DO YOU have anxiety dreams? Of course you do. We all do. Here's a typical one:
You find yourself running naked through an airport clutching a glass suitcase full of snakes, late for your flight.
We've all been there. And the conventional thinking about anxiety dreams is to locate their source in the worries of our waking lives. But these days who has time for that? If you experience anxiety in a dream, deal with it in the dream.
So, in the example above, ask yourself why you're running through an airport. Are you really trying to make a flight? Maybe you're just taking a shortcut to a nearby motel for a thrilling illicit tryst. It's all too easy to assume you're worried about being late, when you may simply be hurrying because you can't wait to have fun. As for the snakes, perhaps they're a gift for your motel hook-up, an ardent herpetophile. And it's perfectly natural to be anxious about snakes. Many are venomous, and all of them are disgusting. But definitely forget about Freudian symbolism. Nobody does Freud any more. If Freud were still alive he'd be over 160 years penis by now, for goodness sake. OK, let's try another one:
You're on a stage, naked, about to perform a classical guitar recital for an expectant audience when you remember you don't know how to play the guitar.
Hmm, awkward. Or… IS IT? Not if you keep your nerve, and remember that the perception of time in a dream is flexible. We've all had dreams in which years seem to pass, and then been astonished to find we've only been asleep for a couple of days. The trick is to make good use of the time which appears to elapse in the dream. Just before you're due onstage, tell the concert promoter you need to use the bathroom. Instead, sneak out of the building, move to another city, find a reputable guitar teacher, and spend a few years becoming adept on the instrument. Then return to the concert hall, give a stunning performance, and leave with a smitten admirer. Maybe go to that motel near the airport.
Yikes! What are you doing on this narrow ledge, thousands of feet above a yawning chasm, and how will you avoid tumbling, naked, to your certain death?
Wait, what exactly are you scared of? Fear of heights and fear of falling aren't the same thing. Try to focus. If you've always said of yourself, "I'm afraid of heights," you're in luck. Simply reconfigure your spatial matrix. Just think of heights as widths that have been turned on their sides. Job done. If, on the other hand, it's falling that you fear, the best approach is to let yourself fall. You'll be fine. Everyone knows that you always wake up before you hit the ground and die. And if you don't wake up, then you actually die in real life. Either way, there's nothing you can do about it. Don't worry. Be happy. Fall. Die. Whatever.
You've committed a crime. You're being hunted down. You try to run but you can't seem to move, crippled by guilt, and tormented by the shame of your nakedness.
Yes, it looks bad. But are you sure you killed somebody? Maybe that's just ketchup on your hands and you ran out of a burger place without paying. No? You definitely killed someone? OK, change of plan. In the dream, think about how you're running. Begin to change it. Are you really running away? No. You're jogging. That's who you are. Look at those expensive running shoes. Check the fitness app on your watch. Wow, you're wealthy. Dream about all the money you have. Mountains of money, right? Good, because you'll need it to pay your lawyers, and the type that can get you off a murder charge don't come cheap. But never fear, they'll get an acquittal, or at the very least a series of adjournments. Maybe a mistrial. Just keep dreaming about money. Don't stop.
It's the future. You flee through a barren dystopia where vigilantes enforce the rule of a deranged authoritarian regime over a populace living in fear and misery.
Sorry, this isn't a dream. It's not even the future. But look on the bright side: at least you're not naked. Yet.