As a little girl, I had a vivid imagination and a fear of the dark. I began my life sleeping alongside my sister, but that wasn't enough to stop the nightmares that sometimes visited me in the wee hours. When they were upon me, I'd yell out in terror or call for my parents, sometimes still able to see images around me as I awoke.
My parents listened as I told them about the strange things I'd seen in the murky terrain of my dream world, assuring me it wasn't real and I needn't be afraid anymore. Then they'd coax me back to sleep.
Today, thankfully, I rarely have nightmares. When I do, I have learned to think about what they may be saying to me. I recently bought a dream notebook I keep on my bed stand to better record all my dreams when I wake, before they fade into the oblivion of my daytime mind.
Dreams speak through symbol and metaphor, and are rarely to be taken literally. They are the processing of the simplicities and mundane details of our days, the revealing of the complexities of our innermost fears, anxieties and memories. The mystery of them can even point us to deep spiritual revelation.
Most of us dread our most negative, petrifying dreams, called nightmares. However, at a recent dream workshop, I learned that all dreams are purposeful, even our nightmares. I have spoken to those who are constantly sleep-deprived because they have taught themselves to wake up nightly during to the frightening nightmares they can't seem to shake. These come after trauma and pain, and are difficult to accept. Others have repetitive dreams that they have yet to understand.
Dream interpreters tell us that there are some common themes in nightmares. Understanding some of these interpretations may help us better process and hear what these dreams may be trying to tell us.
Here are nine common nightmares according to a source called DreamMoods:
• Being shot. This might indicate a confrontation in your waking life in which you feel threatened or victimized.
• Teeth falling out. This might reveal a fear of aging or losing one's beauty.
• Being trapped. This might show that you feel confined in some arena of your life such as your career or a relationship.
• Drowning. This might indicate a feeling of drowning in one's emerging emotions, or feeling overwhelmed. Experts may caution a person to possibly slow down their desire to uncover certain subconscious emotions in this case. An interesting and optimistic view is that if the drowning results in death in the dream, it could signal some sort of emotional rebirth in real life.
• Your own death. Though highly disturbing to most people, on the positive, this nightmare could be revealing a new direction in life. On the flip side, you may be feeling highly threatened in a destructive and painful lifestyle or relationship.
• Being chased. Analysts suggest that this may be caused by a fear of something in your life you don't feel you can handle. If the thing chasing you is an animal, it is possible this animal represents submerged rage or anger.
• Being caught in an out-of-control car. This could mean that you feel out of control in your own life.
• The apocalypse. If you are dreaming about the end of the world, this could be showing the level of stress and helplessness you feel in your own life.
• Inability to breathe. May indicate a sense of exhaustion or a real disorder in waking life, such as asthma.
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a local therapist and free-lance writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.