Back when I was working as a nurse I used to have dreams about driving. To an extent these dreams made sense as I was young, had a steady paycheck, a nice car and was always heading some place seeking adventure. Most often in these dreams I'd be cruising down the freeway with a destination in mind. However, as I approached the exit the ramp would be closed. Figuring I could take the next exit and circle back, this wasn't a problem. But the next exit ramp was blocked with large orange and white barrels too. Continuing on down the freeway I'd start fretting time or the uncertainity of what surface streets to take to get to my destination. Exit after exit would be closed. Or I'd be stuck in an inside lane unable to change lanes due to traffic.
I had variations of this dream for years. Sometimes the setting was rural. Other times I'd be driving a loop around a city like Seattle or Los Angeles. I never reached my destination. The real pisser was, often I could see where I wanted to go from the freeway.
One day my dentist pointed out none of these dreams take place in Portland, Oregon which was where I lived at the time. He found that interesting. He theorized Portland was exempt because of how well I knew it. Portland is an easy city to get around in, there's always another road. Dr. Jerry suggested the next time I have a driving dream, instead of getting stressed I should alter the setting to Portland or tell me to drive on to Portland.
It took a bit of practise but gosh darn, it worked! I ceased clenching my teeth and waking up in pain.
My dad used to dream he was falling. Night after night he'd plunge off a bridge, building or viewing ledge. Sometimes he'd be falling towards a busy street, or waves breaking on rocks, or the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Dad would jerk awake before impact. In complete panic mode he'd first assess he was still alive and then he'd lay awake for hours.
A friend suggested Dad imagine he was flying instead of falling. Dad tried but once he was falling and terror set in he found it difficult to break into the dream. Then, courtesy of a cartoon, Dad discovered the trick.
While his method did not halt Dad from having the dreams it did put an end to the panic. And it drove Mom nuts for the next thirty years. What did he do? At the point in the dream as he is plunging over the edge Dad first used his hands to turn his body so that he was falling feet first. Then he flapped his feet like he was swimming until he returned to the ledge or bridge or rooftop.
I know a lot of people, myself included, who use the "change the freaking channel!" method to break out of bad or stressful dreams. With television being a major part of our lives, this is amazingly easy. You don't like what you're watching - change the channel.
Our brains are wonderful things. They will latch onto the absurd. My friend Shirely yells "ollie, ollie, oxen free" to get out of scary dreams. A big Star Trek fan, Josh orders the holodeck computer to end program. Another friend discovered merely saying "this is dumb" works for her. Rosemary gets a bit more creative. She evokes the power of the word "Calgon". Remember the commercials "calgon, take me away"? I like it. It doesn't work for me but I still like it.