The Dream Journal
Nightmares Demystified with Dr. Leslie Ellis

Nightmares: what’s their cause and cure? Our guest is clinician and dream demystifier, Dr. Leslie Ellis. Nightmares seem to be caused by anything upsetting whether in recent life or from long ago. Luckily, we don’t need to know what is causing a nightmare to work with it. Dreaming helps us metabolize emotions but nightmares can wake us up, interrupting the process.

She describes a dream as a picture of our current or habitual nervous system condition (ala Eugene Gendlin). It can be helpful to rescript the dream or change the ending in an environment where we feel calm and safe. Dr. Ellis describes bias control and aspects of Stephen Porges’s polyvagal theory.

BIO: Leslie Ellis is author of A Clinician’s Guide to Dream Therapy and offers online dreamwork certification to mental health professionals. Her experiential approach to engaging with dreams is based on focusing, an approach that privileges the body’s felt sense in the exploration of dreams. Developed by Eugene Gendlin, a focusing approach includes finding help in a dream and bias control. Leslie has expanded on this method to develop an embodied approach to treating nightmares, and recently published a paper in the journal Dreaming on nightmares and the nervous system. 

Find our guest at:

Intro music is Water over Stones and outro music is Everything both by Mood Science. Today’s ambient music is created by Rick Kleffel. The audio can be found at Many thanks to Rick Kleffel for also engineering the show, to Tony Russomano for answering the phones and to Ewa Malady for audio editing.

Show aired on June 10, 2023.


The Dream Journal is produced at and airs on KSQD Santa Cruz, 90.7 FM, streaming live at 10-11am Saturday mornings Pacific time.  Catch it live and call or text with your dreams or questions at 831-900-5773 or email at

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