shot by a gun!

Hi Katrina - 

In the weeks following the shootings at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 (in Colorado, USA - leaving 15 teenagers dead), I have received more dreams of guns, violence, and young people being shot than ever before on “Ask the Dream Doctor.” I think it is clear that the Columbine shootings impacted all of us very deeply. The coverage on television was dramatic and bloody. We all saw pictures of wounded teenagers, and we also heard stories of students who were shot at very close range - execution style. 

It is natural for people who are exposed to a trauma to personalize it and “imagine it for themselves.” Because you are a teenager in high school, it is easy for you to sympathize with the students at Columbine. I think your dream reflects your fear that violence like that could happen at school - which ought to be the last place we worry about mentally ill people with guns. As you say, usually you wake up before something really awful happens in your dreams, but I think the TV coverage from Columbine allowed you to imagine these other kids’ experience very deeply. Accordingly, I do not think your dream is precognitive - or reflects a repressed memory from your past. 

A nightmare is defined as a dream that disturbs us so much that it actually causes us to awaken directly from sleep. Dream researcher Ernest Hartmann, author of the excellent book “Dreams and Nightmares” (Plenum, 1998) writes that one of the functions of nightmares is to reduce the impact of traumatic experience by helping us to make broad connections in our minds. In other words, dreams, over time, try to help us put painful, difficult, and disturbing experiences in perspective. Like most other teens who have written in - I think you can expect to have some more dreams that show yourself trying to make sense of this terrible tragedy. But I think you can expect your dreams, gradually, to get less and less focused on the trauma, and more focused on all the other things that also exist in this world, which also fill up our lives. 

It is true that violence and tragedy exist in this world. It is also true that the world is full of beauty and intelligence. I think we all know which world we want to live in.

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