A Little About Nightmares

If you have PTSD or C-PTSD, you know about nightmares.  You have them so often, they aren’t a surprise.  They’re just a way of life.  Yet, little is mentioned about the nightmares.


I’d always had frequent nightmares, but it got much worse in 2012 which is when I realized I had C-PTSD.  I began having several almost every night, which of course led to a lot of fatigue.  The nightmares also became even more vivid than usual, which is saying something since I’ve always had very vivid dreams.  They became so vivid in fact, that often I would wake up feeling as if I’d just done whatever I did in the dream.  If I dreamed I ran a marathon, for example, I woke up physically tired & achy.


After learning about C-PTSD, I assumed the nightmares would be about reliving traumatic events, which does happen, but only rarely.  Most of my nightmares are about strange things- being an adult yet having to repeat high school & relying on my mother to take me rather than driving my own car; while repeating high school as an adult, being unable to find or remember the combination to my locker; my car being stolen &/or totaled; my husband mocking me when I was obviously upset or rejecting me somehow; or someone letting my cats outside & they ran away.  Strange stuff!  I finally asked God about it after waking up for yet one more bizarre nightmare.  What He shared made a lot of sense & I think it will if you too suffer with odd nightmares like I do.


The brain constantly processes information, whether the information is good, bad or indifferent.  Our dreams are often a result of that processing, because the brain doesn’t take breaks.  Sometimes we don’t remember dreams because they weren’t important- the brain simply processed something unimportant.  Other times, it tries to make sense of horrible things that have happened, which is where nightmares come into it.  Sometimes the brain relives those awful, traumatic events in an attempt to understand it, but not always.  Sometimes nightmares look as if they have nothing to do with traumatic events on the surface, yet they actually have a lot to do with them.


While the circumstances of the dreams may be different, the emotions they stir up feel exactly like some trauma you have experienced.  My nightmare of my car being stolen & totaled?  It caused a huge amount of anxiety & fear, & I felt completely helpless.  Eventually I realized it triggered the exact same emotions of my seventeenth birthday.  That day, my mother took my gifts from my then boyfriend/now ex husband & destroyed them on the way home from school.  She blamed me for making her do that & making her car messy.  The event caused me so much anxiety (knowing I’d have to tell my ex what happened to his gifts), fear (wondering what she was going to do next) & I felt helpless (she destroyed the gifts as I was picking up her Avon order & gone for maybe 3 minutes- I couldn’t have known what she was going to do or stop her from doing it)


When these nightmares happen, the good news is that they have a purpose.  They show you that there is an area in which you need more healing.  It can be hard to figure out, so I highly recommend asking God about it.  He loves you & wants to help you, so let Him!  Ask Him what did that dream mean?  If you like, you also can look up symbols on a dream dictionary website- I’ve done this.  I write down everything I can from my dream- items, colors, feelings- then look up what each means & write it down beside each item.  Sometimes things make more sense to me when I see them in writing so that can be a helpful tool.


Once you realize what the dream was trying to make sense of, you can heal.  Work on coping with the traumatic event however works for you- pray, talk to a therapist, talk to a close friend, write in your diary.  What you do doesn’t matter, so long as it works for you.


I know nightmares are a very difficult part of C-PTSD & PTSD, but they are also unavoidable.  Why not make them work in your favor by learning what they’re trying to help you cope with?  Once you do, the nightmares often go away or at the very least don’t happen nearly as often.  I haven’t had a dream about my car being stolen or totaled in a couple of years.  🙂


Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

10 responses to “A Little About Nightmares

  1. Angela

    What! She destroyed your gifts! Cynthia, that’s awful! Your mother must have been overloaded with jealousy. You were young and attractive, you had a boyfriend who cared about you and bought you gifts, and God forbid that you were happy and would take pleasure in something lovely that had happened to you. I’ve had have to tell someone else about my mother’s impossible to explain behavior too. No wonder our brains are in turmoil, we’ve endured constant, unpredictable, undeserved, nonsensical, awful attacks by the very people who should have had our best interests at heart.


    • It really was awful. My first boyfriend’s first gifts & she destroyed them. She hated him so much & was angry I wanted to see him even though she didn’t approve. Since he was a narcissist too, I wonder if she was angry about the competition for control over me. Later when my father got home from work I told him what she did. He went into the other room to confront her & I heard her screaming at him to mind his own business from the other end of the house. She then came into my bedroom & screamed at me for tattling on her. Later he told me there was nothing he could do & it was hard on him. So much dysfunction in one birthday.. that’s the main reason I still hate my birthday & it’s 29 years later.

      Agreed… it makes sense how our brains have been in turmoil. They want to make sense from things you can’t make any sense out of.


      • Angela

        My mother didn’t like any of my boyfriends and found something to criticise about my dear friends. I have come to the conclusion that it wouldn’t have mattered what they were like. What she couldn’t bear was someone thinking well of me and me enjoying that friendship. Neither did she want me to have the pleasure of enjoying birthdays, Christmas, wedding day, birth of baby, etc. You’re right, it’s all about wanting to have control over you and wanting you to be unhappy. What is so infuriating about narcissists ruining one birthday/special occasion, is that it affects all future ones too. It’s impossible to disassociate what happened with the date, and our brains are warning us to beware of the same kind of thing happening again, whether it’s likely or not.


        • That’s so sad but so typical of narcissistic moms. Anyone who thinks well of us is a threat to their control over us or maybe they’d pay attention to us instead of them. They also hate anyone thinking well of us if it doesn’t reflect positively on them somehow.

          That is so true, too, especially if PTSD is involved I think. It can be extremely hard to separate bad things with the date & realize it may not ever be so bad again. I’ve had a ton of lousy birthdays & holidays thanks to my folks, ex husband, current husband & his family. By now it’s deeply embedded in me to dread certain days even though I’ve tried not to.


    • Cindy

      Yes,that’s awful and really dysfunctional.I’m always happy when my daughter gets a nice gift,and I feel good for her


  2. Cindy Patterson

    Hi Cynthia!! Hope your doing well!! Another good article from you!! I just read recently that narcissists are known not to dream. Interesting. I’m so glad they are learning more and more about the brain and that is due to inmates having to have an MRI so the medical professionals can document the area’s of the psycho/sociopath’s brains that are not functioning. Have a good day! I head to work soon! Cindy


    • Hi Cindy!

      Thank you!!

      Hope you’re doing well too!

      Really? How fascinating is that!

      Definitely.. we need to know everything we possibly can about how the brains of these people work.

      Hope you have a good day too!


  3. Cindy

    Sorry you get them.I do,too.Do you ever act out in your dreams? Last time I had a nightmare when taking a nap,I kicked a box of stuff I had on the bed,and almost knocked it off the bed! I remember kicking it 3 good times bf I finally woke up.I thought it was weird


    • Rarely, although sometimes I talk in my sleep or call for help.

      Wow! That is weird but I can see it happening. If a dream is very vivid & realistic, why wouldn’t you act out in your sleep?


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