For years I had this recurring nightmare: It's the middle of the night and I'm asleep in bed. I open my eyes and see the silhouette of a strange man standing at my bedside. He does not speak or move, only stands mute and menacing, staring at me.
I had this same dream for several years and found it so frightening that I always awoke with a gasp or a scream. Then one day I read something that Rilke had written in Letters to a Young Poet: "Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love."
For the first time it occurred to me that perhaps the man didn't want to hurt me. Perhaps this silent, suffering being needed my help. I decided that next time I had the dream I would not scream, but instead reach out and ask if I could help him.
But I never had that dream again.