The Darkest Fear
Fear keeps us alive when we need to survive and it also keeps us down when we need to grow. I as well as everyone on this planet has lived with fear. Its natural after all, but what is not natural is allowing fear to control our lives, how we practice spirituality, and how we look at the world around us.
In today’s society, we are surrounded by fear. We think its normal to focus on fear and allow it to control us. We see it in the news almost every day, we hear it in our music, and our friends are constantly talking about it. Its no wonder how our fears creep up into our dreams and continue to express themselves when we are asleep.
Dreams are particularly important when it comes to fear. In our dreams, we can have nightmares that seem ultra real. We are also venerable and unable to stop these scary events from taking place. We can run and hide but the creatures always seem to find us. Often we can experience sleep paralysis and are even unable to run away or stop ourselves from looking for being tormented by these things. Because of all of these things, dreams are a great way to learn about our fears and to overcome them. I learned this lesson from years of personal experience with sleep paralysis and dreams that changed my life forever. I ask that you hear my story if you have or expected fear in your dreams and hopefully, you too can see fear as I do now, a great teacher.
My Dream Story Part One
Since I was young I had fear of the dark. Mostly my fear featured some superstitious idea that something in the dark would come out and get me. I am not sure where this fear came from but it traveled with me in my dreams. I can remember dreams of watching some type of beast out
When I was in the military I first encountered sleep paralysis and had my first encounter with what many people see as a shadow figure. I was unable to move and unable to defend myself from this figure that entered my room. I had to watch it as it crept up to me and continued to harass me while I lay there helpless. I can honestly say that this was the most terrifying experience I have ever had. For a number of weeks, I had the same experience, saw the same thing and felt helpless.
After some time I got upset enough that I stopped caring about the fear that this thing was causing me. I got upset to the point that something in my mind turned around. Rather than allowing this thing to attack me at night, I wanted to attack it. I spent time thinking about how I was going to get this thing and truly put an end to it. I was going to lay there and pretend I was sleeping and wait for this thing to show up. I was going to grab it and then beat it up. In my mind, the
I set the trap. As clockwork the being came into my room, doing its normal “I am going to scare you” thing, and then I looked at it. Things turned around pretty quickly. The beast looked at me and I fell into fear again. It then continued to destroy my non-physical body until I woke up. I remember thinking to myself, “well that didn’t work.” This wasn’t going to stop me though.
The next night I got up enough courage to try again. This time I was going to grab the thing, and this time I was really pissed off. I went to bed and once again became aware that I was dreaming. The beast came into the room as it normally did, getting ready to torment my dreaming body, and this time I was ready. I got up ran at the beast and grabbed it. It, figuring out that I was pretty upset and it had lost the advantage, tried to run. I continued to grab the figure and thought of the only thing I could do at that moment, I started to eat it. I ate and ate until there was no more beast and the room was silent. What happened next was something I will never forget. I had one of the greatest and most freeing experiences of my life.
Effects on Waking Life Part One
When I awoke from this dream I was empowered. I had overcome something that had been tormenting me for years. Not only was I overcoming something that had been bullying me and taking over my life, but I was able to do something that most people never imagine is possible. This empowerment transferred to my waking life and gave me a new sense of adventure. When something that was keeping me down seemed impossible, I would look back at this dream and think about how I managed to overcome my fears in my dream that was so real that it ultra-real, why couldn’t I overcome anything?
I still had fearfulness though in my life. It wasn’t like this one experience eliminated my fear of things, but instead, it put a rationalization to my fear. If fear was needed in a situation I would allow it to happen and continue to help me get out of a situation, but if fear seemed out of place or a bit unreasonable, my conscious mind would be able to ask the question, do we really need to fear this? More often than not the answer was no. The ability to have that conversation or to ask
Effects on Dreaming Life Part One
Not only did this experience change my waking life, but my dreams changed as well. Though I would still have the nightmare like dreams, rather than running away from those things that scared me, I had the attitude of making an example of those nightmarish beasts. I would run at them to show them who was the boss and they would run away from me. This would continue to empower my waking life every time I was able to overcome my nightmares.
It seemed that not only did this affect how my nightmares turned out but also allowed me to have Out of Body Experiences that were beyond anything I had experienced before. It had seemed that my fixation of fear is what was keeping me from experiencing my full potential as a human being both in the waking and dream life. Little did I know there was more to the story.
