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.


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