Apocalyptic Nightmares: Disturbed Sleep

People often bring up the subject of nightmares with me. Perhaps it’s the psychic side of me or the fact that I’ve counseled folks with anxiety issues for over 20 years, but somehow folks feel comfortable bringing up their inner fears.

On my own time, in the past few years I’ve noticed repeated post-apocalypse nightmares in my dream-state themes. They weren’t something I ever dreamed up before, but something born in the post 9-11 time period with Bush’s color-coded terror alerts and duct tape and plastic, anthrax and airport shut downs when people sneak past security.

Many people have expressed to me having similar themed dreams. I’m guessing during WWII there were similar nightmares of bombs dropping, invasions, et cetera.

The content of the dreams can reflect people you ran into that day, movies you watched before bedtime, and running background anxieties. The sleep state offers you time to work out things, problem solve and release fears and gain mastery. The theme of the apocalypse is an ideal gauntlet.

Here’s how my dream usually goes:

Everything is dusty and tan-colored. There is no other color in the scene. I am trudging along, tired, feet sore, hot, exhausted. There are people around me. Not a large group, perhaps a dozen. We are climbing over rocks and small sandstone cliffs. I stop and ask everyone to rest and conserve their energy. The group gathers around and looks at me as if I have something important to say. They look as weary as I feel but they also seem quite lost.

I point to one person and say “you find us shelter. Go with that person and that person.” I point to others. I turn. “You,” I point, “go with him and her and her and find water.” I go down the line telling people what to do. They nervously wander off. We find a shelter, we find water and food, we cower inside a cave.

The others are contented to continue on this way, but I know we can do better if we get to more resources. I tell them we must conserve our resources so we can take them with us.

Then, off we go to walk again, longer, harder, hotter, more uncomfortable until we get a glimmer of something green and wet in the distance and everyone cheers. I have brought them to the promise land. I asked them to believe me and I provided.

In the dream, I never arrive to the oasis, but I wake up feeling both exhausted from the long saga and kind of down because it was a miserable world I just spent my sleep time in.

Do these dreams mean end of times is coming? No. It simply means that we are all using themes that we relate to in order to work out problems of every day life.

In the case of your dreams, it doesn’t matter so much what is happening in them, so much as how you are handling the themes. If you run and cower, you do not feel ready to handle what’s happening in your life. If you take control, you are feeling very competent. Perhaps you freak out and then stop and take control, that is reflective of your daily life.

So, don’t worry so much about the end of the world dream prophecies, worry how you handle them.


  1. Did you find a shelter?

  2. We stayed in the cave for a time, but then when we found the oasis, my job was over and I woke up. One of the variations, we stayed in a mall department store, but I realized we were vulnerable there because we were too close to the radiation, so I made us walk. The group followed me, even though all I had was the sun to show me which direction to go. I remember thinking in the dreams, "why are these people so helpless and stupid?" Then, I realized their emotions got the better of them and they couldn't think clearly. It kind of surprised me that I stayed icy, but I do remember finally feeling something when I saw the oasis. The relief made me want to sob because I hadn't guided them the wrong direction. How I handle my dreams so much reflects my day to day life and how I see myself in relation to others and situations.

  3. You missed your calling. You should have been a therapist.

  4. Sounds like you are not happy living in the desert. You need water and green scenery. (I do too)

  5. Jessica;
    I considered it when I was running the anxiety self-help group and writing articles and giving workshops, but the truth was that it was too much like doing psychic work which is also another form of therapy and people depending on me too much and not doing for themselves wears me down. Well, thus, the dreams. haha

    Yeah, we'd be screwed if end of times came here in the desert.

  6. What if a person runs apocalyptic scenarios through their head from time to time just for fun? Is this a sign of mental instability? Part of me thinks this planet and society are due for something big. Every generation goes through this fear and panic right? (sigh) I always have more questions than answers.

  7. CC;
    It's extremely common. We all do it. I just got divorced and moved into an apartment. I wasn't thinking how I miss skinny dipping in my own backyard pool or having BBQs or any of the other things I should miss. I missed my huge stocked pantry and having the pool for spare water should it be necessary. Yeah, we all think it. My parents had me when they were much older and they were in WWII and they said they thought about it all the time after Pearl Harbor. Everyone was consumed with it so much that when the war ended and they entered the 50s, people rushed to buy houses and make families as if the race depended on it.


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