The most common theme amongst all people is the Chase or Attack Theme. This is a bad dream or nightmare in which someone or something is chasing the dreamer. The dreamer may escape sometimes and other times may get caught with disastrous results. The following example shows how a client’s Chase dreams can change in a positive way during effective therapy.
When I started working with Andy (Caucasian male) he was suffering from ongoing nightmares. In the first nightmare he reported, he was frozen in terror. Nightmare: I’m standing at the end of a large culvert. There is a giant monster at the other end of the culvert growling and baring his teeth at me. I’m terrified, so terrified I cannot move. I jolt awake with my heart pounding.
As we worked together in therapy the nightmares started shifting. In the next series of nightmares, he is no longer paralyzed in fear. He is able to move. The monsters have gone. Now an alien chases him. Nightmare: I’m crossing a bridge trying to get away from an alien that is chasing me. I’m running and running. The alien is catching up to me. I startle awake in terror.
After more sessions, the nightmares continued to shift. In the nightmares he is still able to move. The alien disappears and now he is chased by several vicious dogs. Nightmare: I’m running along a dark street. There is no one around. The buildings are all dark and empty. I’m alone. Vicious dogs are chasing me. I get away from them. I wake up feeling relief.
Weeks later the nightmares become less terrifying. The creatures chasing him are no longer aliens or dogs, but humans, albeit, criminals. He does not know if they are dangerous or not. He is no longer isolated. The woman in the dream is an indication he is starting to connect to humans who are not threatening. Bad dream: I’m running through a city at night. There are several criminals chasing me. I don’t know what they want from me. I run past a place. There is a woman inside looking after a baby. I keep running. I wake up scared, but not too scared.
Last stages of therapy: He is no longer being chased. He is working with a foreign man and engaged in a joint venture of which he is in charge. Dream: I’m at an airport. I’ve hired an Asian helicopter pilot to take me up for a tour over the city. He is going to show me significant areas of the city, which I want to learn about.
After nine months of therapy, Andy decided to end therapy. He felt good about himself. The part of himself he had disowned is now re-owned. It is still a foreign part of himself, but he has made an alliance with it. He felt in control of himself and his life.
At the beginning of therapy Andy has disowned his own power. The monster represents his power, which is so distorted that it is not even human or animal at this point. Through the work in therapy, he begins to own his power. It gradually shifts – from monster to alien – to dogs – to criminals – to a foreign business partner. At the end of therapy he has a working alliance with his power even though this part of himself is still foreign to him. He now feels in charge of himself and is able access the resources of this foreign part of himself. The city represents life as he is living it. By going up in a helicopter he will get a better perception of the life as he is living it. The woman in the dream represents, me, the therapist. The baby indicates a new sense of self is emerging, which he has not yet fully owned, as a result of his owning his own power and her care.
In chase dreams, the dreamer is avoiding something in his or her life. The recurring theme indicates the dreamer is constantly bothered by what they are avoiding and they have to keep working to avoid whatever it is they fear will happen if they face it. Whether the danger is real or imaginary, it is helpful to know what the danger is so you can most effectively deal with it.
With care and concern,
Dr. Bea Mackay
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