I do not consent to these dreams!
November 22, 2018 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I am currently living a committedly celibate and chaste lifestyle. In retaliation, my body has begun subjecting me to extraordinarily sexual and sensual dreams. This needs to stop.

I'm currently committed to a fully chaste life. That means no sexual activity, including masturbation. These dreams are extremely physically intense, and the contents are often disturbing as well as sexual. They are also so vivid that I fear I might be verbalizing responses loud enough for my housemates to hear (embarassing! I've been known to talk in my sleep). They make honoring my commitment to chastity quite difficult because of my body's continued response once I awake but am groggy. This is upsetting.

Approaches I've ruled out from other questions about dreams and sleep:

-Melatonin. It makes my dreams more disturbing and vivid, and harms my sleep quality, which is already poor. With melatonin, I only get about 6 hours of sleep.

-Marijuana and derivatives. I have a very bad reaction to cannabis and absolutely will not use it.

-Self-pleasure. On the occasions where I have slipped up, it hasn't helped or prevented the dreams from reoccuring.

-Exploring the cause of the dreams for a psychological resolution. The cause is pretty obvious and doesn't require a lot of psychological deciphering.

-Lucid dreaming. I've tried this in the past. I don't think it's worth exploring again.

Other relevant information:

I'm not here to justify or defend my sexual choices and I am not interested in suggestions to become sexually active. I understand that sex is not bad or wrong and don't need to be lectured. I also understand that sexual dreams do not in themselves "break" my chastity and I do not feel guilty about them. I am female. I am not taking any medications. I take multivitamins, fish oil, a multi-B, and a combined magnesium/calcium/vitamin D. I just want these dreams to stop. I welcome any suggestions that might decrease the frequency or intensity of these dreams.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Some supplements can make dreams more vivid/intense, so check into that.

-Exploring the cause of the dreams for a psychological resolution. The cause is pretty obvious and doesn't require a lot of psychological deciphering.

Right, but it kind of does. You seem like you may be angry about these dreams, and maybe angry about being unable to control them. The intense need that you have to control and/or deny a very basic human urge is something to explore and, perhaps, resolve. How would it be resolved? By letting go of the idea that you can be in complete control of your body and mind. That is impossible. Accepting that you are unable to control the sexual content of your dreams may help your mind move on from that content, to some extent.

Or perhaps you fear that you are unable to fulfill your commitment to chastity/celibacy. Addressing that fear head-on might contribute to limiting these dreams. For example, you say that they make honoring your commitment to chastity difficult when you are waking up. Could you find a way to address that so that you feel secure that you will remain committed? Is there something you could reach for by habit that would snap you out of it?

That is not to say that it is bad to be chaste/celibate. There is no judgment in this suggestion. But it does indicate that controlling sex/sexuality is very important to you, and that you fear your involuntary sexual responses. That is likely contributing to the prominence of sex in your dreams.

Good luck with this.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:28 AM on November 22, 2018 [14 favorites]

I can't specifically speak to sex dreams, but when I've had dreams that I don't like, I get myself kinda sleep deprived for a few days* and that tends to cut that out or interrupts the cycle, at least. I am not an expert on dreams, but I vaguely recall that if you're not hitting the right REM cycles or whatever, then you don't dream.

* not particularly difficult for me naturally, unfortunately. But either pull an all nighter or only get around 5 hours for a few nights.

Looking for a few articles on the topic...this one sounded reasonable.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:30 AM on November 22, 2018

If you haven't been doing this for long, I think it very likely that the dreams will simply fade in time.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:46 AM on November 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

It is okay to have these dreams. What is not okay is to remember them or to think about them. You can't help having those dreams the same way a guy can't prevent nocturnal emissions. Your body will create the dreams because you are a member of a species that reproduces sexually. However whatever has caused you to decide to be celibate is the same thing that is causing the dreams to be vivid and intrusive. That's not going to go away. The issue is how to manage them.

Testosterone levels in women are highest shortly before natural dawn. If you can be awake during this time and doing something non-sexual and absorbing you may be able to avoid them. If you can avoid thinking about them when you wake up you may be able to forget having them. So if you wake up from one of those dreams you could try immediately filling your brain with something that prevents you from having sexual thoughts or awareness of sexual arousal.

