how to alter bad dreams

Hi Anonymous -

I am sorry to learn of your difficult childhood.

Your question is excellent, and the answer is “yes” - you can do something about these dreams. Rosalind Cartwright, Director of the Sleep Disorder Center at Rush Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago, has conducted extensive research on modifying bad dreams - and she has reported very good results.

Dr. Cartwright’s method is called “R.I.S.C.” It’s an acronym that stands for the four steps of the technique.

Recognize your bad dreams - the kind that leave you feeling “helpless, guilty, or upset the next morning.”

Identify what it is about the dream that makes you feel badly - weak vs. strong, inept vs. capable, out-of-control rather than in control, etc.

Stop any bad dream.

Change negative dream aspects into positive ones.

Dr. Cartwright recommends that you rehearse new endings to disturbing dreams. For example, if your father always degrades you, visualize yourself telling him that you are not going to listen to his abuse any more. Also imagine yourself stopping the dream while it is in mid-stream, and changing the ending to one which is empowering and dignified.

Once you have practiced these steps while awake, you will soon be able to recognize this bad dream once you are asleep and it recurs. Dr. Cartwright says that most dreamers are surprised to learn how quickly they can end a bad dream - simply by willing themselves to wake up. Learning to stop a bad dream is an empowering experience in itself. With practice though, she says you will soon learn to change the ending of the dream to one which more closely resembles the ending you have visualized.

Dr. Cartwright’s technique has worked for thousands of people who have participated in her dream therapy. For more information, consider going to the library and reading her book “Crisis Dreaming.” In her own words, “You do not have to let it continue.”

We wish you the best of success, and hope that you will write us back and let us know your results.

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