Dreams, Nightmares, PTSD


Nightmares are like any other dream, the body doing its housekeeping; the mind doing its housekeeping. It’s just reflecting of come what happen the day before.

The great confusion comes from Joseph and his amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat because Joseph interpreted pharaoh’s dream and told him what it meant for the future.  You have dreamt this that means there will be seven years of drought or famine or plenty of frogs or whatever.  He predicted from this that will happen. So Joseph was saying that dreams are predictive. They will see the future. I’m saying exactly the opposite. I’m saying that a dream or a nightmare reflects what was on your mind the day before.

Now, let me give you an example of that. I’ll show you a dream that I had. This is not a nightmare, this is just a straightforward dream.  I dreamt this. This foot was talking to me and I woke up and said, “Lefever, you have lost it. There is something very weird with your head.” What do you suppose I was talking about the previous day? What do you suppose we’ve been discussing? Which part of the foot is that?

The soul. You see, now what had happen was, that we had been talking about that, an S O U L and what my head had done was to give me one of those. It could easily have given me a talking fish, you know, a Dover Sole. In fact he gave me the soul of my foot.  Because my head, when it was doing its housekeeping reflecting upon what we’ve done the previous day had tried to find a way of imaging my S O U L and had failed, so it came out with a talking foot.

Now once having understood that, no dream has ever worried me ever since. There is however another process that can happen and that is post-traumatic stress disorder.  Sometimes things happen out of the blue, bang! Wow! They’ve gone in there without any intellectual assessment at the time. It went in so fast and was so traumatic it just got stuck in the emotional side of the brain. And you won’t get it out there with the intellect. It’s stuck there and you get to post-traumatic stress disorder.

This happens in Vietnam War victims, it happens in rape victims, earthquake victims, victims of burglary or of whatever. Any form of trauma can go straight in and get stuck in the emotional side of the brain and you will not get that out with just thinking about it and having [0:03:22.6 unclear] cognitive therapy saying, “Don’t you realize Robert that the war is over. It was thirty years ago and more. Vietnam is now a nice country. You can have some egg noodle or something and enjoy it” But the car backfires, I’m in the hitch. I think it’s the Vietnam War all over again. I flatten myself in the hitch. The war is still very much alive and well and living in my head.

And so, a lot of the work has been done on post-traumatic stress disorder on that type of anxiety and nightmare has been done on Vietnam War victims. In the Americas, in North America, they have Vietnamese War veteran or any war veteran administration hospitals and the whole group of hospitals, they look after their soldiers and other military people extremely well.

A lot of the work that was done on post-traumatic stress disorder was done first of all with them, and then subsequently with rape victims and then earthquake victims and then people associated with 9/11 and so on.

Now, the most effective treatment for that is EMDR, that’s eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Francine Shapiro, Doctor Shapiro research psychologist and she had been told some pretty awful news, she was walking back home during the time just after that. She’s walking through the woods and had this image, about time she got to the end the image had gone. Now, anyone or the rest of us would have just said, “That’s fine.”  Francine Shapiro is a research psychologist, and she said, “That’s interesting, what was I doing? I was walking through the woods. Yes, but what was I doing? I was looking from one side to the other.” Anyone and the rest of us would have said, “Well, yes fine, mother nature and a nice peaceful environment.” This is genius.

She said, “Ah, I was stimulating first my right occipital cortex and then my left occipital cortex and therefore both cortices we’re a light at the same time. Therefore, my intellect was able to talk to my feelings.”Ah, genius, absolutely genius.

I met her last year at a conference and I haven’t modified that view point. She’s quite staggeringly clever in a way that she interprets something. Anyone of us could have the experience but she had the brains, the insight to be able to deal with it. And therefore, she started working with rape victims in particular on eye movement desensitization.

You could in fact use anything you like to stimulate both sides of the brain. You could use sound. You could use vibration, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz. You could use touch, anything that automates the stimulus of one side of the brain to the other.  Something on the right side of the body followed by something on the left side.

But eye movement was the easiest thing to do. Just follow my finger, just watch my finger. When it’s over there, I’m getting it in here and over to the left occipital cortex. When it’s over there I’m getting it in here and over to the right occipital cortex.  And doing that, you can help people to deal with these long standing traumas that result in recurring nightmares that you can have when you’re wide awake let alone at night.

I trained in EMDR both level one and level two. I’ve treated over a hundred patients with it and I’ve written a book about it. And where people have these traumatic experiences it’s something that I offer them those who say would like me to work with that, I’d be glad to do.

I think it’s the most phenomenal therapeutic technique. But let me tell you what happened in 2000, I went over to The Milton H. Erickson, Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in Anaheim California where the great and the good were there, most fantastic opportunities.

There were right thousand delegates like me, well there was Aaron Beck , Arthur Kornberg, Aaron and Kornberg, William Golding, Fritz Perls, William Glasser, and Francine Shapiro. I looked at Shapiro, “eye movement.” “Eye movement? Rubbish.” I could have met her then.  Because I’m English and I don’t need to understand things I don’t understand, so it’s rubbish. Look at the arrogance of that, an incredible arrogance that I turned up the opportunity of meeting one of the great clinicians because I didn’t know about it.

I learned a very healthy lesson from that, because I didn’t know about something doesn’t mean it’s rubbish it probably means, I don’t know about it and perhaps I should do. So I found now EMDR is tremendously effective.