Possibly you can get so you have a reflex where upon waking with the dream in your consciousness you think, "doesn't matter" or "not real" and go right back to sleep, or get on with your waking day. I would aim for that goal using DBT, CBT or simple distraction and relaxation. If you get practiced enough at this the dream will not really exist, it will only be an arousal state you go through cyclically while sleeping and the imagery will not be sexual.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have read somewhere, and a long time ago (so it might have been disproved or indeed be completely wrong), that daydreaming a lot can have an impact on night dreaming. Almost as if there is a quantum of "downtime"your brain needs that can be met in part by conscious dreaming. Sounds like bunkum now, I admit. I have no other evidence to cite, except that when I used to walk everywhere and daydream really vividly and intensely while I did, I would never be aware of what I dreamed that same night.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 10:58 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Common advice for people with poor sleep hygiene is to increase exercise during the day, keeping to a routine about it. It does help even though for me it's very difficult to stick to any kind of rhythm, but it sounds like you have a lot more conviction than I do, just in general. It can help you get more restful sleep and build better habits that lead to a calmer mind. Regular exercise can also be a very good lead-in to meditation, which is another very common suggestion that does have merit for many people with difficult sleep issues.

One thing that you can work on right away is trying to release concern about your housemates hearing you. Even if they do, they are not going to think anything of it unless you're screaming, and that's highly unlikely. Every housemate I've ever had occasionally makes noises in their sleep and that's totally normal and not anything to even bring up. And if they do bring it up they aren't going to know the reasons for the vocalizations unless you tell them - and they won't know to ask because presumably you haven't told them. You can just say that you had some bad dreams and that will be that. Unless you're sharing a bedroom with someone they will not be able to pick up on anything untoward, and even if they could it's not anything for you to be guilty about. Try to become okay with the possibility that you might make some noise in your sleep and separate that from the source of your distress. No need to add more to what's already a thorny problem.
posted by Mizu at 11:01 AM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you might try reframing your approach to these dreams? I've never been in this exact situation, but definitely every time I've ever been subjected to my body/brain doing something I wish it wouldn't - physical anxiety, obsessive thoughts, etc. -, the more I wrestled with it and tried to fight it directly, the more I locked into it and the worse and more amplified it got.

To break the cycle, I need to figure out how to step back and let the thing happen, but in a way that drains the experience of a lot of its intensity, urgency, and suffering. Usually, when that happens, I have to live with the problem for a little while, but then it goes away on its own - I stop thinking about it so obsessively, and then one day, I look up and it's gone.

So, maybe one way to think about this is: it's probably a natural outcome of a celibate lifestyle to have slightly more intense sex dreams, at least for a while. That's not a problem in and of itself - but there are a few attendant problems, and you can deal with them step-by-step.

1. You're afraid your roommates will hear you. Get a noise machine or a fan to cover up any sounds you might make. (Though I agree with the above poster that I've lived with other people almost my entire life and I've literally never identified a sleeping sound from a person I would've identified as a sex sound. Grunting and moaning is grunting and moaning; most dreams sound the same.)

2. You're afraid you're going to break chastity right around when you wake up. Maybe set an alarm slightly earlier than you're awake, so you spend less time in that groggy post-dream space? Then, plan a morning routine you can jump right into that will take you out of your head, and that you look forward to: nice shower, coffee, etc. - whatever it takes to get you out of bed. Also, I think whenever you're trying to make a major lifestyle change, it's really important to be compassionate with yourself in considering the possibility of failure. Like, while you're waiting for the intensity of these dreams to lessen, it's totally possible you might break chastity once or twice! But it's also possible you won't, and being too hard on yourself about the possibility is only going to amplify your anxiety. Do what you can to prevent it, but also be gentle with yourself if you do. If this is something you're aiming to do long-term, it's a marathon, not a sprint.

3. The dreams themselves are disturbing and scary. Hopefully, by doing what I've suggested above will help bring down your overall anxiety levels around the subject, which, in turn, will make the dreams less intense and bad. In addition, exercise, meditation, and other calming habits right before bed. You might try a little affirmation/reminder: "I might have dreams tonight. They might be scary and upsetting. But they're only dreams, and they're just a natural consequence of the choice I've made, which overall I'm proud of and is worth it to me, so I'll accept and allow them if they come." And if a dream arrives that night, acknowledge it, but do your best to let it go - don't tell yourself a story that builds it up into this huge meaningful thing, an act of retaliation of your body against your mind - it's just a dream. As soon as you've recognized it, it's gone. Let it go.

