Two hours each night you and I are ushered into a secret and unknown landscape where we morph into dreamers with private wants needs and desires. Without the boundaries of conscious real time, there exists a world where our emotions and sensations are involuntary; where our brain processes all it has learned and recorded during waking consciousness. In our dreams we are our own psychoanalysts, reflecting upon the many contradictory notions of our ego as we act out the many possibilities of a future time.
Neuroscientists are interested in how a person dreams whereas psychoanalysts are focused on the why and what we dream. I am concerned about Nightmares.
All dreams that disturb, distress, frighten, torment, or terrify are filed under nightmare. In old English dictionaries a nightmare is believed to be an evil female spirit that suffocates the sleeper. The accepted generalized belief is that nightmares are an extension of our built up frustrations with the life we are living. Unfortunately for us, connecting the dots so as to make sense of these nightmares is difficult, almost impossible. Nightmares interpret these frustrations we are experiencing in metaphors. The circumstances giving rise to our nightmares may be traced to a thoroughly beneficial source (ie.) death in a nightmare symbolizes a new beginning. We are told that having a nightmare can act as a pressure valve; why? because it releases accumulated stress which is a good thing to happen. Should you confide your nightmare to an expert he will reassure you that your nightmare was not real and as such will not harm you. He/she will also add that nightmares are normal and that a diagnosis of a nightmare disorder is highly unusual. If pressed for answers to the why, they will not hesitate to inform you that among learned circles there is no standard explanation for the occurrence of a nightmare.
Photo by / engin akyurt
Psychotherapy seeks to identify the unknown, understand the language of the unconscious so that our happiness will be total and our balance complete. For years we have accepted as fact that our dreams are to be ignored; they are useless to the waking consciousness. More important is our knowing and understanding of the world outside, the world surrounding us. Speak with someone who lives a more simple and primitive life and the reverse is true; knowing what is going on within you should be the priority. Carl Jung, held by many to be one of the most influential minds of the 20th century, would agree. After the study of thousands of dreams he held to the fact that dreams are real and as such should be regarded as having a substantial role to play in the overall understanding of the conscious self. They assist the traumatized to regain their balance. They shed light and guide us through our darkest hours. They help heal a damaged psyche. Once we learn the language of symbols, metaphors and patterns peculiar to the dreamscape and identify its’ archetypes the sooner we (the authentic self) will access the knowledge possessed by the universe. We will realize we have a shadow, a side of us that was formed from the pain, the loss, the sorrow we have experienced. Some refer to this part of their being as their dark side.
The point to remember is that dreams have been studied for ages yet little is really known about them. Nightmares are generated from real life stress, fear, trauma, medications, emotional and physical illnesses.
As mentioned, I started this post to research nightmares. Truth is, not much is written about them. Needless to say I am disappointed. People suffering from them are like people stranded on an ocean with no sail, rudder or oars by which to return to shore. It is expected that children will have the occasional nightmare and that adults outgrow them. Two to eight percent of adults actually suffer from nightmares. An analyst will want to know on a scale of one to ten how distressing are those nightmares; how often and to what degree do they interrupt your sleep; do they cause heart palpitations or night sweats; are they spontaneous or are they the result of deep rooted fears and anxieties. Common factors related to nightmares are late night snacks; certain medications including anti-depressants and narcotics, even blood pressure pills give rise to nightmares; not enough sleep; PTSD; and a condition known as sleep apnea. Lastly, nightmares can and have driven an occasional soul to suicide.
If you are having nightmares consult a doctor. Do not go it alone. Little has changed in attitude or method of treatment in over a hundred years. Imagery rehearsal treatment is the one modern treatment available. It has been successful when treating patients with PTSD. In closing, I feel the need to apologize to myself and my readers. SORRY. The nightmare is no longer a word of concern. I wonder what will replace it?