Complex Trauma, Complex Nightmares?

Complex Trauma, Complex Nightmares?2017-05-09T11:50:11+00:00

Hi Robert,

C-PTSD, also called complex trauma, is something I’ve only recently become aware of. When I mentioned the frequency of my nightmares to a therapist, who remarked on it as a classic symptom of PTSD, something clicked, and I began to research the topic on my own. I now know PTSD can arise from prolonged trauma, rather than or in addition to discreet violent events. In my case, this was an abusive domestic situation: I’m an only child and as an adolescent was raised by a single alcoholic parent.

I’ve seen one or two casual articles (i.e., not in journals; I think one was on Vice) about success in treating PTSD patients who have recurring dreams of the traumatic event they experienced by helping them to imagine a different ending or outcome. When the patient is able to end her or his dream differently, the dream stops recurring. However, I haven’t been able to find anything about lucid dreaming therapy and patients with complex trauma or C-PTSD. So here are my questions:

  1. Are there any articles or studies, academic or otherwise, on lucid dreaming and C-PTSD you could recommend to me?
  2. How would you recommend I cope with my nightmares specifically related to my traumatic past?

A little more detail on this second one. Because I’m still close with my family, and because my mother is still an alcoholic, the trauma is in some sense perpetual (emotional abuse, exposure to disturbing events, etc.). The nightmares I have about my family are fictional situations with remembered emotions, not memories of a specific event–e.g., a fictional argument with the drunk parent with all the same intense emotions a real-life argument would have (feeling angry, disturbed, sad, hopeless)–which mirrors the nature of the ‘complex trauma’ I was exposed to and (to a much lesser degree) continue to be exposed to.


In a chase dream, the advice might be, turn around and ask your pursuer why he/she/it is chasing you. But if the dream is about having an argument with an irrational person and a dialogue is already present, I’m not sure how to engage in this kind of confrontation. As for imagining a different ending or outcome, I’m not sure what this could be, since the overarching situation is not ‘finished’ or ‘resolved’.

Thank you in advance for your advice. Rest assured, I’ve been receiving professional help as well as support from family in friends in coping with my mental health problems. I just think so much could be gained if these dreams were treated as more than merely a symptom.




Hi G,

Thanks for asking about lucid dreams and Complex PTSD or complex trauma.  I am not aware of any articles on this area specifically.   Perhaps someone reading this will post a comment with a specific article.

Regarding your second question:

How would you recommend I cope with my nightmares specifically related to my traumatic past?

Through my deep interest in dreams and lucid dreams, I believe I have created a successful process which may prove very helpful.

If you would, please write me directly at RobWaggoner AT and we can discuss it.

Best wishes!