Frightening figures appear in our dreams very often–threatening pursuers, nasty looking people at the door, terrifying animals, all manner of ghosts, zombies, monsters and demons stalk us in our dreams. Some of these figures evolve into very positive beings if we can find the courage to meet them face to face (either within a dream or in waking imaginal work). Others do not evolve in a positive direction; they remain stubbornly negative and even potentially harmful to the dreamer.
In my many years of helping people work with their dreams I have often wondered– why does the unconscious mind not help us by making a clear distinction between the truly harmful dream figures and the potentially benign and helpful dream figures? I don’t know the answer to this question, but I know that most people cannot discern the difference, they are terrified by all their nightmare figures and they tend to remain terrified until they receive some specific guidance and support.
Therefore one of the most critical skills in dreamwork involves being able to make the distinction between intimidating but ultimately positive dream figures that need to be met and integrated, and truly negative figures that need to be weakened or overcome. I recently published an article on this subject in DreamTime Magazine (the journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams). Here’s the link if you’d like to read more… To Integrate or to Overcome