Nightmares

Zeke Newbold

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The reason I ask this is because I don't - or at any rate haven't for a long, long time.

Just to be clear: by `nightmare` I mean a very frightening dream involving an unusual and traumatic incident of the kind that makes you wake up with a start.

Don't get me wrong. I have a very active dream life and have long and complex dreams almost every night. A lot of these get forgotten, or partially forgotten. None of them, however, could be called nightmares. What I do get a lot of are general anxiety dreams of the kind that reflect my day-to-day concerns: suddenly remembering I have to teach a class and not being prepared for it, getting lost en route to a class...that sort of thing (I'm a teacher). But nothing that has me waking up in a sweat.

The last nightmare I remember having must have been when I was about ten - since then nothing.

In my more smug moments I apply a sort of Freudian approach to explain this and tell myself that I don't have nightmares because I don't really repress anything. (I think his theory was that nightmares were repressed feelings being represented by dream symbols)For example, if I hate somebody or something, then I am honest with myself about it and just let myself feel it in my conscious mind.

In my less smug moments I tell myself that maybe it's because I haven't had any really traumatic incidents happen to me in real life - and maybe nightmares are caused by such traumas.

Anyway, this reflection was prompted by this thread:

https://forums.forteana.org/index.p...st-fortean-thing-ever-to-happen-to-you.38959/

In there you will find a few stories about nightmares - and there's a particularly delicious one by David Plankton (post 297).

You see, there are times when I almost - almost - envy other people their nightmares!
 

EnolaGaia

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First, some context / background setting ...

From childhood onward I'd had a consistently rich dream life. In my thirties I invested a lot of effort in experimenting with lucid dreaming. In the wake of that period I found I'd retained at least a cursory ability to both be the first-person subject within the dream and be able to flip back and forth to and from a sort of back-seat observer / controller role that afforded me an ability to (e.g.) consider options, modify the dream's details or "script" on the fly, or simply "bail out" (I always conceptualize it as hitting an ejection button just outside my peripheral vision).

Since my fifties I find that I retain little or no lasting recollection of my dreams like I once did, even when I work hard to review and mentally record what I was dreaming immediately upon waking. What little I can retain indicates I still dream often and richly.

Now, moving on to nightmares ...

Based on conversations with other serious reflective dreamers over the decades, I came to the conclusion the universal element in nightmares had more to do with the dreamer's subjective emotional state rather than the imagery / scenarios to which he / she was reacting with at least dread and at most sheer terror. It seems the stage setting / scenario is the part that varies among individuals.

In my case, there have been relatively few nightmares involving horror movie style threats or scenarios (being chased, attacked, eaten, sucked into an abyss, etc.) - even dating back to childhood. In the instances where such things occur the dream usually faded out (or in later years prompted me to hit the eject button) while I'm still endeavoring to survive, even if I knew it was hopeless and a terrible fate was imminent if not already in progress.

My nightmares usually involve figurative rather than literal entrapment - inability to escape endlessly repeating and negative things or situations, some of which are fairly mundane and not all that threatening or unnerving. In other words, inability to make progress, or perhaps futility, is the usual form of what passes for my nightmare terrors. Some of my most disturbing nightmares weren't fearful because of (e.g.) threats to my life or blood and gore, but rather the dilemmas / decisions associated with reacting to such things.

In general, it seems the proportion of the dreams I remember that qualify as nightmares has shrunk as I age. I don't have a clear opinion about whether this is attributable to some - or some combination of - diminished recall, emotional maturity in some sense, increased self-confidence, cynicism, ennui, and / or the degree of within-dream control derived from my lucidity explorations.

Final Note: I can claim to have had and survived a lot of real life traumatic experiences (physical; emotional; social) involving immediate threat of loss, humiliation, injury and / or death. I'm not sure this signifies anything by comparison with your (Zeke's) claim of having none. My uncertainty comes from the fact that my dream self fights right up to the point of final impact just like my waking self has fought all the way to the equivalent point in actual accidents and other traumatic events. It may be that this tenacity is hard-wired or experientially installed into me individually and therefore skews the degree to which the similarities in our broad summaries can be taken as generalizable evidence.
 

Schrodinger's Zebra

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I have nightmares, from time to time, yes. Awful things where I wake with a start and am utterly terrified for some time afterwards.

Couldn't really tell you what they are about and I certainly don't know why I have them, though! (I've never held much stock in the old adage about cheese causing nightmares... if that were the case I'd have them all the time :D )

I have had several traumas in my life, far distant and more recent, but I've never really considered that the dreams are necessarily related to that. And I've never been able to do the sort of lucid dreaming of which @EnolaGaia talks about, although I've often thought it would be handy to be able to control dreams in that way.


There are some nightmares, though, which I did know the reason for. A year or so ago my GP started me on some medication for my anxiety... this was the first time I'd ever had much medication.

