Nightmares since childhood

Straight Talk

The Question

I have had nightmares as far back as I can remember (I still can recall dreams I had as a child). I’m 38 years old. Some are very scary and others are very perverse. I have been a Christian for 15 years and asked God to set me free from this but I still have them. I also have a sister who suffers from the same thing. Please help me with any advice.

– S. From Gilbertsville

I would like help understanding a dream I have had since I was about 7 or 8. I go into a deep sleep and can’t wake or scream. I feel or see that something is trying to hurt me and it’s often an ugly face that I don’t know. Please help me. Sometimes it happens up to 3 times a night.

– CH from Unknown Location

The Answer
Part 1: Source of nightmares
Part 2: Distress signals of the soul
Part 3: Stopping the nightmares

Source of nightmares (Part 1)

These two questions are representative of a large number of similar ones I often get about nightmares. Can you imagine being disturbed in your sleep year after year—hardly ever having any real rest or refreshment? Yet in a certain sense, these dreams are making a continuing attempt to resolve something, probably something that happened in childhood.

Dreams have three sources: God, the devil or our own soul trying to process life in some way. But a dream originating from ourselves can also be thought of as coming from God since dreaming is his safety valve provision for handling the pressures and dilemmas we struggle to handle in our waking state.

Nightmares are not God given. He may give a strong warning or have dramatic events show up in a dream so he can say something particular to us but we will not feel terrified or unsafe. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

So what’s going on here? I can’t give either reader the precise interpretation of their dream because I don’t know enough about them or their life situation to do so. Even if I knew much more, the dream came to them and they must ultimately be the one who understands it. What I can do is propose some questions to ask about the dreams, which may unlock some answers. Beyond interpretation, both readers simply want their dream to STOP. I can’t blame them.

Distress signals of the soul (Part 2)

I’m struck by the fact that these reoccurring dreams have been going so long—since childhood. That seems very significant to me. Even more significant is that one of the dreamers has a sister “who suffers from the same thing.” I believe that’s particularly important and not just a coincidence.

What happened to these two sisters in childhood to trigger nightmares so severe they have continued well into adulthood? I can propose a few possibilities for them to consider. Were they separately or together sexually abused or molested, perhaps when they were too young to comprehend exactly what was happening? Or, did they live in a home with intense violence, especially at night? Third, did any adults ever use them in occult activities such as satanic rituals or ceremonies?

The fact that both sisters have the same kind of dream is a dead giveaway that something happened to them when they were children that sparked the nightmares. If they get to that root they will probably be at the threshold of solving the dreams, a necessary step in eliminating them.

The other dreamer has also been having the same dream since childhood. It seems that the overriding sense is utter helplessness—terrified but impotent to change anything. So again, what happened as a child that was horrible yet inescapable? Are they reliving the experience over and over again in their sleep? As with the first case, trying to identify the original trigger to the nightmare may help bring resolution.

Rather than see the nightmares as constant negative disruptions to sleep, perhaps it would be better to think of them as distress signals sent by a troubled soul. If healing is applied to the soul at the dream’s root it will no longer need to keep processing the terrible events.

Stopping the nightmares (Part 3)

I’ve already said that uncovering the event that provoked the nightmares is a hopeful first step in eliminating them. But just knowing doesn’t necessarily create an automatic shutoff. These nightmares pack an emotional wallop extended over many years. What’s next?

It depends. It is here that prayer and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit will be most important in stepping forward. Is spiritual counseling indicated? Deliverance ministry if demonic spirits are controlling the dreams? How does forgiveness play a part if the person was violated? Was sin involved? Repentance and renouncing the sin is necessary. Maybe there will be spiritual warfare to wage to recover what was lost.

Sleep should be a time of rest and refreshment. Often it is a time of hearing from God in a special way. “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” (Proverbs 3:24) Sweet sleep. That’s what we should expect. None of us is destined for a lifetime of nightmares so we shouldn’t put up with them as if they are normal. I suggest an all out assault on this infringement of your freedom in Christ until victory is secured!