Nightmares

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  • Nightmares

    Hey all . . . I was wondering if anyone here had any significant experience with nightmares. I know that most people have them every now and again, but mine are so vivid that I end up waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, shaking, and paralyzed with fear, and sometimes I wake up shouting, screaming, or crying. It happens often enough that I can feel it having an effect on my waking life, since I wake up so abruptly and lose sleep trying to recover. The strangest thing, though, is that nothing has ever happened to me that would qualify as being at all traumatic to induce such nightmares. I can actually remember all the way back to 4 years old and the very first dream I remember - I know the age is right because I remember my sister being just about 6 months old. Anyway, in that dream, my mom had been killed and she was stretched out in front of me, bloody and with pieces of her flesh missing. She was being slowly eaten by a large animal that I think was a crab. At 4, I don't think I'd ever seen anything on TV or read anything to inspire this, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I had it once or twice more after that, both times when I was still pretty young (I'd say within the next two years).

    As I got older, I still had these kind of nightmares, and now I know that they're largely triggered by horror movies. I try to avoid them at all costs, but haven't been able to do so entirely - in 9th grade Spanish, we had to watch "What Lies Beneath" and my teacher wouldn't let me do a makeup assignment to avoid watching the movie. For months afterward, I would have mini-flashbacks to it and I was half-terrified of getting in the bathtub or looking in the mirror. It's not just nightmares per se, but a kind of numbing terror that comes over me when I think about it. That movie messed me up for ages. At a going-away party for an exchange student we hosted, she picked "Ghost Ship" as a movie to watch, and since I didn't want to disappoint her I tried to sit through it - I figured that being surrounded by 12 of our friends would make it okay. That was a mistake. I tried watching The X Files with my family once when my sister started getting the seasons on DVD (she loves that stuff), and it went well for a bit - I thought that maybe I had gotten over it, and so I kept watching them throughout the day with everyone and was actually enjoying it. I figured maybe that would be the day I conquered this ridiculous irrational fear-thing. As it turns out, that turned out not to be the case, and I ended up sleeping in my sister's room with the light on for a week. I tried to tell my parents (I was about 14/15 I think) but they thought it was hilarious and laughed the hearts out over it. There's one episode of that series in particular that still gives me trouble if I happen to think of it; I can't listen to the theme music without flying into a panic.

    The worst, however, came when I was probably 16, and my family was getting all set to watch "Silence of the Lambs." I decided I would skip that particular movie night but my parents encouraged me to stay - they said that I would probably find it interesting from a psychological standpoint, that it was pretty similar to CSI (which I do enjoy and doesn't bother me; I can't really explain that but in a minute I'll try to). Believing that my parents wouldn't steer me to something that they thought would be harmful or scary, especially after I had already told them how scary I found things like that, I decided to stay. As much as love my parents and as much as I think they did most things right in their child-raising careers, I'm not sure if I will ever totally forgive them for that. That has been the particular source of a great many nightmares over the years, including one last week that came because I was reading a book that included a quote from the movie. One measly quote sent me in a tailspin.

    Now, I do everything I possibly can to avoid those things, to the point that when I'm watching TV and a commercial for a scary movie comes on, I turn my head and plug my ears, and rely on someone else to tell me when it's over (my brother is greatly sympathetic on this point), and I also no longer listen to my parents when it comes to whether or not they think a movie will scare me, deferring to my siblings' opinions instead. Unfortunately, sometimes I run into things that I can't control or foresee (like the movie quote) or I don't realize that a particular commercial is what it is and I don't turn my head in time. Stuff like that is absolutely terrifying, and I know how ridiculous it is. I know, logically, that it's fiction - it's made up, and it's completely inconsistent as well. I was raised on the monster movie era of the 1950s and '60s, and with the exception of "Night of the Living Dead" (thanks again, Dad), I love those movies and watch them over and over with absolutely no problem whatsoever. I will never get tired of watching James Arness as The Thing terrorize a group of Alaskan scientists or fight giant ants in New Mexico. The same goes for shows like Law and Order, CSI, and Criminal Minds - while they often leave me feeling disturbed and occasionally slightly sick to my stomach, they don't frighten me. I know they're just as fictional as any scary movie, and if you've ever seen Criminal Minds, you know that show can be horrific, and honestly one of the episodes was very Hannibal Lector-esque. But for whatever reason, I can deal with that just fine, but I can't deal with the other.

