Dear Cynthia: I was divorced five years ago, but I occasionally have this disturbing dream. I am forced to live with my ex-husband, feigning happiness with him. Is there anything I can do in my conscious thoughts to rid myself of these dreams?
CHRISTINE HENRITZ, Woodland Hills
Dear Reader: The thing you can do is simply to interpret and understand the dream. Until you do, it will return to nag you. Actions are as symbolic as the objects and people in our dreams. When you have this dream, your unconscious mind is showing you that you are in a situation you don't want to be in. It feels forced and uncomfortable. You are keeping up appearances, pretending to be happy. Ask yourself where in your life this is occurring. In a new relationship? At work? With a friend? Discover the source and make changes. Your former husband represents a relationship or obligation that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable.
Dear Cynthia: I wonder if you can help me with this recurring dream. I am beside a large body of water, either a lake or the ocean. There is a peaceful and calm tone. I am with friends and we are enjoying our time together. Soon after, the scene changes; clouds roll in and a storm begins. The water gets turbulent and dark. Somehow I wind up in the middle of the storm on the water. I am very afraid. I just know something under the water, like a shark or whale, is going to come up and out.
SONYA, Los Angeles
Dear Reader: Since it is recurring, your dream suggests a history of being at the center of conflict within your circle of friends. The relationships begin peacefully. But water often symbolizes emotion. Here things really get agitated, symbolized by turbulence. There is a lack of truth or clarity as symbolized by the dark color the water turns. You don't like the feelings you experience in the emotional center of turbulent relationships. Your fear is based on knowing that big scary creatures can "come up and out" of your memory and hurt you again.
Are you someone who wants things to be nice and calm and doesn't want to deal with the upsets? Do you try to make peace and shy away from conflict? Are you afraid that you will drown if you feel too deeply? Sometimes our fear is much worse than the actual experience. Try to go below the surface and get in touch with your fear of getting too involved. You don't have to repeat past hurts.
Learning to accept the rough waters in life as well as the smooth sailing goes a long way to relieve our stress and anxiety.
Dear Cynthia: Many years ago, I dreamed I was at my best friend's home when my older brother arrived and said, "Aili, come home. Dad has just fallen into the well." We did not have a well, but my father was a miner and my brother worked with him in the mines. One week later, my brother came in his miner's clothes and said our father had just been killed in a cave-in at the mine. I am 81 years old and I have had many dreams that came true.
AILI LEPPANEN, Seal Beach
Dear Reader: I have a file full of letters from readers whose dreams or a close variation of them have come true. Most involve the safety or health of loved ones. Others predict earthquakes and plane crashes.
I believe that love is an invisible phone line that links us to those we care about--that much like a mother's ability to anticipate the needs of her infant, a skill necessary for survival, we are connected by our love to those close to us and may have intuition concerning their well-being and needs through our dreams and daydreams.
In 1932, when the son of airman Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped, two Harvard researchers made a newspaper appeal for dreams related to the case. About 1,300 dreams were sent in from Canada and the United States before the baby's body was found, naked in a ditch. Seven of the letters included many critical elements, such as the death, ditch and nakedness.
Abraham Lincoln had many prophetic dreams. In one, a few days before his assassination, he saw a corpse laid out in the East Room of the White House. In the dream he asked a servant, who has died? He was told that the president had been shot.
Precognitive dreams can be hard to tell apart from normal dreams, but they usually include the following features:
* There is exceptionally vivid and intense activity.
* Sweating and trembling may occur.
* The dream reoccurs.
* The dream leaves an impression that lasts for days.
Some dreamers have a signal or warning dream that doesn't depict the actual disaster. They simply always dream about worms the day before an earthquake, for example.
Some dreamers have the erroneous belief that they caused a disaster because they dreamed it. This is false. Most dreams are symbolic, an indication of what is going on deep within us. Disasters often refer to major stress or turmoil in the dreamer's life.
If you believe you have had a precognitive dream, trust your instincts and past experience. Take reasonable precautions. If you dream your home is being burglarized, you may just be in a relationship in which someone is invading your space or you are giving too much and losing yourself. But it sure doesn't hurt to be sure the doors and windows are locked.
In Two Weeks: Can our dreams help us heal our bodies?
* Behavioral therapist Cynthia Richmond's column appears every other Tuesday. To contact her, write to "In Your Dreams," Life & Style, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or send a fax to (213) 237-0732. Please include a daytime phone number. Letters should be no longer than 100 words and cannot be returned. "In Your Dreams" should be read for entertainment purposes only.
* On Saturday, Cynthia Richmond will teach a dream workshop at the Learning Tree University in Chatsworth. Call (818) 882-5599 for details.