Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Nightmares:
How Dreams Can Help
“When I listen to nightmares associated with PTSD, it seems obvious to me that the dreamer has never been able to work through the negative emotions and feelings associated with a traumatizing event.”
The “Amazing Dreamers” series of interviews in IASD’s DreamTime magazine puts the spotlight on inspirational dreamers who have dedicated their life’s work to dreaming. Here, Stanley Krippner talks to Clare Johnson about how dreaming can help with PTSD nightmares.
From dream telepathy to PTSD nightmares
Stanley Krippner’s major contribution to dream studies was the series of experiments he directed at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center dream laboratory from 1964-1973 with psychiatrist Montague Ullman. Dream telepathy, remote viewing and precognitive dreaming were tested and the results of several hundred attempts were statistically significant at a level suggesting the actuality of remote perception. The experiments and dreams are described in Dream Telepathy: Experiments in Nocturnal ESP. Stanley’s work with ‘anomalous’ dreams has inspired many, as has his valuable research into post-traumatic stress disorder.
Healing a shattered worldview
CJ: How do you feel dreams can benefit the healing process?
SK: Dreams can be especially useful in healing PTSD, especially by revealing the deep dimensions of the traumatic experience. When I listen to nightmares associated with PTSD, it seems obvious to me that the dreamer has never been able to work through the negative emotions and feelings associated with a traumatizing event. The combat veteran is especially vulnerable because his or her existential worldview has been shattered; in other words, the personal mythology regarding security, benevolence, fairness, and justice has been torn apart and the pain that has resulted has never been able to work its way through the dreaming process in a way that would lead to a resolution.
Imagery Rehearsal Therapy
Imagery Rehearsal Therapy and other ways of working with PTSD nightmares can initiate a therapeutic process that heals the entire organism. To treat PTSD effectively, a psychotherapist must heal the brain. Drugs change the brain temporarily at a superficial level, but skillful psychotherapy can change the brain at deeper levels and create changes in the psyche that will produce long-lasting healing, resilience, and the capacity to love. Dreams can be an integral part of that psychotherapy.
Do not ignore dreams
CJ: Could you share one recurring message your own dreams have given you?
SK: The recurring message that I receive from my dreams is “Don’t ignore us. We will help you whether you remember us or not. We will assist you whether or not you work with us. We will honor you whether or not you discuss us with other people. But if you remember us, honor us, and work with us, the benefits will astound you.” And I continue to be astounded by my dreams.