Your dreams are healthy... even the awful ones

Jul 14, 2014 at 3:53 p.m. ET

When people think of the word "healthy," they typically think of nutritious eating and exercising. But what does healthy mean when it comes to dreams?

dreaming woman

As we go through phases of being healthy and unhealthy when we're awake, many are under the assumption that an "unhealthy" dream is a nightmare; something negative, something that makes them uneasy. But, the truth is, there is no such thing as an unhealthy dream; all dreams are healthy, even nightmares.

A look at relationships

Dreams reflect the state of our mental health and reveal our emotions. While it may not seem obvious, dreams show us what is unhealthy and healthy in our waking lives and what is unresolved in our emotional lives. This often ties to our relationships. According to recent research conducted by research firm YouGov, 45 percent of Americans have dreamed about a current partner, with 33 percent having dreamed of their ex or previous love interest. A revealing statistic, it's important to understand that dreaming of someone from the past is not necessarily "unhealthy." Because dreams vividly reflect our concerns, thoughts and realities, if you're in an unhealthy relationship or if you've been unable to reconcile a past one, then your dreams won't lie. They will reflect that reality visually or metaphorically, not necessarily in language. Through images, are your dreams telling you that you haven't yet forgiven and forgotten a relationship that ended poorly with an ex? Images in your dreams may be telling you that you haven't yet forgotten a relationship that ended poorly. Before going to sleep, make a conscious effort to identify your current relationship situation, as well as your past ones. Then, think and sustain positive thoughts. If your past relationship ended poorly, convince yourself that you will face your ex in your dreams, and that you will forgive him for any wrongdoings. It might not seem obvious, but in dreams, these active tasks go a long way in attaining peace of mind.

Don't turn the other cheek

We have all had dreams that have a direct impact on the way we carry ourselves the next day; even if we don't remember the dream itself, we remember the feeling. Because dreams clue us in to our subconscious minds and mirror our waking lives, thoughts and motivations, it's vital to pay attention to them, even if they are negative. After all, dreams are the most honest and accurate reflection of emotions, memories, regrets and joys stored in our memories.

So, the next time you awaken from a bad dream, rather than sweep it under the rug, take some time to look at the images and symbols that appeared. If waking up from a dream angry, sad, upset or scared, then identify the most prominent images from that dream and reflect on what they could represent, either literally or metaphorically. From there, it is possible to key into the nature of your emotions. When people take the time to self-reflect, they ultimately feel healthier as they can better understand themselves. It's up to us to identify the symbols of our dreams... whether they are positive, negative, happy or sad... to trust them, and to reflect on what they mean.

A dream expert for DreamsCloud, the world's leading online dream resource, with an interactive database of more than 1.8 million dreams, Susan Baragia, M.A. received a degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Nevada-Reno. A trained marriage and family therapist and educational counselor, she has worked with dreams in the therapeutic setting for 15 years.

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