My husband has violent nightmares a lot. It always involves him protecting someone. For example: Someone is breaking into the apartment and trying to attack me or someone following me around the mall (stalking). These dreams also happened with his ex-wife.
He has told me that he has had violent dreams since he was a child. His mother was an alcoholic who was violent towards his father. I don't know if she was to the children. He still keeps in contact with his father and the rest of his family, but has only recently started a dialogue with his mother.
He doesn't talk about his childhood family situation a lot so I don't know a lot of details. I also came from an abusive (female) alcoholic family (no father), but have found ways (talk-therapy, forgiveness, etc) to deal with it.
I don't want to give my husband advice until I know the correct approach. I have recently suggested counseling, but he likes to be the tough person and thinks he can deal (or not) with it himself. I think he has a lot of unresolved issues that need to be addressed.
Any help in this area would be appreciated.
Your husband's dreams are known as "rescue fantasies" and they are common among people who had to take care of themselves as children, instead of being well taken care of by their parents. The adult (your husband) tends to believe the world to be a very dangerous place and he assumes the responsibility for protecting everyone he cares about. This sounds good, but, of course, the problem is that he needs protection himself - and he is not willing to get it if he 'only' sees it as serving his helping himself! (Another problem with having weak parents is that the person never realizes how important THEY are, themselves... they tend to see everyone else as important in their lives, but not themselves).
My best suggestions for you would be to:
- Realize that it's not your job to "fix" your husband but that you can try to help a little when you WANT to.
- Realize that such problems do require therapy (as you have done for yourself).
- Keep telling him that HE MATTERS and is important, that the pain he goes through at night matters, that the pressure he feels all day long from these same fears as he experiences in his dreams matters, etc.
- Do point out to him how much his dreams bother you (interfere with your sleep, make you concerned about his pain, etc.).
- Strangely, your husband's dreams probably occur after a day in which he felt very SAFE! When the day's events seem SO safe that his basic belief in the scariness of the world is challenged, his subconscious manufactures situations in which he 'proves' to himself that he was right all along about the 'scariness' of the world!!
There are two topics at my site which might be particularly helpful. They are:
- Dreams: http://www.HelpYourselfTherapy.com/topics/dreams.html
- How To Help A Friend Who's Hurting: http://www.HelpYourselfTherapy.com/topics/helps.html
I sincerely hope your husband realizes that he's not alone in the world and that he deserves to get as much help from others as you and all the rest of us do. (He did without so much as a child, he DESERVES better help from others now!)
If you think it might help him, show him this letter from me...
Thanks for an excellent question.