Feeling Helpless Fuels Her Nightmare

Dear Cynthia: My recurring dream begins with myself and two other women stranded on a deserted island. We see a ship but after the sailors rescue us, we realize they are pirates. They throw us in a hole. We plan our escape and begin to fight the pirates. There is blood everywhere. We kill them, only to see them get up and chase us again! No matter what we do, we can't kill them permanently.


Los Angeles

Dear Reader: Your nightmare reflects a helpless feeling and a loss of personal power. The two other women represent other parts of you, or perhaps your differing ideas of how to handle your situation. Blood represents life force; yours and apparently that of your oppressors is being lost in an emotional upheaval.

Since the dream recurs, I suggest that you take a good, honest look at your life and where you think it comes up short. Where are you being stranded and then rescued only to end up threatened or harmed? Has anyone in your life ever seemed to rescue you, only to sap your life force? Who didn't turn out to be what you hoped?

It takes courage, and it can involve some sacrifice, but everyone is entitled to live the life that he or she wants. Being pursued endlessly, feeling you can never win, is not a good life. If it sounds like any aspect of your life, make some changes.


Dear Cynthia: Often I have "waking dreams" in which I feel caught helplessly between being in a dream state and being awake. Often there is a pronounced sense of impending danger and peril and an inability to react, a seizure-like paralysis. The struggle to break free from the dream state and to get back to reality takes a maddening effort. What does all this mean and how can I prevent it?


Los Angeles

Dear Reader: Many readers have reported this same, scary inability to shake off the sleep or dream state. During the deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep, the major muscles of the body actually are effectively paralyzed. This is a natural mechanism to prevent the body from injuring itself during active or violent dreams. But it can be very frustrating: The mind feels awake and is struggling to take action, but the body is still asleep.

You can't stop this from occurring, but perhaps the knowledge that it is normal--and that you soon will be fully awake and able to move as you wish--will relieve the frustration.


Dear Cynthia: I dreamed I had a hacking cough and coughed up a key into my hand.


Los Angeles

Dear Reader: Beautiful dream! You were shown that you possess the key to all you desire! Best of all, it comes from within you. Keys in the language of dreams unlock whatever you need or want. You now hold a key in the palm of your hand, meaning this power is available whenever you want to use it.


Dear Cynthia: Perhaps you can help me interpret a recurring dream. The details vary but the gist is always the same.

I am in a house which is divided into two separate living sections, upstairs and downstairs, as in a duplex apartment. The surroundings are familiar to me. The house is on the ocean and each of the two living quarters has its own benefits. One has easier access to the ocean. The other has more light and is more spacious.

I always feel torn as to which one to claim as my space, or that I have already made a choice and it is the wrong one. What does this mean?


Los Angeles

Dear Reader: Your dream depicts a conflict between two parts of your self. One part wants to be above it all (in the upper apartment, where you have space and light, which are symbolic of solitude, spiritual enlightenment and peace). Downstairs you are closer to the ocean, symbolic of emotion and your unconscious.

The good news is that you don't have to choose. Understand that these are both real parts of you. Sometimes you need to be alone with your thoughts. Other times you need to be in the surf, feeling and experiencing all that life has to offer.

I suggest that you imagine an elevator connecting both apartments. Decide to live in both! Anxiety comes from denying a part of yourself, and there is no need to do that.


Dear Readers: Can your dreams help heal your body? The answer seems to be yes. In ancient days a patient's dreams often were considered as part of the diagnosis and treatment for illness.

The theory is that your unconscious mind knows the status of every cell in your body at all times and can communicate information to you through your dreams. Psychologist Peter Mudd, executive director of the Jung Institute in Chicago, reports that a dream helped save his finger. In a vivid dream, he says, a small character kept annoying him about his ring finger. He had injured the finger earlier in the day while playing basketball, but hadn't thought about it much. In his dream, the little character told him to take off his wedding ring right away. The image was so vivid it woke Mudd up. He discovered his ring finger had swollen to twice normal size. He had to go to the emergency room to have his ring cut off in order to save the finger.

* Behavioral therapist Cynthia Richmond's column appears every other Tuesday. To contact her, write to "In Your Dreams," Life & Style, the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; send a fax to (213) 237-0732; or e-mail her at cynthrich@aol.com Please include the name of the city where you live and a daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 100 words and cannot be returned. "In Your Dreams" should be read for entertainment purposes only.

* In two weeks: A look at books about dreaming.

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