Nightmares are often the product of an anxious mind. When the dreamer’s problems and fears, which are suppressed during the day, manifest themselves as a terrifying dream, jerking the dreamer awake. Nightmares that begin as narrative dreams and end with the dreamer in a state of distress are usually rooted in the problems and fears of the dreamers every day life. The dreamer may feel any number of disturbing emotions in a nightmare, such as anger, guilt, sadness or depression, but the most common feelings are fear and anxiety. Nightmare themes may vary widely from person to person and in frequency. The most common nightmare theme is being chased. Adults are commonly chased by an unknown male figure whereas children are commonly chased by an animal or some fantasy figure.
Who has nightmares?
At one time or another, nearly everyone experiences nightmares. The majority of children have nightmares between the ages of three or four and seven or eight. Sometimes referred to as ‘night terrors’. These can be incredibly distressing for the child. Parents have also noticed that unlike in adults, who snap out of the dream as soon as they awake. A child finds it harder to wake up properly. A child will continue to cry and scream or see things for quite a while, long after they appear to have woken up. But, distressing as it can be to see your child in this state, it is generally considered to be normal part of their development, and does not generally signal unusual problems. Nightmares are less common in adults, but studies show that about 5-lO% of people have nightmares once a month or more frequently. It is clear though, that a stressed out mind or someone going through emotional upheaval will have them more often.
What causes nightmares?
There are a number of possibilities. Some nightmares can be caused by certain drugs or medications, or by rapid withdrawal from them, or by physical conditions such as illness and fever. Some people believe that eating certain foods near to bed- time can induce the probability of having them. The nightmares of early childhood likely reflect the struggle to learn to deal with normal childhood fears and problems. Many people experience nightmares after they have suffered a traumatic event, such as surgery, the loss of a loved one, an assault or a severe accident. The nightmares of combat veterans fall into this category. The content of these nightmares is typically directly related to the traumatic event and the nightmares often occur over and over. Other people experience nightmares when they are undergoing stress in their waking lives, such as difficulty or change on the job or with a loved one, moving, pregnancy, financial concerns, etc. Finally, some people experience frequent nightmares that seem unrelated to their waking lives. These people tend to be more creative, sensitive, trusting and emotional than average.
Having offered some examples of who and why we experience nightmares; A nightmare is one of our most valuable teaching dreams, because it shows us a fear that has been blown way out of proportion. In dreams things are often exaggerated. I believe the point of the exaggeration, is for emphasis. The bigger the emotional and visual impact the dream has upon the psyche, the less likely it is that the dreamer will forget it, on waking. Studies show that we do not remember our happy dreams as well as, or as often as we remember the frightening ones. The point of this I believe, is that we are more likely to work on the dreams we remember with greater accuracy and that leave a lasting impression, then the ones that do not.
For example, a man had a recurring nightmare that a large rat was eating away at his neck. he would awaken screaming and clawing at his neck to remove the rat. Upon analysis, he discovered that the neck represented the throat chakra. Which is connected to communication. He was not verbalizing his needs, and the suppression was gnawing away and resulting in self-destructive behaviours. The rat was an insecure part of the self that was betraying him. We must always nurture the inner self, taking care to verbalize and express what it is that we want and need. After he had began to take assertive steps to resolve these problems, both at work and in his personal relationships, the rat dream no longer continued.
If however, you experience nightmares that are persistent or really disturbing, the dreamer should consider consulting a dream therapist or counselor.