    I went to a counselor once for help with this, and he told me that the only way to work through it was to just sit down and make myself watch this stuff, because I couldn't conquer it any other way. That resulted in a week of essentially absolute terror. I just feel so ridiculous about this whole thing . . . I mean, I'm a grown woman and I'm frightened to death by movie commercials! I almost want to laugh just re-reading that statement. It's absurd. But I want so badly to get rid of these nightmares; they're so vivid and terrifying. And it not only affects me, but when I wake up shrieking or in tears it affects my boyfriend too, if he's with me. He has no idea what to make of it, and I can't blame him. I feel awful, 'cause when I wake up like that his first thought is that he somehow hurt me in his sleep (he flails a bit) and he feels terrible. I don't know what else I can do to stop triggering them. I know my field of study (Holocaust Studies) gives rise to a few of them but those are very different sorts of nightmares than the majority. There are a few general themes that keep popping up, and I'm not as concerned about the Holocaust-related ones, awful as they are, 'cause I can manage and understand those. It's the others that really concern me.

    Has anyone else gone through anything similar, or has any advice? Even if not, it felt really good just to write it all out like that. Sorry it ended up being so long; once I got started I just kept going. Everybody is so nice here that I don't feel like I have to censor anything - I can tell the whole story without fear of reprisal
    "When the tides of life turn against you
    And the current upsets your boat,
    Don't waste those tears on what might have been -
    Just lay on your back and float!"

  • Dreams are merely a reaction in the brain as you sleep. You have zero control over them, you have zero control over your unconscious self when in a state of deep sleep....your body, your chemistry, your biology have complete and total control and hence you having dreams that could make absolutely no sense...say you had a dream of a monkey on a pogo stick drinking butterflies from a soda can. Completely stupid and random dreams like that are possible because it is merely the brain firing away in patterns as you sleep lol. We all have dreams, we all have nightmares, you can choose to think they mean something, a lot of people decide to try and figure them out rather than having it explained entirely by biology. If something scares you then it scares you, nothing wrong with that we all have our fears. If the counseling helps then keep up with that.
    There are those who believe that dictionaries should not merely reflect the times but also protect English from the mindless assaults of the trendy.

    Comment


    • I'm going to disagree with both the previous posters.
      I have and do often control my dreams. I have successfully directed my subconscious to dream about specific things, or to solve problems while I'm sleeping. I've also given my subconscious problems to solve while awake.

      Nightmares can be a reflection of unresolved issues and confusion, they can be memories of past. Jung thought this to be part of genetic memory, while other may define it as past lives. They can also be warnings.

      When I was in college I started having trouble with nightmares. I was being chased, if they caught me they would do terrible things to me. The nature of my dreams made me think they could be related to having been raped nearly 10 years earlier so I headed into counseling. I didn't find the counseling very helpful and thought the counselor had issues of their own to deal with. I gained clarity really fast one night when I found myself face to face, though a window screen with the stalker who had been (he told me) watching me for weeks. The police determined that he had been able to see into my bedroom concealed even in the day and had been essentially talking while I was sleeping. I had the window at the head of my bed open a few inches for air. I had been hearing him in my sleep. After months of calling the police and the stalker always getting away, the police told me I was dealing with a psychopath and had to disappear or would end up tortured and dead.

      Once I knew what I was dealing with, the nightmares stopped.

      I did the thing of forcing myself to watch some of this stuff but that really didn't help me either. I have past life memories of some pretty rough stuff, I've dealt with some ugly stuff in this life. Dealing with the very real threat of the stalker was what enabled me to start taking control. One trick is to tell yourself you are going to dream about one of these scary scenarios and how you will face it and overcome it. Plan it out, give your brain ways to out smart the situation, ways to fight or escape. Solve the problem. If you are like me it won't do to give yourself super powers, they will have to be somewhat realistic solutions.

