Nightmares are common- most people have experienced these on occasion. For some people, however, nightmares can frequently occur, causing distress or interfering with functioning. The risk of experiencing distressing, frequent, or impairing nightmares increases if negative life events, trauma, or mental health issues are present. It can seem hopeless to manage- how can you control or change your dreams?
It’s good to know that there’s a particular psychological technique that can reduce the distress linked to nightmares, as well as their frequency. Research shows that most people who undertake ‘Nightmare Rescripting’ for 10 minutes a day (for several weeks) experience benefit. It involves the following:
Step 1: Write down what happened in your nightmare. Include as much information as you can.
Step 2: Write down the emotions you experienced as a result of the nightmare.
Step 3: Identify the emotion you would like to feel instead (for example, calm and safe).
Step 4: Rewrite your nightmare so that the story finishes with the emotion identified in Step 3. Rewrite it so that the changes occur before anything bad happens, that ideally prevents the bad outcome from occurring. Be creative: it is a dream! For example, a pink unicorn might come in to save the day, or you might suddenly start flying (anything is possible in dreams!).