words and images by mk swanson
Bad Dreams

Bad Dreams

I was just reading a forum over at Spirituality & Health called Dreamwork Interactive, in which you get weekly emails from Robert Moss, a dream worker and shaman whose books I have read and enjoyed.

At the top of the forums was a new topic, What Not to Share. I assumed there would be notes about not telling the world your personally identifiable information, about not getting X-rated, about being succinct. Well, something else was there, too. He doesn’t want us to share “crappy dreams that bring people down.”

I do think that some dreams may not be for public consumption, but I’m a little appalled that a shaman and dream worker would feel, as he indicates in his post: Bad dreams: when you just want to spit them out, that some dreams come from an evil place.

With Jeremy Taylor, and many other dreamers, I think that all dreams come in the service of health and wholeness, even the crappy ones. Even the ones that bring people down. While I don’t know that I want everyone to go around sharing all of these dreams with me, I would never tell them that anything that came out of them was evil. Shadow material? Sure. Evil? I don’t know.

I am not ruling out Moss’ “evil” dreams completely. However, even if native peoples believed that evil spirits could invade the dream the same way that germs invade the body, I think that 99.9% of dreams are messages from our own mind trying to help us decipher the world around us, and help us be better and maybe even happier, in it. (I do think our minds are a lot bigger, smarter, and more well-connected to the collective unconscious and maybe even the whole universe, without reference to time, than we can see from our limited perspective.)

I’m thinking about what I do when I have a really bad dream, about war, rape, terror, misery, sadness… Well, I probably don’t share it, but sometimes I do. It helps, and sometimes my loved ones don’t mind helping me bear the horror. I don’t always write them down, especially if they feel like mundane dreams. But I do try to take a clear look, see if I can find any meaning that would help me improve myself or the world. I believe that I have to look into my own heart, even when it’s at its ugliest, to be a better person.

What do you think? Can dreams be evil? Should we spit out our “crappy” dreams, or do something else with them? What do you do?


  1. MK–

    I am actually appalled! WTF!!!! is this guy talking about?!?!? Oy!

    Okay, that's off my chest.

    Now, I want to tell you about the Eve Ensler piece I heard on NPR, yesterday. It was something she'd written for the "This I Believe" series titled "The Power and Mystery of Naming Things."

    In the piece, Ensler, writer of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, among other work, talks about how important it is to share our lives–especially the traumatic, painful aspects of them–OUT LOUD to another human being.

    Ensler's work focuses in particular on women's issues, and she discussed incidents of international terrorism against women, but, too, included the most intimate areas of personal trauma.

    I'd love to share this with you. Here's the link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5285531

    And maybe you can pass it up and on to the Crappy Dream Weaver himself.

    Hugs (and keep on talking and writing!),

  2. Jamie,
    Thanks for stopping by and being appalled with me! I keep thinking about this concept of "evil" dreams, and I just can't get next to it. I have had dreams that I didn't want to share (or even remember), but I think if I do remember them, and I want to share them, then it's time for them to make their debut.
    I agree with Ensler that people need to voice their trauma. Perhaps not repetitively, (there's evidence that repetition deepens trauma) but at least once, to someone who will hear and support them.
    Bad dreams, I think, are trying to help me understand something important, and if I reject them, I am guaranteeing that the underlying problem will metastasize.

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