      You may need to take a self defense course. Arm yourself, not necessarily with a gun but with some skills and awareness, teach yourself to be safe in your life and you will be safer in your dreams. Your mind will know that you are prepared. When you dream start solving the problem, grab a pipe that happens to be laying on the floor - its your dream you can put it there - and fight back. Pick up the spray can that is close by and spray the menace and have that be just the stuff that it is most disabled by so you are able to get away. Notice the trouble early and neatly avoid it. Its your dream and you can decide to act within it. You can also get to a point where you are often able to recognize it as a dream and say so within the dream.

      Get personal safety specialist, Gavin De Becker's book, The Gift of Fear. I think it will help you.

      Comment


      • WC thanks for that information.

        I've also had nightmares. Not so much no as I used to. They were strange and the only thing they had in common was that if I didn't do something specific I would die. I wake up shaking and sometimes run out of the room like I'm running from something. I hate it.

        Comment


        • Thanks WildChild - that was very helpful. I'm so sorry to hear about that stalker thing - that's absolutely horrific and I'm glad that you ended up being okay.

          There was a point about two and a half years ago where over the course of about four months I had a series of dreams where I was raped, but there's been absolutely nothing in my past that would make that make sense . . . the only thing that's happened to me in that vein is the occasional guy shouting rude remarks while I'm out jogging or something.

          The self-defense thing makes sense to me, but two common features of an awful lot of the worst nightmares is that a) I actually do manage to subdue the person committing the bad action but can't live with my actions afterward or b) I am that person. For an example to a), I had one where a group of four men had kidnapped two of my close friends and me and had chained my friends to the bottom of a bathtub and were filling it with cold water to drown them. In the dream, I managed to kill all four of the kidnappers - I jumped on one guy's back and strangled him with a piece of chain link. Eventually the police came and whatnot, but the rest of the dreamed covered a period of several months and during that time I was unable to get past the guilt of killing those four people, even though they were trying to kill us. I couldn't live with it, and eventually I ended up completely broken. For an example to b), I once dreamed that my brother and I killed a small child and hid the body in the basement. Another one was when my dad and I used a baby to distract a guy and then shot him through the baby's head, and a third involved me as a psychopath who killed people and then hid nearby because I got a kick out of watching the families discover the bodies.

          Honestly, I think those are far worse than being chased or tortured myself (although a very recent one where I watched my closest friend get hacked to death with an axe by some guy gives those a run for their money) . . . do you think self-defense would have any effect on scenarios like those? Do you know of anything that might work for that kind of thing? I will definitely check that book out though, and thanks for the recommendation.
          "When the tides of life turn against you
          And the current upsets your boat,
          Don't waste those tears on what might have been -
          Just lay on your back and float!"

          Comment


          • Ccraig42 - do you have any idea why you don't have them as often any more? Did you change anything in particular that you know of?
            "When the tides of life turn against you
            And the current upsets your boat,
            Don't waste those tears on what might have been -
            Just lay on your back and float!"

            Comment


            • I have no clue. I honestly believe that evil spirits were in my mother's house. The nightmares subsided once I moved. It could also be linked to my anxiety which was a lot higher when I lived there. Nights when I'm very paranoid right before I go to sleep, I usually have the nightmares.

              Comment


              • I sometimes have nightmares, my husband sometimes wakes me up when I start thrashing around, crying and screaming. When I wake up I can never remember what I was dreaming. If I am sweating and shaking, I have to check my blood glucose, sometimes it is low and that could explain my nightmare. My husband thinks I am reliving a past traumatic experience and he always holds me till I go back to sleep.
                [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
                Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.
                ― Bodhidharma

                Comment


                • I've heard that not being able to remember is the difference between a nightmare and a night terror, but I don't really know; I just heard it. And you can never remember what it is that made you so scared?
                  "When the tides of life turn against you
                  And the current upsets your boat,
                  Don't waste those tears on what might have been -
                  Just lay on your back and float!"

