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Nightmares: Are they a professional occupational hazard?

I had another nightmare last night. My nightmares often involve me in actions I would never think of engaging in when I am awake.

Sometimes I dream I am mixed up in the most offensive of activities S nightmares of violence, ferocity and mayhem.

As I understand it, such ugly nighttime visions are the unconscious’ attempt at balance, a not-so-subtle reminder to the dreamer that he may not be as sweet and nice as some people imagine S or he would like to think.



Once, I shared a violent nightmare with a dream analyst and before she said anything else, she asked if I was in a “public profession” – a doctor, a politician or a minister. 

It seems our inner self seeks occasionally to remind us we are no better than anyone else. The temptation of our occupations, she said, is to think that what we do somehow elevates us above others. Our nightmares quickly bring us back down to earth.



In my religious tradition, we have a saying: “Simul iustus et pecccator.”

It means we are simultaneously a saint and a sinner. We are, at any given time, capable of both great good or terrible evil. Such a statement is a striking reminder of the nature of all humankind. Still, many of us choose to ignore this truth.

We are constantly searching for heroes – men and women who can be perfect models for us and for our children. Unfortunately, such perfection does not exist. The resultant dilemma leaves many of us baffled. We either cynically reject all potential leaders as hypocrites or we rabidly defend our own heroes as incapable of any error or fault.

What we need is balance. What we need is the occasional reminder that even the most vile of our enemies is capable of acts of love while the noblest of leaders has a skeleton or two locked away in the closet.

To be human is to be endowed with both blessing and curse, good and evil. A hero has his faults, a villain has his gifts. To be a human is to be subject not to the broad strokes of generalization but the subtleties and nuances of everyday existence.

There is evidence that John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Dwight Eisenhower, to name only a few, all were guilty of less-than-

honorable actions. But does such a history preclude their producing acts of great virtue?

One of my greatest heroes is Dr. Albert Schweitzer. A man of almost unimaginable accomplishments, he will be remembered most especially for his heroic work among the people of Gabon in Central Africa. What isn’t as well known is his troubled family life, how he abandoned his wife and child for his work.

Do his family failings negate all the good that he has done?

When we open ourselves up to the reality that there is both good and bad within all of us, we discover an important truth about what it means to be human.

And for those of us who forget or refuse to believe it – there are always nightmares.

Rich Mayfield, a local Lutheran pastor, writes a regular Saturday column.


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