Dreams: Nightmares The Myths ; Facts About It!
When we go to bed at night we close our eyes and hope we have a great dream. What happens when the dream is not so pleasant? Instead you have a horrible dream called a nightmare. Nightmares can be very disturbing. When it comes to the human mind, it is hard for us to know why it acts a certain way, but we can always try to learn.
Everyone has had a nightmare one time or another maybe when they were a child or even as an adult. But what happens when the nightmares are constant? The fact is that nightmares are more frequent in children than in adults. According to a research done by Tucker Shaw, approximately 50% of the adult population have no nightmares. The rest only remember one or two per year. 5 to 10% remember nightmares once a month or more, but only a small percentage of people have nightmares that are disturbing enough to alter their lives.
According to Freud, nightmares relate to startling and painful experiences of the past, to events of infancy and even birth itself. These experiences left behind psychic problems that the helpless child could not solve at the time. In fact, any painful situation may leave a residue of grief, guilt and anxiety. In this view, built represents the energy used for continually repeating unpleasant thoughts, both in waking life and in dreams. We continue to dream about “unfinished” situations until we work through the guilt or anxiety. Freud called this a repetition compulsion. This pattern is illustrated vividly in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. When Lady Macbeth encourages Macbeth to murder the kind, at first she seems untroubled by her part in the murder. But her guilt shows itself in a nightmare, which finally made her lose her mind.
There is also physical illness that might produce nightmare. Although it is unclear whether illness itself or the stress that accompanies it is more important.
Also neurological disorders sometimes have been associated with nightmares. Normally, epilepsy and postencephalitic Parkinsonism also mental illness and stressful events. In certain individuals, nightmares occur at the onset of psychosis, especially schizophrenic episodes. Depression can also be associated with an increase of nightmares.
Stressful periods in adults lives, such as times of examinations, jobs, exchanges, moves, or the loss of significant persons, may produce or increase nightmares. The one generalization that seems to hold true for nightmare sufferers is that their nightmares almost always involve the feeling of helplessness. Most often helplessness dating from childhood, the most frequent situation in their nightmares involve being chased, attacked, thrown off a cliff, or generally it is the dreamer who is the danger and utterly powerless, not someone else. A decrease or sometimes a cessation of adult nightmares usually occurs as the dreamer feels more confident, more mature, and thus less close to the helpless feeling of childhood.
Some myths about nightmares have been that demons or evil spirits produce nightmares. There isn’t any solid evidence that eating something disagreeable will cause them. Recent evidence also contradicts another widely held view that a lack of oxygen gives rise to nightmares. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which air does not get through the throat to the lungs of the sleeper because of some obstruction at the back of the throat. This may happen a hundred or more times in one night. The chest and abdomen of the sleeper heave but no air gets through, and after ten or twenty seconds there is a brief awakening, allowing normal breathing to resume. Sleep-apnea sufferers very rarely report nightmares, indicating that a lack of oxygen is not causally related to nightmares.
Now that we know the myths about nightmares and the facts, lets see if we can try to categorize the people that have them often. A study done showed that nightmare sufferers do have something in having jobs or lifestyles related to the arts or other creative pursuits. They ranged from painters, poet, and musicians to craftsperson, teachers, and nontraditional therapist. There were no blue-collar workers, white-collar executives, or office personnel who had frequent nightmares, but there were many such workers in the comparison groups.
The artistic and creative interest of the nightmare subjects was a life long characteristic. These subjects felt themselves to be in some way unusual for as long as they could remember and often described themselves as sensitive in various ways. Some were sensitive to bright lights or sounds. Most could be easily hurt emotionally, and some were quite emphatic or sensitive to their feelings. However, no extreme trauma could be discerned in their histories. More commonly than in the comparison groups those with nightmares described their adolescence as stormy and difficult, often with bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide. They tended to rebel by using drugs and alcohol, fighting with their parents, or running away. From adolescence on, the nightmare sufferers appeared to be extremely open and trusting peopleperhaps too trusting, making themselves defenseless and vulnerable, they often became quickly involved in difficult, entangling, friendships and love relationships.
These nightmare sufferers were not especially anxious, angry or depressed people. Some were vulnerable to mental illness: 70 percent of them had been in psychotherapy and 15 percent had previously been admitted to mental hospitals. However, at the time of the interviews they were, as a group, functioning quite well in life, according to Hartmann.
Hartmann and his associates described the creative, sensitive, and vulnerable nightmare subjects as having “thin boundaries” in many different sensesthey have thing interpersonal boundariesthat is, they became involved with others very quickly. Thin ego boundaries, being aware of their inner wishes and fears, and thin sexual boundariesthey easily imagined being the opposite sex, and many fantasized or even engaged in bisexual activity. They also had thing group boundaries, for they did not strongly identify themselves with a single community or ethnic group. Their sleepwakefulness boundaries were thin, for they often experienced in-between states of consciousness unsure whether they were awake, asleep, or dreaming. Some would awaken from one dream only to find themselves in another.
Treatment of nightmares: Treatment is not usually required for nightmares. Most adult subjects with frequent nightmares in the above mentioned studies had never sought treatment specifically for their nightmares, many had sought treatment for other conditions such as stress or depression. The majority had accepted their terrifying dreams as part of themselves and sometimes made use of them in their creative endeavors. However, some sufferers wanted treatment specifically for their nightmares. Judging from published accounts of case reports and a few controlled studies, a variety of therapeutic techniques have been used with success. Techniques such as hypnotism and others have proved to be effective.
Psychologist Gordon Holliday suggested four distress-producing features. He categorized treatment techniques into these classes: desensitization and related behavioral procedures, and “face the danger and conquer it” approaches.
Psychologists are currently investigating a “face and conquer” treatment procedure that attempts to teach frequent nightmare subjects to attain a Lucid dream state in order to reduce the frequency and severity of their terrifying dreams. A Lucid dream is one in which the sleeper is aware during the dream that he or she is dreaming and feels to be in full possessions of mental functions as if awake. This awareness permits the dreamer to make choices as the dream occurs. For example, the dreamer may be walking through an unusual landscape, realize that the experience is a dream, and decide to fly into the air to see the dream landscape from a new perspective.
As Sigmund Freud’s nightmare was able to retain “it’s imperishable valueby becoming a driving force in the making of a genius,” and as Carl Jung was initiated into the secrets of the earth by a nightmare and later brought light into this realm of darkness, so too have the nightmares of others heralded some meaningful change in their lives. For those with frequent nightmares, the use of the Lucid dream state could offer a unique opportunity to begin such a change.
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B. Standly, Krippner. Dreamscaping. Lowel House: Chicago, 1999.
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