                  Comment


                  • Sometimes when I first wake up I can remember something but the the memory fads quickly and no matter how hard I try, I can't remember what it was.
                    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
                    Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.
                    ― Bodhidharma

                    Comment


                    • Sometimes when I first wake up I can remember something but the the memory fads quickly and no matter how hard I try, I can't remember what it was.
                      Remembering or not has to do with the stage of sleep you are in. There are different levels and then there is REM sleep, REM is the deepest and when the most vivid dreaming occurs. Waking up from REM sleep can allow you to remember dreams more easily because you awake when the images and situations are being stored in short term memory. But waking up from REM in the first place is already more difficult as the body is in a state of essential paralysis, however when woken up a person often recounts even the smallest of details simply because the images were literally just placed in the short term memory due to REM sleep.
                      There are those who believe that dictionaries should not merely reflect the times but also protect English from the mindless assaults of the trendy.

                      Comment


                      • About twice a month I'll have zombie dreams. I love the movies (big fan of zomieland), but they'll scare me for days, even the ones meant to be funny like Shaun of the Dead. I guess I did kind of what WC was suggesting. The dreams got so regular that I put more thought into how I would survive in my dreams & how I could save my family. I deal with the dreams better if the zombies are only after me, but I have plans to survive all the scenarios.

                        If my nightmares wake me up, usually I can't go back to sleep until I make sure the house is locked up. I make sure I feel safe, then I can usually fall asleep pretty quick.

                        Slasher movies will do the same thing to me, but I don't like watching them...most of the time. Every once in awhile I'll be in the mood for that, but it's rare. My husband talked me into watching all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies awhile back because I had never seen them. I didn't have any problems with those.

                        I've decided it's a fear of people that I was dealing with. Monsters, aliens, ghosts, they're just fun, but zombies or Mike Myers, I won't even go out to smoke unless someone goes with me. People are way scarier to me than any monster someone can dream up. I'm a fairly shy person and don't like crowds of people. I get really uncomfortable about people being in my bubble (I call them space invaders), and I don't like having everyone's attention. When I sat and thought about my nightmares, it made since that they were just a reflection of my fears. I don't avoid my fears, but I pay attention to them. If someone makes me nervous, I don't write it off. Don't know if that helped.

                        Comment


                        • Speaking of night terrors...am I the only one that freaks out when I feel like some heavy force is pushing down on me so that I can't get up? Creepy.

                          Comment


                          • aj2sheds, we all have a dark side. There is not a one of us who is not capable of violence, cruelty or murder. I know people who would deny that but it is true.

                            I can understand why these dreams are disturbing to you. They may reflect something from a past life or they could be the images of movies playing out in your head. Your mind maybe trying to understand how or why someone would do these things and what the results might be. Humans cruelty to each other seemingly knows no limits, historically or now.

                            The counselor you saw was right in that you will make more progress with this by facing it, than by trying to suppress or hide from it. I encourage you to consciously explore ways that these things could happen differently. That you could protect the baby and still defeat the "bad" guy, that you stopped your friends from being killed but subdued the killers by disabling them. That you were not the psychopath but a therapist seeking to understand what drives their behavior. Those are just ideas but you get the idea? Take control of the thoughts and explore and redirect. It may take some time. Don't get too worked up about this unless you start having trouble sleeping, fear going to sleep or have an urge to act out any of this.

                            If you do decide to see a counselor, I think you would find a Jungian based one best able to help you with this but that must be your choice.

                            A couple other points, despite the movies and news reports that seem to indicate rampant crime, violent crimes have been steadily dropping for 20 years! You are safer now than I was growing up a few generations before you.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by chaya View Post
                              Sometimes when I first wake up I can remember something but the the memory fads quickly and no matter how hard I try, I can't remember what it was.
                              If you start keeping a dream diary and write down what you do remember as soon as you wake, over time you will get much better at remembering your dreams.

                              Comment

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