While in college I was taking a class on Buddhist philosophy. My teacher who was a practicing Buddhist had great insights into the mind and also fear. I would often talk to him about meditation techniques to help my lucid dreams. In one conversation we discussed my dreams about fear. Though he wasn’t very interested in altered consciousness experiences he did pay attention to what I was saying. I told him about my most recent dreams and how I was able to scare away these creatures that used to torment me. Surely he would be happy to hear I had overcome my fear. His reply was not what I expected.
In Buddhism the concept that meditation is not the pushing away bad thoughts or the grasping for what is “good” in your life. Rather, the idea of watching things, accepting things, and seeing that everything is impermanent is what brings Sukha. When meditation is occurring it is simply the practice of watching and allowing thoughts and ideas to come and pass. The grasping to ideas and thoughts is what causes us to stress, to feel that our thoughts are real, and have real power over others and ourselves. These ideas become real living beings in our mind. think about that for a moment, I know I did.
My teacher asked me a simple question, “why was I attacking these things in my dreams?” I was taken back a bit, didn’t he know that I was powerful and worked really hard to overcome this stuff? He continued, “why not try to sit with it, to try to understand it?” He was speaking about this idea in a metaphorical way, but oddly enough I was able to really do this. Since I had been practicing Out of Body Experiences I could literally sit down in my dream, have monsters come over to me and ask them to tell me what was going on.
My Dream Story Part Two
That night I went home and got ready for my experiment. I went to sleep and was able to exit my body. As I walked down the hallway in my house I had the sense that one of those nasty creatures that I so loved to scare off was close by. Rather than come to my urge of running after it, I let it come into focus. The house was dark but as it got closer to me I could clearly see that this was a zombie from my beloved childhood horror movie, “Night of the Living Dead.” I started to get a little scared but calmed myself down and soon the zombie was close enough to start eating my brains. I put out my hand and told the zombie to sit with me. I sat down on the floor and the zombie followed me. As I looked at the zombie I noticed that it had changed. No longer was it the scary looking dead corps I saw moments before, it was a copy of me.
I asked my copy a question, “what do you want?” The copy of me answered back saying in a sad and depressed voice, “I am unsatisfied.”
The Effects of Waking Life Part Two
Though I am not sure even today of all the symbolism in that particular dream, there are a few things that I know for sure. My fears are real. They are real in that they manifest themselves as real objects inside my dreams, in my subconsciousness, and in reality. I don’t see my fears walking around as beast from another dimension while I am awake, but they petrify me when I think I can’t do something, or when I don’t think I am good enough for someone. Fears come from different things in our lives, they are not generated from the fear itself, fear is the result of those things in our life that don’t turn out well, that we take personally and turn them into the beast of our nightmares. My monster, the zombie, was created from the sense of unsatisfaction in my life. I am sure there are many more monsters that I have created over time by the things that I was unhappy about.
It’s quite possible that the symbolic merging of the two copies in my dream was the merging of my subconscious with my consciousness so that communication could somehow once again start. Oddly this is exactly what meditation and yoga practices are trying to do, align the hemispheres of the brain to be in sync with each other and to create better communication.
The Effects of Dreaming Life Part Two
In my dreams now I still often see those terrifying beast that I have always seen, they don’t come as often but they are still there. When they do present themselves, rather than scare them off or run away, I like to find out more about what they want. I think there is a great deal to learn from them and find them to be just as important as the other guides in my dreams. Though they often make me feel very uncomfortable, it allows me to see aspects of myself that are stopping me from living a more fulfilling life. I truly look forward to nightmares now because I know that I can learn something from each dream and often those dreams have so much to teach me.
I have a plea for those who have sleep paralysis or nightmares that they just can’t seem to get away from. I ask that you no longer try to get away from these things or attack those things that scare you, that you take a moment and sit with your nightmares however scary they are. These things are your inner demons and the only way to make them go away is to listen to what they have to say. Pushing them away, running away from their stories, and attacking them is not growing, it’s simply making the situation worse and giving your fears more life. Listening and communication are key in any relationship and especially true in our dreams.
Lee Adams is a Ph.D. candidate in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute and host of Cosmic Echo, a lucid dreaming podcast, and creator of taileaters.com, an online community of lucid dreamers and psychonauts. Lee has been actively researching, practicing, and teaching lucid dreaming for over twenty years.
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