The inability to fall asleep at night can have many causes. We first think of stress, coming from problems at work, in the family, with money or a health issue, as the reason for the struggle to get that essential rest.
A whole industry has formed around those trying to help people to get their desperately needed sleep at night, to be able to restore the body and mind and have energy for the day ahead. Being sleep-deprived is exhausting and weakens the body, attracting illness and diseases, and it also messes with the mind, causing disorientation and depression.
Medical institutions try to find the perfect sleeping pill for this mostly adults bothering problem: Take one and all your problems are gone, you will sleep for sure, never mind that you might get addicted to the substance and will need it for the rest of your life. And not to talk about the ‘side effects’ and the damage it can cause the liver working hard every day to detox the chemical compounds.
Some health insurance companies are paying for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT-I) to help their customers relax the mind which will help to fall asleep. This might work to a certain extent, but seldom cures the underlying problem, the real cause that is keeping one awake at night, neither does the sedative.
Nightmares on the other hand occur while fast asleep: suddenly an innocent dream takes a turn and you find yourself in the middle of a scene from a horror movie! This appears to be so realistic in the mind that the body reacts with defence mechanisms like sweating from fear, screaming for help, trying to run away by moving the legs and ultimately waking up in horror and not be able to fall asleep again, afraid to end up back in the same scene. While adult nightmares can occasionally occur in 2 to 8% of the population (source: WebMD) they are far more common in children. I’ve been told when I was young that in our dreams we are recapturing what has happened during the day to store the memories organised like a desktop into drawers and folders. But what could have possibly happened in my young and innocent age that would cause nightmares due to this explanation? What did your parents tell you when you were asking all the ‘W’ questions as a child: Why do we sleep, why do we dream, where are the dreams come from, why do they make me being afraid,…? Did the answers ever seem to be correct in retrospect?
The Truth is, we don’t know the reasons for Nightmares! Often quoted are medical studies that show nightmares are a sign of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) when one researches the internet for articles about the cause of nightmares. And that might well be the case. But does the nightmare help to cure a trauma that caused the PTSD in the first place? Certainly not. The underlying trauma still needs to be addressed and healed, then the nightmares might or might not disappear.
A study from 2015 done at Harvard Medical School suggests to use image rehearsal therapy to ‘re-write’ the ending of the nightmare and rehearse it before going to bed: the hope here is that the mind can be tricked into believing the new happy ending instead of the horror ending and writes the scene accordingly at night, therefore creating ‘positive’ dreams and not nightmares. Even if that works, we still don’t know what has caused the nightmare in the first place. Was it maybe a cry for help that remained unnoticed? Did we (as we intend to) put the cart in front of the horse again, treating a symptom as the cause?
What if insomnia is not related to what happened that day, week or year? Not even what has happened in one’s lifetime? Is it possible that the cause for sleeplessness lies deeply hidden in the family system one is part of and can go back many generations, unknown to us? And what if nightmares are actually a message we should listen to?
In my practice I have repeatedly worked with clients that have experienced insomnia or nightmares, either they are suffering, or more often are worried about their children who cannot sleep or are plagued with regular nightmares or night terrors. The application of family constellations in the method of Bert Hellinger show quite remarkable results for finding and releasing the true cause of these nightly demons :
A mother was worried about her 7 year old son. He was having continuous nightmares. When she constellated this issue on his behalf, it showed an entanglement he had with a murder victim of their family system generations ago. This victim wasn’t acknowledged because the family was ashamed of the member who took the life of that person and therefore looked away. Her son was taken into service to make this victim seen and to give them their rightful place in the family system. The family system has immediately released her son from his duty to bring light and healing to the souls. Within a few days his nightmares ceased never to return.
A business man ask for help with his insomnia: he was chronically sleep deprived and started to feel that in his job: he couldn’t focus on the tasks ahead anymore, was loosing customers and got very worried about his health and to be able to financially support his family. The first thought of course would be that his worries are causing him to stay awake at night. But no, the insomnia came first and then the stress followed, correlation is not be mixed up with causation! On questioning, he revealed that his older brother has left the family to pursue a career as a dancer, leaving the elderly parents and their wholesale business behind. Although he had aspirations to become an engineer he jumped in, dropped out of college and took over the management of the family business. When the last parent passed away his sleeping problems started. In the family constellation we conducted it showed that the 2nd Order of Love, the Order of Precedence, has been violated: the older brother was responsible to take over the business, and he as the younger brother should have been free to fulfill his dreams. The action of walking away without taking care of the situation by the older brother has created a wound in the family soul that the client is now suffering under. The resolution was here, that the older brother turns towards the younger brother and acknowledges his position as the first born and the sacrifice of his younger brother to be able to leave the family business and to follow his passion. By letting the representative of the older brother in the family constellation face him and say ‘thank you for taking over the family business for me, so I could dance’, balance has been restored in the family system and the client felt a huge weight came off his shoulders. He reported back that he had the best sleep on that night following the family constellation, and insomnia was a problem of the past.
What ever happens in the night, we are supposed to look at it and take it as a gift: a message from the ancestors to the current generation to acknowledge what is. That doesn’t mean that we have to memorize the dreams or the thoughts we think of when lying awake in bed at night. They speak in a language most of us cannot comprehend. But family constellation is a perfect tool to translate this language into one we do understand and allows us to take the right actions to restore balance in the family system. That not only brings more freedom and happiness into our life, but also to the lives of our loved ones, even if they haven’t been born yet…
I wish You All for tonight a good sleep and sweet dreams!