be put off for a short time, sooner or later they return, and often their encore is even scarier than their original appearance. And our helplessness and isolation increase each time they show up. Nightmares may allow themselves to be pushed out of consciousness, but that does not mean they are forgotten. Just below the surface of awareness, we still carry the terrifying images of the dream into the next day. The slightest reminders of the nightmare can shake us up. Somebody might look at us in a menacing way, say something critical, or accidentally push up against us, and boom!—we feel anew the horror of last night’s dream visitation.
The simple fact is that nightmares cannot be ignored, forgotten, or explained away. I have found it imperative not to avoid the intolerable, but instead to find the strength and skill needed to go face-to-face, toe-to-toe, with the “terribles” of the night.
Until next Tuesday . . .
In the dreamtime,

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Stephen Aizenstat

Stephen Aizenstat, Ph.D., is the founder of Dream Tending, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and the Academy of Imaginal Arts and Sciences. He is a world-renowned professor of depth psychology, an imagination specialist, and an innovator. He has served as an organizational consultant to major companies and institutions, and as a depth psychological content advisor to Hollywood film makers. He has lectured extensively in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. He is affiliated with the Earth Charter International project through the United Nations, where he has spoken. Professor Aizenstat is the Chancellor Emeritus and Founding President of Pacifica Graduate Institute. He has collaborated with many notable masters in the field including Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Marion Woodman, and Robert Johnson.