Psychological Self-Help

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events in the past, and make us feel helpless. A good dream leaves us
refreshed, more confident there is a solution to our problem, more
emotionally balanced, and with a better idea how our problems can be
resolved in the future. So, the task is to have fewer bad dreams and
more good ones. That is, change your dreams to improve your
emotional life (whereas Freud was trying to do the opposite). 
Freud thought dreams concealed our vile feelings; Cartwright
thinks dreams reveal our current worries (sometimes more clearly
than our thoughts). She says dreams are not hard to understand if you
assume dreams are concentrating on your current emotional distress
along dimensions that concern you the most, such as being good-bad,
safe-dangerous, loving-anger, capable-weak, close-lonely, trusting-
suspicious, active-passive, pretty-ugly, etc. Ask yourself: Why this
dream? What emotional concern is it telling me to attend to? What are
the main "feeling" dimensions? For example, when we are not coping
very well with some situation, we often have bad dreams in which we
do bad things, feel scared or helpless or lonely or hurt or angry, and
generally deal with the situation poorly. Dream therapy and self-help
involve using your dream diary and turning your bad dreams into good
dreams. This process (R-I-S-C) is simple but may take 6 to 8 weeks to
Recognize you are having bad dreams (you feel worse afterwards).
Ask: What dreams are most troublesome? Why? The content of your
dreams may help you figure out the connections between your current
troubles and earlier crises. 
Identify the emotional dimensions of your dreams; these are your
feelings that need to change, i.e. less anxiety, less anger, less
helplessness, less shame, etc. Use the negative emotions and
situations in your dreams to identify your real problems. Start working
on them when awake too. 
Stop the bad dreams by telling yourself before going to sleep that
you can and will take control of the bad dreams. Self-instructions
before sleeping might consist of: "My dreams are my creation not
some external force. I don't need to scare myself," "I will become
aware that I am dreaming," and "I choose to face and take charge of
my scary dreams with courage." When you recognize a bad dream is
starting, just tell it to stop. Wake yourself up if you must... or take
charge of the dream. 
Change the content and outcomes of your bad dreams. During
sleep, when you stop a negative dream, ask that the dream continue
but be more positive. With practice, you can do this without waking
up. Prior to going to bed, plan ways to change the unwanted dreams
into more positive dreams, e.g. practice making up several more
helpful outcomes for your recent bad dreams. For instance, if you
dream of falling, turn it into flying and land in a pleasant place. If you
dream of failing, plan in advance how you could change the story-line,
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