How can I forget an extremely disturbing and nightmarish hallucination/dream that I had, or at least stop being afraid of it?
August 25, 2007 9:53 AM   Subscribe

How can I forget an extremely disturbing and nightmarish hallucination/dream that I had, or at least stop being afraid of it?

I was recently at home seeing my parents. My mother was taking a nap on the living room floor, snoring loudly, and I was reading in a chair nearby. That night, I had a dream that was exactly like this and I had no idea that I was asleep. In the dream, I looked up from my book and saw that my mother's face/head was an eyeless blob covered with noses and weird ridges. She was still snoring and it was like all the nostrils covering her head were inhaling. I woke up in a panic and it took me a while to realize that it had been a dream. It scared me more than anything else I have ever seen, but I'm not sure why except that the idea is pretty psychotic.

It sounds silly, but I still feel really disturbed about it days later and it's bothering me. I wonder if anyone else has tried to get a disturbing but fantastical image out of their head, or how I could do it.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need the equivalent of a unicorn chaser.

But seriously, have you had a lot of down-time lately? It's when I am not busy that I find I obsess about stuff. Just get engrossed in life and you will forget about it.
posted by jayder at 10:01 AM on August 25, 2007

You need the equivalent of a unicorn chaser.

Yes, just keep clicking back to here until it passes.
posted by nanojath at 10:12 AM on August 25, 2007 [8 favorites]

Write about it. Write every detail of it down. Draw it, even if you think you can't draw. Tell it to various people. Lie in bed and make yourself reimagine it over and over.

At some point, the potency of the image will diminish.

And in the meantime, you may discover whatever wisdom your subconscious is trying to send you, wrapped up in the vivid form of a nightmare.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:14 AM on August 25, 2007

I think otter is right. I heard a story on treatment of PTSD where asking the victims to repeatedly recount and relive the experience as much as possible and it seemed to strip the event of its power. I think that with otters advice you would desensitize yourself to it in a relatively short time.
posted by jlowen at 10:22 AM on August 25, 2007

Something that works for me if when I force myself to go through the nightmare step by step in my head and consider each and every thing in it and then try to figure out why each thing is so disturbing. This really helps me deconstruct it and leave it alone mentally. Good luck.
posted by sneakin at 10:51 AM on August 25, 2007

To build on what jlowen said, i have heard of a new treatment for what is called "profound grief," which is where a person cannot move through the grieving process, usually after a particularly traumatic loss.

The therapy involves telling the story to a tape recorder and then listening to the tape at regular intervals.

The NPR report where I heard this emphatically said that this should be done with a therapist.

Good luck.
posted by 4ster at 10:53 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Two previous related questions.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:10 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

You could try interpreting your dream to see if that lessens the scariness. The dream seems really metaphorical. If it was my dream, I would probably interpret the image of someone without eyes but tons of noses all inhaling as an image of someone without vision but sucking up a lot of oxygen (oxygen being life). So if it was my dream, I would see this as me subconsciously viewing my mother as someone without vision but really clinging to life. But everyone has their own subconscious language and imagery, so obviously the dream may mean something completely different to you.
posted by gt2 at 11:16 AM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think part of the trick to getting an image out of your head is to not try too hard. Think of the old "try not to think of en elephant" trick. The harder you try not to think of it, the harder it is not to think of it.

So a first step, akin to what others are suggesting here, is to me okay with the fact that this image is going to be in your head, that it's pretty normal to have images like that, etc.

Thoughts you have even thought you don't want to are called "intrusive thoughts" in pychology. Here's the wikipedia article: There's also an article about "thought suppression" ( which seems a little less authoritative to me.
posted by ManInSuit at 11:37 AM on August 25, 2007

If your mom is anything like mine, she would find that dream pretty funny. Maybe if you tell her and have a snicker together about it, it will be a silly dream instead of a creepy dream, and you can get over it.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:31 PM on August 25, 2007

Talking about it is good.

Did you take any medication? That could have contributed.

But in the end, it was "just" a dream. It seems real at the time, and you may remember it for many years. There is no way to make yourself forget. It will fade slowly, but pretty soon it will be a non-threatening memory instead of a traumatic one.
posted by The Deej at 12:48 PM on August 25, 2007

Sounds like a hypnogogic hallucination. I've had them occasionally since I was 13. They are disturbing but the feeling will pass in time. Most of mine have been very violent or physically gruesome but all you can do is remember that it's just your mind doing weird stuff when you don't have control over it.
posted by loiseau at 12:59 PM on August 25, 2007

First name the fear, and then defeat it.

I've had bad dreams recently where my normally very affectionate mother is saying horrible things to me. I finally had to tell myself 'This is not my mother. This is a doppelganger taking her shape.' Naming it made it less frightening. Maybe you can name your monster Booger or Sneezy or something. Then I day dreamed a few scenarios where I recognized that mom was fake and threw her out, or where my real mom showed up with a big shotgun and blew her away.
posted by happyturtle at 2:01 PM on August 25, 2007

That reminds me of a book I've read with increasing fascination. It makes me wonder if dreams are more than what we give them credit for.
posted by simplesharps at 5:31 PM on August 25, 2007

I've had a similar experience before. Normally with a nightmare I find some way to make it funny so I can just laugh at it and that makes it really easy to dismiss, but with some dreams you can't do that, they're just too weird or freaky to be able to turn into something funny. For the one or two dreams I've had like that I:

- Keep my mind busy.

- Make sure I don't think about the image. If my mind returns to it I make it shy away before the image comes clearly into focus. Usually having something specific to think about instead - a positive image - helps so I can immediately change the path my thoughts are taking.

- Give it time. For the few really disturbing dreams I've had, that I couldn't turn into something funny, I found it took up to three weeks for the image to fade from my mind. The most important thing is to -not- allow yourself to visualise it as that just makes the image stronger and takes longer for it to fade.

I hope that helps! At the end of the day remember that it's just a dream, it's just your mind trying to make sense of the jumble of information it's had to absorb during the day. It can freak you out but it can't hurt you, and it's effects are -always- temporary.
posted by katala at 6:05 PM on August 25, 2007

I've read that in lucid dreams dangerous & aggressive spirits are often our mother or father. So, this is not very unusual. If I remember right the thing to do is look at it in the dream and to say "I want to see energy" and if it is indeed a dangerous spirit, it will stay intact, but if it's just your imagination playing, it will dissipate in a puff of colorful dust. Or it could be a prophetic dream and signify upcoming psychological problems for your mother. You can politely try to find out if she's been having bad dreams too.
posted by rainy at 6:57 PM on August 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding katala. I remember having a dream that disturbed me deeply for a few days, but all recollection of it faded away after focusing on reality for awhile. Try to forget it, and pretty soon you probably will.
posted by sgass at 9:51 PM on August 25, 2007

i've been having bad dreams and constantly thinking about the subject but in a rational, orderly fahsion rather than just chaotic visualization seems to have helped. that and writing about it over and over again. i second people who have said trauma in general can be alleviated and assimilated by an ordered review of the events that are causing distress.
posted by Soulbee at 10:45 AM on August 27, 2007

I N-th the "think/talk" about it. I had a nightmare that was so scary and vivid that I wrote it out, discussed it with my wife etc. Now it is only the memory of how I felt that I have any attachment too. I originally thought the dream/nightmare would make a great story, now it is shelved.
posted by TheDukeofLancaster at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2007

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