Good luck! This sounds hard. I'll be thinking of you.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:21 AM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is counterintuitive advice but... maybe try accepting them, even embracing them? (No pun intended.) It may be your body's way of transitioning into celibacy. Once you have worked on being celibate for a longer period of time, perhaps these dreams will lessen in intensity and/or become a pleasant thing to look forward to when you go to sleep. IMO, though, I don't think trying to completely eradicate the dreams, as in trying to impose "only G movies allowed while sleeping" is really going to be good for your mental health in the long run. IANAD, etc.
posted by Crystal Fox at 11:22 AM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I like pretentious illiterate's take. As Jung said, “What you resist persists.”

You may not be able to stop the dreams, but you can spend less time ruminating on them and cultivating negative feelings about them.

This Zen parable comes to mind. “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
posted by ottereroticist at 11:37 AM on November 22, 2018 [11 favorites]

As mentioned above, supplements can cause vivid dreams. I get crazy, vivid dreams from B-12. While the content of your dreams might be related to your chastity, maybe try skipping your multi-B for a week or so to decrease the intensity. (Unless you're taking it on a doctor's advice. In that case, ask the doctor.)
posted by erloteiel at 12:10 PM on November 22, 2018

You can't control or stop unwanted dreams. People have tried for millennia as they can be very upsetting. I think you have to let go of that desire to control your subconscious.

Part of that is recognizing that being chaste doesn't mean that you become a non-sexual being, it means you deliberately deny yourself the pleasures of the flesh for whatever reason. You are kind of supposed to be tormented by it, that's what makes it a sacrifice and something you are "giving up". If you are doing this as part of a religious lifestyle you should talk to your mentor, they can set your mind at ease that these dreams are abnormal or wrong in any way.

If you just want to become asexual and not every have to think about or consider sex again I'm not really sure how you can do that as a fully functioning adult with hormones but thinking that your body is somehow wrong or fighting it seems unhealthy and counter productive. Even if you're not religious maybe talking to someone else leading a celibate lifestyle would be helpful. I'm thinking nuns or monks here, ascetics.
posted by fshgrl at 12:45 PM on November 22, 2018 [11 favorites]

I am in the same boat and I get these dreams too. I just see them as a break. My brain doing for itself what it needs to do. This is us getting to have what we biologically require in a way that gets around the societal restrictions we have seen fit to place on ourselves. For whatever reason we’re doing this we don’t want to involve others or even your own conscious mind, and that’s fine so here’s another way that doesn’t involve any of that. It’s great.
posted by bleep at 1:07 PM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

The great thing about dreams is that they’re supposed to be forgotten. They’re designed to be forgotten. You can only remember them if you really try. And you have to really try. You will remember them if you keep repeating the experience to yourself when you wake up. If you don’t want to remember them, don’t do that.
posted by bleep at 1:14 PM on November 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I lived voluntary celibate for 12 years, in a religious setting, for religious reasons which may be different from why you live celibate.
It is a question of discipline and acceptance of human frailty. Be patient with yourself.

If you only recently started this lifestyle, consider going on some retreat for a few weeks, joining the lifestyle of a group and establishing a routine.

If your housemates do not share your lifestyle, it is much harder. Doable, but harder. There is a reason celibacy is often tied to communal living of likeminded people.

However, i think some of the practical experience might transfer and possibly useful to you even if your housemates do not share your lifestyle.
most importantly, in a communal living situation, all housemates vhave the same issues. Going to a retreat or joining a group of celibtes is helpful because it puts your own struggle in perspective.
Practically speaking rise early before waking naturally and leave the bed immediately, followed by communal and individual prayer.
If prayer is not your thing, find a spiritual practice, eg meditate or even just go for a walk.
Do not permit yourself to dwell on the dream instead focus consciously on something else, eg your goal in living celibate.
Accountability is key - if you can find a mentor or guide. Confession and absolution are powerful tools practiced in communities of celibates.

Also i think it might help you to explore history and read about lives of celibates in history.
Even if you do not live celibate for religious reasons, reading about the thousands who have walked the path before will show that sexual dreams are not a sign of failure but a natural occurence like thought s of food when fasting and can be overcome with discipline.
posted by 15L06 at 6:00 PM on November 22, 2018 [10 favorites]

Not just Jung who recognizes "What you resist, persists." Many others agree, many Buddhist teachers, for instance.

A concrete suggestion: Keep a pad and pen next to your bed. The INSTANT you wake from a dream, reach out and start to write a description of it. It's important to use the present tense ("the door opens, a cat comes out") throughout the description. If you want to think about the dream, that's fine but going back to sleep is equally fine. In the morning, read your writing -- you're going to be surprised and sometimes bewildered. You may want to think about a dream, but simply looking at it and acknowledging it is enough to help you not resist those dreams, and I believe will sometimes give you insight into your awake life.

