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Rabbi, Help, I Am Having Nightmares

Rabbi, Help, I Am Having Nightmares

How to get rid of bad dreams in Judaism

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Dear Rabbi,

I have been having nightmares for years, sometimes in batches several days together, about myself, various friends and relatives. They are never true, yet they have greatly tortured and complicated my life. They make me scared, and many times have paralyzed me to inaction.

I would greatly appreciate if you can provide a perspective, or can refer me to someone.

Answer:

There can be many causes to nightmares, but the most significant cause is your thought patterns during the day. Like the Talmud says, “What you think about during the day, that’s what you’ll dream about at night.”1 Current research supports that: Learn to think in a certain way, and you’ll dream that way as well.

Which is good news. Because your way of thinking is something you can control—and change. Just like changing your clothes.

You see, thoughts are really a kind of clothing, as are spoken words and actions. But they are a peculiar sort of clothing.

We wear clothing so we can go to the places we choose to go. If we don't choose to go anywhere, the clothing has nothing to say. Not so the clothing of thoughts and words. With them, if you don’t take them somewhere, they will take you somewhere else.2

This is really the entire challenge of being an upright human being: to become the master of your own thought, speech and action. To be able to tell a thought, “I’m not interested in having you around,” or just slamming the door in its face. Or not even opening the door to begin with. Eventually, the thought will get the message and know not to bother even trying.

This gives us tremendous power. Because thoughts and words are the most powerful things there are. Just as the Almighty created a world with His thoughts and words, human beings mold their own lives with their thoughts and words. A mind that wallows in negative thoughts quickly becomes a mind shrouded in darkness and gloom. Like a dusty window, it does not allow light to enter. And where there is no light, more dust, darkness and gloom conglomerates. Negative energy attracts negative events, and the cycle continues.

But the moment you choose to flush those putrid thoughts away with positive thoughts, they are gone, like darkness is gone with the flick of a light switch.

All I’m saying is to ignore the nightmares, ignore the horrid premonitions, and instead, whenever these things come, find good things to think about. Take extra time to study the Torah and Jewish teachings, then think about what you learned. Think about some good people you know. Visualize all the good things that you await coming into your life. Let good thoughts create a good life.

Before you go to bed, say the Shema prayer, think about the words, think about making your day better. Take a look at the mezuzah on your doorpost; think about how G‑d watches over you and cares about you. Cuddle up in bed with some good Jewish reading.

(And, while you’re at it, make sure you have mezuzahs on all the doorways that require them, and have them checked by a competent scribe.)

You can replace negative thoughts with good ones—just like you can change lousy clothes for great ones. You can make yourself an optimist. It’s your brain, after all. And it’s your life.3

FOOTNOTES
1.

Talmud, Berachot 55b.

2.

See at length Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya, ch. 4.

3.

Based on the teachings the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. See at length Haoros Ubiurim, no. 821, p. 86.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (14)
November 13, 2012
Nightmares
My nightmares are worse, I pray to God for untroubled sleep it dose not help.
Andrew
Chesapeke
May 22, 2012
the shema
I too used t have very bad dreams, although advised to say the shema, it has taken an incredible five years to start forming the habit of saying shema. I sometimes lapse, but guess what! it makes all the difference.
Anonymous
May 3, 2012
Hamapil
In the bedtime Shema prayer there is a prayer asking G-d to give us an untroubled sleep. It is costumary not to speak after one has said it.
Anonymous
Peoria, USA
May 3, 2012
Midrash Tanchuma
In the Midrash Tanchuma it says "if you had a bad dream don't say it or if you do say it fast and it will be like it never happened".
It also says "if you don't say it it's as if it never happened".
Basically, don't say the dream.
If you forgot to fast, or didn't know this law, just think good things about it.
Midrash Tanchuma fan
May 3, 2012
Praying
Rabbi Freeman,
When one prays, the person usually does have a mental representation of G_od, isn't that “idol worshiping"?
i.e. When we think about our parents, we have their images in our head.
Then how should we pray? It is not a trivial inquiry.
Thanks for your insights,
Jedi
C.H.J Gomez
New York, NY
May 3, 2012
shma
I would stress over and over saying the specific Shma prayer of before sleep, especially the first paragraph which is about forgiving anyone who has harmed you during the day, and 'Hamapil' which asks Hashem not to have bad thoughts at night. They are such comforting paragraphs
The best of success to you....
Tamar
new york, new york
May 3, 2012
First examine yourself to see if there is anything that may be causing you to have this type of dreams. If the same dream repeats time after time, there's something you need to consider. Many times God speaks to us through our dreams but in the same way the adversary does, the difference is that God may alert us of things and it is our job to pray for those who we see in our dreams. Also you need to learn to rebuke anything bad in your dreams by the name and power of the Lord God Almighty, but must of all pray before you go t bed. "Psalm 4:8" is a good prayer to say and in the morning as soon as you wake up remember Psalm 3:5. practice this and God will give you peace while you sleep..
y taylor
May 1, 2012
work and dreams
I agree with comment on medication causing bad dreams because I know 2 of my meds are known to do this. Also, I work with the medical literature all day, and so I often have bad dreams about surgery, cancer, etc. because my job necessitates filling my mind with those images as I work and see the color photos in the articles. It is not really possible to banish them, even if I try to think good thoughts "Like these doctors are curing people" or "I am helping heal the sick." Even keeping the religious radio station on all night as I sleep hasn't helped. It may just be the price I have to pay for trying to help these sufferers. Better to endure the dreams than let others live the reality! But I do pray for relief sometimes.
Anonymous
Falmouth, Maine
April 30, 2012
Dreams
Dreaming is a normal human condition and nothing to be afraid of. I have had a dream of crocodiles walking from my creek, eating people and upturning boats. When the crocs reached my home that was surrounded by flood waters, they in turn were eaten by huge hippos. I fear no reptiles and have often pondered its meaning. Look for the meaning and don't let the 'life condition' frighten you. Lets face it, the worst that can happen is death and that is nothing to fear.
Howard Crawford
Sydney, Australia
April 30, 2012
Gestalt Psychology
I've been wanting to say this for years. Gestalt psychology which believes in a very similar message which has bee widely used as a therapeutic method to europe. Suggest that dreams are just you or unfinished business from the day however the talmud Said that many many years before. The rebbi in my hometown before my family moved. To be honest I hadn't heard of this belief in years. It really makes you think. Gestalt psychology seems to have taken its teachings from the Talmud. Its crazy how things go around like that but great to read about it again. Thanks for great article!
Aaron
burlington, vt
chabaduvm.org
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