• Kimberly Dunham

Overcoming the nightmare

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 85% of adults report at least one nightmare within the previous year, 8-29% report monthly nightmares and 2-6% report weekly nightmares.

What exactly are nightmares? Dreams that are scary, disturbing, feel real, and often recurring in nature.


  1. Vivid or real imagery

  2. Imagery that becomes more disturbing as the dream unfolds

  3. Your dream storyline is usually related to your survival

  4. Your dream wakes you up

  5. Your dream leaves you feeling scared or anxious


  1. The brain’s way of dealing with stress and fears of everyday life

  2. The result of a major life event (loss of parents, spouse, child or job)

  3. Increased stress in work or home life

Ways to combat nightmares:

  1. Relaxing before going to bed both body (taking a bath or shower; deep breathing exercises) and brain (meditation, prayer).

  2. Trying to manipulate the dream – try to change the course of events during your dream. This may be hard but not impossible to do.

  3. Talk to someone about your dream – find someone you trust and explain your dream. Explain why it scares you. Just releasing your feelings can make things better.

  4. Think happy thoughts – before going to bed think of nice and happy things that have happened to you.

  5. Find a happy place in your mind – this helps you feel relaxed and calm

  6. Give yourself some self-love and acceptance – affirmations about self: you are good, you are strong, you are brave.

  7. Keep a dream journal – write down your nightmare details whenever you wake up. Read it over and try to determine, if possible, causes of the dream or triggers that might have happened the day before.

My sweet friend Mary suffers from nightmares. She falls into the middle category. She experiences nightmares monthly. Not random nightmares, but the same recurring one. She’s trying to save her family all by herself and losing the battle. She’s carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders as she fights for their lives. The most disturbing aspect of the dream is that she can’t see who she is fighting.

To make matters worse, Mary is codependent, knows it, and is working to change things. She started a couple of months ago by seeking counseling in which she acknowledged the problem and is now in the process of learning all about it by reading “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie and “Boundaries” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Since starting to learn about the issue and coming up with a course of action, the nightmares have gotten worse. Partly from the fact that she is working to better herself, but also from the realization that she must focus on herself and not those around her. A codependent’s nightmare.

Accepting that her family members are responsible for themselves is hard to accept, especially when you’ve been an enabling part of the problem all these years. Accepting this reality, acknowledging her role in the situation and then working on self and not others is a huge transition for her.

In Mary’s case, she’s dealing with both stress and fears of everyday life, as well as an increase in stress in her home life. She has a house full of men. All very headstrong and opinionated. The level of testosterone gets a bit high at times. Her husband works locally now where before he was working out of town. Having him around all the time has been an adjustment for everyone.

Finances are also a big concern, as is the fact that she and her husband are up in age and are not prepared for retirement. Having a big family and a big heart has led them down the path of financial overload. Trying to help everyone else and living off the leftovers has left them in debt, struggling to make ends meet and fearful about the future.

Health issues arise and cause her issues too. Getting old sucks. There are aches, pains and an assortment of things that seem to get out of whack at just the wrong time. This adds to their financial load and causes them to contemplate before heading to the doctor what the impact will be on the family. Their insurance premiums are out of this world but it’s the best they can get at this time. Having kids on your policy until they are twenty-six is not a plus for parents but a burden when you are still paying for the family plan instead of self and spouse.

How is she supposed to manage all of this and the day to day minutia of life? Her job is stressful, her life is stressful, the lives of her children cause her concern as does the state of the world in which we live. Is there ever not something to add to the pile? The enemy constantly barrages her with one thing after another and at times she finds herself feeling fearful and defeated. This is a breeding ground for nightmares.

To look at Mary you would never know this is what she’s got going on in her life. Always quick to give a hug, a smile, or make you feel comfortable and important, she is the face of hospitality. Her life’s mission is to serve, and she is a natural at it. She’s the one out early walking the dog, decorating for all the different holidays, seasons and just because. If there’s a cause that needs volunteers to decorate, cook, or provide things she’s there. Always thinking of others and hardly ever about self. We all have a Mary on our block. In fact, it could be you.

I often marvel at how she juggles so much at one time. She’s a person to model your life after and once you get to know her you learn what keeps her going. Mary’s faith could move mountains when needed. Her faith is strong, and she knows where her help comes from. Having her quiet time, praying, reading her scriptures, listening to Christian music and reaching out to her bestie are ways to bring her thoughts back to the center.

The fact that we all have lives and issues in our lives that can cause nightmares are sobering but the statistics don’t lie. At least 85% of adults report having had at least one nightmare in the past year. This proves that Mary’s struggle with nightmares is not an anomaly. She is not alone in her fight.

Are you a Mary? One of the 85%? If so, consider doing what she does to bring her thoughts back to the center. Mary’s faith is her centering piece. How’s your faith life? Do you have a quiet time established? If not consider establishing one. Read your scriptures, devotionals, and listen to gospel, contemporary Christian, or praise and worship music, Build up your faith and let God combat those nightmares.

#codependency #nightmare #nightmares

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