Recurring nightmares


Recurring nightmares


your avatar   "Puzzled," 37-year-old woman

This is more of an annoyance in my life than a serious problem (most of the time - except when it makes me lose sleep!), but it certainly has me puzzled and confused. I'm a 37-year-old professional woman, generally very content with life, no history of mental or physical illness, not depressed, etc. My problem? For some reason I have never understood, any image of the Titanic has usually given me nightmares. This has been occurring on an occasional basis for more than twenty years. I first noticed it when I watched a TV documentary on the ship when I was a preteen. I also noticed it years later when the Titanic was actually found, and photos of it as it appears under the ocean were first published. I found myself avoiding copies of "National Geographic" for a while when the photos were published.

Now, for many years, this was just a strange quirk - once in a blue moon I'd see a picture or hear something about the ship, and it would trigger one of these nightmares within 24 - 48 hours, and that would be the end of it. The pictures of the ship under the ocean were especially disturbing, and usually provoked nightmares about being just under the surface of the water. It was as if I were trying to cling to the side of a lifeboat, or had just fallen from one and I would see the ship, some distance off to my right, just as it disappeared under the surface of the water and its lights went out. That's about all there is to the nightmare...that picture of the deck of the ship just submerging, and a feeling of grief and horror for those trapped on board.

Of course, when the movie came out there were Titanic calendars, Titanic books, Titanic videos, Titanic posters, Titanic beach towels - you name it, and the nightmares became a lot more frequent. They've let up some in the last month, but there was a period of a couple of weeks when the movie first came out that they were occurring almost every night. I've been dealing with this by telling myself that a nightmare is not worth changing my life over, and so, if I'm enjoying a visit to a bookstore and there's a Titanic-related display, I'll casually look at it, and tell myself that there is no reason to avoid looking. I can make myself do this, but I still sometimes have the nightmares. And I never had the nerve to see the movie.

I have never been afraid of water, have never "nearly" drowned nor frozen; I have never been on any watercraft that sank. I've been on cruise ships and enjoyed myself. I've also seen photos, documentaries, etc., relating to other shipwrecks, and have not had this reaction. I had no relatives on the Titanic, and I am a Christian person who does not believe in reincarnation, so I certainly do not believe I was "there". I realize that dream interpretation is a highly individualistic enterprise, and that my basic question, "What's going on?!" may not be answerable in this forum. But I would like to know two things:

  • Is this anything I should be concerned about?
  • And is it worth the price of therapy to find out?

I'm generally quite content with the rest of my life, and aside from this strange recurring nightmare, would not seek professional help for any other reason. I do notice that some of the literature on recurring nightmares says that they are usually important messages from the brain regarding unresolved conflict, or sometimes past trauma, but for the life of me I cannot associate these nightmares with either of those things. Should I be investigating this further?


    Kenneth A. Weene, Ph.D.

Clearly this dream content is getting to you. Therefore, I would recommend that you go to someone who works with dreams and get what will probably be short term therapy. (Be sure to ask if the therapist has an interest in dream work. Not all do.)

You may also want to read Karen Horney's "Self Analysis" and try doing some dream work yourself.

I would be remiss trying to interpret your dream without your taking an active part in the free association process. Remember it is your dream, and the symbols are from your inner core not from some universal data base.

Sincerely, Ken Weene

This question was answered by Kenneth A. Weene. Ken Weene is a graduate of The Institute For Advance Psychological Studies at Adelphi University is a licensed psychologist practicing on Long Island, New York. His orientation is holistic and eclectic. In addition to a variety of contributions to the professional literature, Dr. Weene has published a number of poems. Before entering private practice, he directed Children, Adolescent, and Family Services for The Counseling Service of The Long Island Council of Churches. Ken's central belief is that life is a gift to be experienced, enjoyed, and celebrated. He knows that this is sometimes difficult in the face of physical, emotional, and other forms of distress and sees his goal as helping people to find their inner peace and joy in the face of stress and anguish.

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