This technique is used by people in dream workshops, or who are exploring parts of themselves in their Shadow. If there is a particularly powerful dream, or one that is repeated, try drawing something from the dream. Colored pencils are good, and it's important you draw with your NON-dominant hand.

These dreams have meaning to you, and can help you tremendously in deepening your life choices. If you are working with dreams you don't want to have, and that disturb you, I can guarantee there are jewels of great worth in those dreams.

Good Luck, and sleep well!
posted by kestralwing at 6:27 PM on November 22, 2018

I've found that playing audio when I sleep (music, talk, TV) makes it less likely that I'll remember dreams. There is some negative effect on quality of sleep but it's been acceptable. My therapist says there are medications that could help should that become necessary.
posted by in278s at 8:55 PM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

You need to channel this bodily energy somewhere. I think eventually it will go away but to hasten it I suggest:
Creative activity / big creative project
Imaginative / devotional meditation
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:36 PM on November 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

The thing about your brain is that it uses dreams as a way for your psyche to process experiences in a non-real-life way. One of the reasons you may be having the dreams is because you are currently adjusting both your physical and psychological selves into a lifestyle of chastity. Your brain is working all that out through dreams, like “What is the impact on me? Good? Bad? What if something like this happens?”

So I would consider it part of the process. Your dreams are there to teach you and help you, and to flush out emotions and concerns you have in a way that won’t have a real-world impact. Maybe think of it as a “cleanse” instead of as an obstacle that you have to fight against.

If it isn’t contraindicated for you, you could consider birth control pills, especially monophasic ones, because they level off your hormone levels, and an extremely common side effect is that your libido takes a nosedive. Obviously you wouldn’t need the actual pregnancy prevention, but so what, plenty of people take them for other benefits.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:35 PM on November 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don’t understand what you think is going on here.

Please explain. You are not just a “brain in a jar.” Your body is a part of YOU.

I want to explain further, but you were exceptionally explicit about what you don’t want to be told. Sure. But that’s the explanation to your problem. You are not a brain in a jar. You are a brain, a body, and “spirit” or consciousness. Separating these things never works. You are directly finding this out.

With this established via your direct experience, how do you want to be?
posted by jbenben at 11:48 PM on November 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am currently living a committedly celibate and chaste lifestyle. In retaliation, my body has begun subjecting me to extraordinarily sexual and sensual dreams. This needs to stop.

Seems to me that a completely necessary step along the road to making it stop is to let go of the separation between "I" and "my body" inherent in the above statement.

If you conceptualize yourself and your body as in-principle separable and as adversaries to boot, you will never find spiritual peace.

You are your body. Your body contains your mind and your spirit; without a body you would have neither, regardless of any of the multitude of fictions you might have encountered that assume or claim otherwise.

To the extent that your will is capable of controlling what you do, it can only ever do so while your mind is actually operating, which while you're sleeping it is not; that's what sleeping is.

Your body is not "subjecting you to" anything. Your body is experiencing sexual and sensual dreams, and your mind is remembering them, and there is diddly squat your mind can do about that except train itself to accept it with equanimity, because your mind is not the boss of you; it only thinks it is, because it's easier to leap to that conclusion than it is to look dispassionately at all the available evidence and figure out how being a person actually works.
posted by flabdablet at 4:14 AM on November 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

As a formerly celibate, (now married) female person, perhaps I can help.

Firstly, I totally get the unfair feeling- "I was doing so well and NOW LOOK AT WHAT YOU MADE ME DO" of that groggy morning slip up. It sucks.

Is there a religious component to you celibacy? Praying can help focus. Asking for sweet /safe dreams. As mentioned above, accountability/mentoring.

Staying in bed is the problem. You are feeling horny, you are feeling groggy, it's hard to resist. Getting up and out of bed straight-away every morning helps. Avoiding naps helps.

Go pee more often- a full bladder can poke your sex bits, sometimes going to pee would break me out of the horny cycle.

Is there something triggering you that wouldn't normally but is? Obviously reading erotica/looking at porn isn't something that you're doing, but is there something vaguely sexual that your body is picking up on- a rom-com, a news story, etc.

Hope that helps!
posted by freethefeet at 7:40 PM on November 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would suggest seeking advice from Orthodox Christians, who are supposed to be chaste until marriage. A good priest will have a lot of advice about dealing with this problem.
posted by archagon at 1:36 PM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

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