When people say you should face your demons, I always thought they were speaking metaphorically. Until I met the lucid dreaming expert Caroline McCready, who showed me how to face up to my demons, by taking control of my dreams.
One story Caroline told me was of her shy friend who, we'll call Paul for the purpose of this blog.
Paul always had a heavy burden on his shoulders, which he carried like an albatross around his neck. One day Caroline saw him, but he seemed different.
He was walking taller, broader and had more energy.
It turns out Paul had experienced what the psychologist Carl Jung famously termed a 'shadow' dream. A nightmarish scenario where a looming, demon-like figure appears in your dreams.
Paul experimented with lucid dreaming techniques in a bid to heal some of the emotional baggage that was obviously lurking deep in his unconscious. And what happened next completely transformed him.
Discover more about how you can learn the art of lucid dreaming to confront subconscious demons in episode 4 of my podcast
According to Jungian theory, the shadow, like the one Paul faced in his dream, is composed of the dark and unknown aspects of our personality. If you will, the unconscious part of us that our conscious selves try to ignore or keep hidden that manifests as this menacing 'shadow'.
Lucid dreaming is made up of brain training techniques that give you the power to become aware that you are dreaming and subsequently become awake inside your dreams and control them. It is particularly effective when dealing with the trauma of frequent nightmares or as a therapeutic tool for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
It's a sad fact that modern culture disregards dreams as nothing more than an overactive imagination; and nightmares as belonging only to minds of children. It often leads to lucid dreaming being dismissed as a new age fad.
Caroline believes it has the power to open up a whole new world of creative exploration, fun and self-discovery when used correctly. It's apparent to me now, that there are many therapeutic potentials in dreams that haven't yet been explored. I wonder if they can help us unlock debilitating thoughts and fears lurking in our subconscious.
Perhaps it is about trying to understand ourselves better so we become more familiar with our fears, hopes and dreams. We have the tools inside ourselves to heal ourselves. We just need to know where to look for them.