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Book Sample

Nightmares: Your Guide to Interpreting Your Darkest Dreams
Know your nightmares

Apocalypse: A personal apocalypse is a dramatic way of saying that a person’s life is headed the wrong direction. It’s next-level trouble, beyond the ordinary tribulations. The dream author observes how we use figures of speech and says “hello, metaphor!” when the situation is right, like when something is beyond control or comprehension, or your world is falling apart. It delivers a dream about an apocalypse because the metaphor sums up the situational and personal dynamics.

The most common overreaction to an apocalyptic dream is to assume it’s going to come true. Countless false prophecies and predictions are uttered by well-meaning people who completely misunderstand their dreams, which are full of apocalyptic imagery because their minds are full of it. They dwell on fear, negativity, and worst-case scenarios. Even for people who are not so inclined, an apocalypse nightmare can send their thoughts in the wrong direction towards assuming it’s a warning about the future. The world is going to end or something like that. But the simple fact that millions of people have apocalyptic dreams, and the world is still here points toward interpreting them as figurative, not literal.

Apocalypse is another word for a huge change, and apocalypse dreams are known to accompany situations in life such as entering puberty, leaving home, joining the workforce, retirement, relationship decline and breakups, and even marriage. The dream author finds just the right way of mirroring a person’s perceptions and feelings, and if, for example, getting married or retiring is “the end of life as you know it,” an apocalypse may capture the idea better than other symbols or themes. In that way it’s the perfect metaphor.

By understanding how dreams create symbolism, it’s easier to make the correlation between an apocalypse dream and what it dramatizes. Reflect on what’s happening in your life and ask if the metaphorical idea of apocalypse fits. You may find the source in the events, situations, and conditions of your outer life, but the dream author observes your inner life, too, and tells stories about it by using the same language of symbolism, and it may be trickier to discover the parallels between the dream content and what’s happening inside you. Many dreams forecast the future and predict where things are heading, and you aren’t as likely to see the connection until afterward.

It may be obvious why you dream about an apocalypse when you are ill, in distress, or psychologically imbalanced, but not when you are entering puberty or feeling depressed. The dreaming mind, though, knows that we equate apocalypses with situations that have unknown causes — they happen, and we don’t know why, which is what a teenager can think when their body changes, or anyone can think when they are depressed and don’t know the cause. Apocalypse characterizes how they feel, and dreams respond more so to feelings than to rationality.

“I have no reason to feel depressed,” the man said. “Life is fine — no setbacks. I’m in great health. In fact, I just got promoted at work to a coveted position.” But then he dreams about an apocalypse and sees his name written on a tombstone, and he wakes up feeling like his world is not just ending, but over. It puzzles him because there’s no rational reason that explains what the dream imagery implies. He’s in his prime and doesn’t fear death and has nothing but appreciation for his success and everything that led to it. He doesn’t feel depressed; why dream about feeling not just depressed, but as low as a person can go?

It’s because tacitly he realizes this really is the end. He can rise higher in his career, but it won’t have the same thrill. He can live a charmed life but it’s only a continuation of what he knows all too well and there’s no more challenge in it. He will meet expectations, great. He’s 27 years old and his life is over.

The social point of view says that he should feel on top of the world. He’s been trying hard to convince himself it’s true. It’s not though, and his dream captures the idea with the imagery of the grave. His rise in life has locked him onto a path that can only offer contentment until his inevitable death. He won’t consider a change of career — why would he when he’s doing the high-technology job he set out to gain and beat the intense competition to get there? The grave symbolizes the idea that the life he’s made for himself is also a trap he can’t escape even if he wanted to.

An apocalypse is the biggest sort of shakeup, and that’s why the above dream uses it as a theme. The dream doesn’t speak to what is happening or has happened, it speaks to what’s needed. The dream really shook up the man. He needed it to see how he feels beneath his rationalizations.

The experience of the dream is where the answer is found. It’s a self-created experience, and we work backward by asking why he created it (subconsciously) for himself. The lack of apparent connection between himself and the symbolism of apocalypse requires him to dig deeper and ask existential questions. And when the answers start flowing, it makes sense why the dream chose an apocalypse as the story’s theme and the grave as its main symbol. Now, with the lesson in mind, he has a new way of framing the most important issue in his life, that accounts for the other half of the equation he isn’t honoring: his true feelings.

Dreams amplify our little voices, and the man’s dream is a prime example. Apocalypse, like most nightmares, is the volume cranked to 11. It’s a desperate attempt to get the attention of the ego. It’s the message that’s screamed instead of spoken. There’s only one level above apocalypse and that’s Armageddon, the worst it gets, like war is to nuclear war. A dream has reasons for presenting an apocalypse that’s felt as if the world is ending, and tracing those reasons is how you think like the dream author and work backwards to the meaning. You’re looking for something happening in you and your life that’s especially urgent.