Nightmares | The Fear of Dreaming

Last week I had a recurring nightmare I’ve had for most of my adult life. In it, I’m simply driving a car.


I’m not going anywhere in particular and not driving off of a cliff or anything like that. I’m simply driving down a busy street or empty road at night and my mind races:

“Where am I going?” “When did I learn how to drive?” “I don’t have a license.” “What if the police pulled me over?” “What if I have an accident?” “What if I lose control of the car?” “What if I hit something or someone?” “I could die.” “I could die right now.” “All I have to do is drive into that wall.” “I can end it all right now… If I wanted to.”

By this point I usually wake up in a cold sweat. If I go back to sleep the dream will just repeat itself, so I turn on the television to distract and redirect my pattern of thought as I let it lull me back to sleep.


The external noise and stimulation normally do the trick; I dream of nothing and my dreams are safe.  If I don’t dream, I don’t drive that car, and I don’t have to travel into the unknown.

Last week was Week 5 of The Artist’s Way and one of the tasks was to not doing any reading. The purpose of this is to prevent the amount of junk food for the soul we consume and to encourage one to experience the moments at hand.


Reading is not normally a junk food thing for me. I tend to read for reference or with a specific purpose in mind; I rarely use reading as a form of entertainment. I do consume television, music, and social media as a form of junk food, so I extended last week’s task to exclude those things from my daily life as well.

I was easily able to turn all of these things off and dramatically reduce my use of them to distract me throughout the week; however, this was especially hard to do while sleeping.


As a child my bed has always been a place of imaginative play.  Not the dirty kind (get your mind out of the gutter), but I would create stories in my mind to fight the boredom of trying to fall asleep.  I would imagine being in space, fighting dragons, being a rock star, or living in a mansion.

I was terrified of the dark as a kid and I would often hide under the sheets and visualize a new world in which I am empowered.


A superhero maybe, Wonder Woman maybe, fighting off giant monsters.  My dreams while wake and asleep have always been vivid and dynamic as I assume everyone else’s are, that is, when I allow myself to dream.

As I got older, I got into the habit of not being able to sleep without the television on or music playing.  If I woke up in the middle of the night, I would turn them back on if they were off.

I’ve recognized that I’ve been subconsciously sabotaging my dreams and that this has hindered my imaginative play while preparing for sleep and also disrupted my dreams while asleep.

For the past week, I have allowed myself to sleep and dream without the external distractions.  I’ve found myself able to now sleep through the entire night without waking up every hour or so to turn the music or television back on.


I’ve also painted and throughly cleaned my bedroom.  I feel more refreshed and energized these mornings and now wake up more naturally with the sunrise.

This has also excited my morning creativity with fantastic visions, which I simply lay in bed and allow to play out in my mind before I get up.


My mornings have now become meditative moments of reflection and fantasy, which is not a bad way to start the day.  And I can bravely drive into the unknown with no license.

About Marcus Dargan