And almost from the start I was plagued with horrific nightmares in which I'd be walking around some building or other, slashing at random people with some sort of weapon; if that wasn't bizarre enough, the people involved didn't seem to mind as I sliced off their arms and curiously, there was no blood... (perhaps my brain, knowing how much I hate gore and can't watch any films like that, helpfully removed that part of my dream? Who knows). I'd almost liken it to slashing at shop dummies rather than people, except for the fact that the people were clearly alive.

Anyway, I stopped taking the medication* after a couple of months because I couldn't bear to keep having those dreams.


When I was little (I don't remember ever having these as I got older) I'd have dreams where I was running away from something to the point where I would rise up into the sky... I absolutely hated that feeling, and it usually woke me up soon afterwards.

I also used to have a particular nightmare... oh, perhaps five or six times... always with the same person, doing the same sort of fist-shaking angry gesture) but in different settings. Haven't had that one for a long time though. Thankfully.



*Disclaimer: I'm not advocating that anyone else just stops taking their prescribed medication.
 

Lizard King

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I do get nightmares from time to time and also very vivid dreams. I can wake up and feel really scared or really sad and it can take a while to shift that feeling. I am always amazed how in dreams we can feel real terror, happiness or sadness but when conscious memories can't recreate that intense feeling by thought alone.Of course with PTSD that can happen but I mean general memories as opposed to real trauma.Does that make sense?
 

Ulalume

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My experiemce with nightmares is similar to @EnolaGaia's, above. After having had some traumatic experiences in my teens, I developed what I would call chronic nightmares, i.e. several times a week. They weren't necessarily about the traumatic incidents, just generally frightening. This continued until I really got serious about developing my lucid dreaming as well as meditative skills.

I do still have them, but much less these days. They are often the kind in which nothing obviously frightening is going on, but there's a feeling that something is terribly wrong.

It might be of interest here that for years, I'd had bad dreams about being in my old apartment (the "murder apartment' I've mentioned so often on this board) Nothing particularly dramatic was happening in these dreams; most of the time it wasn't even clear what I was doing there. The dreams were just bad. Sometimes the apartment would look like it did in real life, many times it would be located inside of another house, sometimes as a hidden section, or a place I was stuck in despite there being other rooms. Sometimes I was hiding in it, afraid for some unknown reason.

These dreams dogged me without any clear explanation until the night one of my sons told me he was having a (fortunately temporary) bout of depression. This was worrying, because I've had depression for years and feared the possibility that he might go through the same thing. That night, I again dreamed of the old apartment. This time, I wasn't alone - my son was there, too. When I woke up, I knew - the apartment symbolized my depression.

This was interesting, because I'd hardly repressed any knowledge of depression. Indeed, I've been both studying it and fighting it for years. I'm intimately acquainted with it. Yet, when my dreaming mind presented it to me this way, it wasn't clear at all what it meant. The dreams make perfect sense when looking back on them with this meaning in mind, but why it was so opaque to me for so long is a mystery.

Since figuring it out, the apartment dreams have dropped away, now these nightmares appear in a new configuration. That's the way of these things it seems - once you suss out their meaning, they sneakily change into something else.
 

escargot

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This was interesting, because I'd hardly repressed any knowledge of depression. Indeed, I've been both studying it and fighting it for years. I'm intimately acquainted with it. Yet, when my dreaming mind presented it to me this way, it wasn't clear at all what it meant. The dreams make perfect sense when looking back on them with this meaning in mind, but why it was so opaque to me for so long is a mystery.

Since figuring it out, the apartment dreams have dropped away, now these nightmares appear in a new configuration. That's the way of these things it seems - once you suss out their meaning, they sneakily change into something else.

My favourite dream-theory is that our dreams are about ourselves. We have dream threads where all this stuff is explored.

Your old apartment symbolising depression sounds so perfect! When people look into their dreams they spot their own symbols.

I dream about bridges when death is on my mind and a lion walks around in my dreams when I need to be brave.
 

Lord Lucan

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I can only recall ever having had two nightmares, One as a child and one not that many years ago. Neither was related to anything traumatic that had happened in my life and looking back both seem odd and quite ridiculous, however I woke up from both terrified, gasping for breath and with the second one, tears streaming down my face.
The first took place at the kindergarten I attended before starting school. I was on a slippery dip and found myself unable to slide down whilst a tiger (and a large one at that) was climbing up the rungs behind me. This happened decades ago, yet I can still recall it quite clearly.
The other took place around 4-5 years ago. I was physically battling a large Satanic being and holding my ground, yet scared in an overwhelming way that I'd never felt before. It seemed to be the enormity of the situation that I was in that the most frightening thing.
 

Mythopoeika

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I've never had a nightmare, ever (that I can recall, anyway). I tend not to remember my dreams anyway.
 

