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Kathleen Meadows

What do nightmares mean ?

October 12, 2014 | Comment icon 19 comments
Image Credit: sxc.hu
Everyone has nightmares. Being chased by something or someone intending us harm; falling in an abyss without a parachute; looking into a mirror in our dream discovering that our appearance has altered alarmingly; seeing someone we love die or disappear, are a few examples. There are as many different types of nightmares as there are people but our reaction to them is the same. We awaken sweating, sometimes screaming out loud, heart beating fast and so enormously relieved to discover it was a nightmare and not waking life!

Their meaning is likely as individual as we are however, there are several common reasons. One is that we have had experiences in our lives that have traumatized us severely. We may not allow ourselves to ponder these experiences consciously because the effects are still too raw. Our consciousness however must integrate and file these experiences into our psychic makeup. We must give them context, meaning to hopefully reach a place of peace and acceptance.

Dreaming the Horrors of War

There are other common reasons for nightmares; fear of failure, poor health, or victimization. Being bullied generates more than its share of nightmares in a victim of any age. Being faced with a difficult choice, behaving in a manner unfamiliar to our self-concept, abandonment, loneliness, lack of safety can all trigger the advent of a nightmare.

They do mean that we need to pay closer attention to something happening in our everyday lives. We are either guilty of ignoring the threat entirely or minimizing its impact on our psyches. During WWI for example, military psychiatrists noticed that when men on the front lines began dreaming of the horrors of war they needed to be removed from the battle. Somehow the horror had breached a psychic barrier which often presaged the onslaught of a crippling mental illness. So nightmares let us know that a fear of something has breached our normal defences and we ignore its message at our peril.

Consider nightmares to be rather like a psychic scream. Our unconscious mind has been murmuring warnings to us to which we’ve failed to give credence that has in turn forced our psyche’s to amplify the volume. In essence our psyche has been left little choice but to alarm us to attention!

Nightmares May Signal Encroaching Mental Illness
Keeping in mind however, that dreams amplify our waking life experiences by tenfold, a nightmare may be highlighting a growing neurosis – fear of something not founded in reality but rather a phobia or unfounded worry. People who describe themselves as “worry warts” tend be plagued more frequently with nightmares. Regardless, a nightmare in this case still demands attention. A growing phobia can be crippling in preventing us from living an abundant and healthy life. If a nightmare is alerting us to a creeping neurosis, that doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant and just as crippling.

As children we’re plagued by nightmares often. Children experience fear daily yet must continue to exist. The world they find themselves inhabiting is vast and those around them so much larger and stronger. Loving adults can help in offering moments of safety and respite but there are by necessity times when they cannot offer the assurance of safety so craved. Encouraging children to talk through their nightmares and offering them suggestions about how to imaginatively deal with the monsters can help a child to feel empowered and less threatened in their waking lives.

Nightmares as Creative Inspiration

Ignoring or discounting nightmares as “only dreams” doesn’t ultimately offer any help in dealing with them for like most forgotten dreams, they will simply return. The best way to deal with nightmares is to consider them. Do what we can to interpret the meaning of the symbols, characters, feeling and action. Imagine what the nightmare is asking of you the dreamer. Further, you might consider a couple of different endings to the dream. Often a nightmare is interrupted by an abrupt awakening triggered by our increased heart rate and breath; using your imagination envision what the ending might have been.

Use the nightmare as a creative inspiration. Draw, paint or collage the images. Title your nightmare. The stories of Jekyl and Hyde, Frankenstein, and Dracula were all inspired by nightmares. When you describe a nightmare to someone, it is likely they will immediately identify and empathize with your experience. There is nothing quite like a sharing a nightmare to bring an uncommon level of intimacy into your social intercourse.

Don’t shy away from your nightmares. They are important messages from your unconscious mind. It is highly likely it is an important message at that. If you don’t wish them to revisit, then give them creative expression. Ponder their messages and see what you might learn about how to remedy a troubling waking situation. At the very least you will find yourself awed at the majesty, grace and condensed form it has presented of a waking life situation that really does need more attending that than which you have been affording it.

Kathleen Meadows, M.A. holds a Master’s degree in the Psychology of Religion and has a free dream dictionary online at http://www.dreamsdictionary.org.



If you are interested in the esoteric sciences and psychic ability development you will find the articles on my web site an interesting read. Visit my web site https://www.psychicanada.com/. Comments (19)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by Misanthropic 10 years ago
If my nightmares are to be taken seriously, then prepare for zombies, lots of them. That and Magneto from the X-Men comics. (Crazy, childhood nightmares)
Comment icon #11 Posted by Misanthropic 10 years ago
My nightmares tend to be much more disturbing than scary, usually involving unrealistically horrible accidents or people being tortured by the person who should be helping them. What do these symbolize? That you got 'future serial killer' written all over you.
Comment icon #12 Posted by MidnightLady 10 years ago
As I got older, some of my dreams became more political in tone. Now that's scary. Tell them to get out of the ballot box of your mind.
Comment icon #13 Posted by MidnightLady 10 years ago
My nightmares tend to be much more disturbing than scary, usually involving unrealistically horrible accidents or people being tortured by the person who should be helping them. What do these symbolize? Ah, change diet and viewing habits before bed time. Purchase sound machine and let the seagulls and surf put you to sleep. If you start dreams of sharks bring some dolphin friends with you.
Comment icon #14 Posted by MidnightLady 10 years ago
Has anyone ever had a nightmare, woken up then gone back to sleep and it has continued were it left off. Really freaky experience. Yes, I have experienced that. I translated that to mean there was something I was suppose to do and is yet unfinished.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Kashora 10 years ago
I have nightmares of a life I never lived. It's a certain, major part of history. I see things in vivid detail, in color, like I'm remembering something. I can smell things that I've never, ever smelled awake. It got so bad that I looked for other people like me. They say it's a past life coming out. I'm still not sure, it could just be because I've studied that part of history for years.
Comment icon #16 Posted by MidnightLady 10 years ago
I have nightmares of a life I never lived. It's a certain, major part of history. I see things in vivid detail, in color, like I'm remembering something. I can smell things that I've never, ever smelled awake. It got so bad that I looked for other people like me. They say it's a past life coming out. I'm still not sure, it could just be because I've studied that part of history for years. I would go with the history part first. Dreaming about things we have planted in our head would be the logical answer. Then again considering where we students of UM are playing, you could take the Shirley Ma... [More]
Comment icon #17 Posted by Misanthropic 10 years ago
Has anyone ever had a nightmare, woken up then gone back to sleep and it has continued were it left off. Really freaky experience. Yep. In nightmares and in normal dreams. Kinda' cool when that happens.
Comment icon #18 Posted by SolarPlexus 10 years ago
Yup, like you go to this other place and continue where you stopped Sometimes I visit several same places in my dreams from time to time, its like a world of its own
Comment icon #19 Posted by ophion1031 10 years ago
This isn't a nightmare, but last night I was having a very strange dream. One of the ones that you remember every detail when you wake up. I was in this bar and some guy on a motorcycle drove up and got off his bike and just jumped at a friend of mine and beat him to death. He looked at me and my arm started feeling weird, so I started itching it like crazy. That's when I woke up. And when I woke up, my arm was all itchy and I noticed I had a spider bite. Pretty weird.


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