Ladyloafer

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i'm quite astonished that people are saying they don't or rarely have nightmares! blimey.

its not like i have them all the time, but i've had plenty.

what differentiates a nightmare from a dream is waking up screaming

and thats how i know i've had a nightmare, rather than a stressy dream. i wake myself (and others) up shouting.

apparently its incomprehensible gibberish ('wahhhhmmmmmmddddrrrrmmm'), but when i wake i usually remember what i was shouting in the dream.

i have plenty of frustrating and stressful dreams, but the nightmares generally seem to be about someone trying to hurt me, physically. in the dream i'll be trying to shout 'help' or 'get off me' or the such but i can't get the sound out, and then suddenly i can, and thats when i wake up shouting.

i can remember one where some guy was trying to stab me down by the canal (!). maybe that was my inner brain saying, yeah stop taking that shortcut eh?

and another nightmare where i was being suffocated, and in true comical style i woke up with a cushion lying on my chest! (not on my face, i wasn't actually suffocating).

theres no real life trauma in my life to account for 'hurting' dreams. maybe its just too much late night cop shows on tv before bed?
 

Xanatic*

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What I find intriguing is people saying they have freaky dreams if they eat cheese in the evening. Unlike most food, cheese is full of microscopic critters. I wonder if those are able to actually influence us in weird ways.
 

EnolaGaia

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escargot

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Last night I was listening to Old Harry's Game* on my bedside Mac when falling asleep. Had a horrible nightmare about Hell.
Reminds me of when I tried some 'soothing' sound videos on YouTube and gave myself awful dreams.

*Old Harry's Game

Old Harry's Game
is a UK radio comedy written and directed by Andy Hamilton, who also plays the cynical, world-weary Satan. "Old Harry" is one of many names for the devil. The show's title is a humorous play on the title of the 1982 TV seriesHarry's Game.
 

FrKadash

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I go through phases of having them very frequently. A recurring theme is zombies below me, and I'll be elevated on some structure and they will be reaching up to me, shoulder to shoulder. The last couple I had was of being in a high rise of some sort, in a flat or room that's been barricaded.

I used to get occasional sleep paralysis too, I think I’ve mentioned this in another thread. It doesn’t happen as often now. I did an oil painting a few years back that was inspired by a nightmare/sleep paralysis experience I had, it’s on a related thread I think, will have to dig it out. I saw a man whose head was pushed through a crack in an elevator wall, and he was screaming in an increasingly high pitched tone, and as the screaming got higher his head was expanding like a balloon! Creepy!

I don't enjoy dreaming, and if I recall them I always wake up feeling very down for a few minutes, even if the dream was not a distrubing one.
 

Ladyloafer

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urgh. had a nightmare last night that there was 2 snakes in my bedroom. they were definitely poisonous. one was black and white striped, but only on half its body. i tried to get away from it by standing on a stool but the f*cker started climbing up it!

and then i woke up.
 

Frideswide

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was it divided into head and tail, or down the middle?
 

Ladyloafer

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it was like, you know an earthworm has a 'saddle' it had a saddle that was b&w stripe, going around the body, and that rest of it was a plain colour. i can't remember what shade cos it was coming to get me!


edit. oh thats a nope. i just googled b&w snakes to see if it was something real. i am not doing that again! irl i don't particularly dislike snakes cos i'm british and we don't really think about them, but that was too much snake on my screen. urgh.
 

EnolaGaia

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I used to have violent nightmares (PTSD). My wife had to sleep in the other room for decades. Uncomfortable vivid recall of deployments and bad stuff. Fortunately they've subsided in time.

Sorry you had to deal with that, Jim ... I know such delayed memories polluting dreams plagued multiple Vietnam vets with whom I was acquainted.
 

escargot

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it was like, you know an earthworm has a 'saddle' it had a saddle that was b&w stripe, going around the body, and that rest of it was a plain colour. i can't remember what shade cos it was coming to get me!


edit. oh thats a nope. i just googled b&w snakes to see if it was something real. i am not doing that again! irl i don't particularly dislike snakes cos i'm british and we don't really think about them, but that was too much snake on my screen. urgh.

I once had a dream about a snake with three heads. It occurred to me to look it up and it was some mythical creature that guards the Underworld or summat.
 
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escargot

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I used to have violent nightmares (PTSD). My wife had to sleep in the other room for decades. Uncomfortable vivid recall of deployments and bad stuff. Fortunately they've subsided in time.

Sorry to hear that, Jim, and I'm glad things are better for you now. Your wife is a diamond.
 

FrKadash

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A little synchronicity. Last night, after my post about my experiences with nightmares and sleep paralysis, I had both for the first time in a while!

I was lying on the sofa trying to finish the last few pages of Communion, when after a while I fell asleep and had a very weird, disturbing nightmare/sleep paralysis. The scenes included strange animals with dark, frog like creatures in their mouths, and me climbing up something that looked like a white wood window frame, without the windows. It seemed as though it was in the clouds, and people were coming after me from below. I started to realise that I was in a sleep paralysis state and felt the usual strong fear, I think I was shouting out as well.

When I finally jumped out of it, after repeatedly trying to move, I was in quite a bad state for a good few minutes.
 
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