What Your Bad Dreams Say About You

What Your Bad Dreams Say About You - Every night we turn off the lights, close our eyes and drift into a new reality. We all dream, even if we can’t always remember doing it. But why? This question is one that has long been asked but not fully understood. Throughout any given night we dream about every 90 minutes and the length of our dream increases depending on how long we are asleep.

The first dream is the shortest, sometimes around 10 minutes. After 8 hours of sleep we can have dreams 45 minutes to an hour long! That’s almost like watching a free movie in your subconscious, your own internal trip to the theater. But don’t return those movie tickets in the waking world just yet. Dreams can be obscure and often just plain bizarre.

Some are even terrible and disturbing. Why do we have them and what do they mean? Because there are so many different types of dreams and ways to interpret them, dream analysis can be extraordinarily complex; so much so that many people actually take classes and obtain certificates in order to do it.

Yes, there is such a thing as getting a certificate in dream studies, which qualifies you to help others figure out the meaning of their dreams. Don’t believe us? Just type “institute for dream studies” into Google search. Whether getting one is worth the expense is entirely up to you. We all probably know of those common, familiar dreams – y’ know – the ones where you feel like you are falling and wake up in a mad panic, lose your teeth, or embarrassingly find that you are completely undressed in front of a crowded room while giving a public speech.

What Your Bad Dreams Say About You



Not all dreams are negative and some even give us joy and inspiration. Why we have them is a mystery but there are many theories and ideas that discuss possible answers. Many people seem to believe that dreams are just random and do not actually mean anything while others insist upon their significance.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed in the meaning of dream interpretation and was famous for it. He explained that behavior stemmed from unconscious thoughts and that dreams were a way of expressing those secret, primal desires. His concept of sexuality, however, has been criticized for being so vague that it can apply to pretty much anything.

Have you ever dreamed about eating a hotdog? Well, Freud would probably interpret that as being a phallic symbol. Whether you want to believe in this or not, there’s no 100% way of knowing for certain. One major criticism over Freud’s theory of dream analysis is that it just can’t be supported by research. It’s simply not something that can be easily measured or examined in a lab.

Some also argue that a lot of Freud’s ideas may be a little outdated by today’s standards, mainly because of the strong influence of sexuality as well as the Oedipus/Electra complex consistently used throughout his interpretations. Carl Jung is another figure who insisted on the use of dream interpretation. Like Freud, he believed that dreams are a “direct expression of the unconscious”.

He considered dreams to be a tool used to restore or maintain mental health. He admitted, however, that dream interpretation was not something scientific but more so emotional or feelings based. He was a humanistic psychologist, so he believed that humans are natural meaning makers, and everyone is an expert on him or herself.

He believed that his role was not to give answers but to simply provide a gentle, guiding hand through the analysis process, allowing people to decipher their dreams for themselves. Freud thought Jung was influenced by “the sway of mysticism” for his lack of scientific approach. A Jungian therapist might argue that human cognition is not always driven by logic so why approach it that way?

So, let’s examine, for a moment, an example of how a Jungian therapist might approach interpretation of a bad dream. Let’s say you go to a Jungian therapist and explain that you had a nightmare that something really bad happened to a loved one, your mother for instance. You don’t know why you had such a dream and you feel guilty, wondering if your subconscious secretly hates your mom.

You love her in the waking world so you don’t understand how you could have possibly dreamed this. A Jungian therapist would assure and calm you, explaining that you may have had the bad dream precisely because you love your mother. Confused? Allow us to explain. If you’re someone who loves and adores your mother, but you have a dream about her swimming in alligator infested waters, this does not mean you want to see her suffer – quite the contrary actually.

Because you care for her, your subconscious may simply be trying to mentally prepare you for any worst-case scenario in the event that something bad really does happen to her. Your mind may also be prepping you so that you may devise a plan to prevent such a situation from occurring in real life. When you love someone, your feelings are strong and so may be your dreams about them. This includes both positive and negative dreams. In this way, your awful dream may have been manifested to help you.

Though, most of the time, we view nightmares and bad dreams as more of a hindrance than a tool. Evolutionary psychological theories speculate dreams to be exactly this; a mental device used to prepare us for the worst so that we may cope with threats effectively in the waking world. Think of it this way: our evolutionary ancestors had to constantly defend themselves from predators around every bend.

Thus, having a nightmare about being hunted by a tiger would have been advantageous for early humans for devising a plan of action. This way, when they encountered a tiger in the waking world, they’d be more prepared for the situation and bypass the same fate experienced in the nightmare. In today’s modern world, we’re more likely to have nightmares that are more relevant to our daily lives.

Rather than dreaming about being attacked by a tiger, for instance, we’re more inclined to have dreams about being late for our first day at a new job, failing a final exam, or giving an important speech in our pajamas. These types of dreams are thought to be designed to simulate what could go wrong so that we can avoid having them happen to us.

Though in all honesty, we probably don’t need nightmares to tell us not to do certain things like give a speech in our pajamas. That’s pretty much common sense. But because we’ve spent the majority of human existence as primal hunter-gatherers fending for our lives, our minds may not have fully caught up with our modern way of living and our comforts and conveniences.

For this reason, we may continue to have nightmares because our basic instincts don’t yet understand that our modern stressors are not life-threatening. Thus, we perceive threats like being late for work as something that provokes the same“fight-or-flight” response within us as being chased by a tiger.

Moving on to another type of dream experience, if you constantly have dreams where you’re not directly involved in the story, this could imply that you see yourself as an observer of life. We mean when your dreams play out like a movie where you’re watching someone else or a group of strangers facing a situation.

In this case, pay attention to the characters because they could be representative of people you know, or they could be various aspects of yourself interacting with one another ina story. When you wake up, be sure to write down what you remember before you forget it. Then revisit what you’ve written to see if you can connect the dots and find meaning in the material.

Who knows? You may be surprised by what you uncover and what you wind up learning about your internal thoughts and desires. When it comes to the subject of nightmares, a 2014 study conducted by the University of Montreal showed that there tend to be common themes. Despite everyone having their own unique dream worlds, an analysis of 253 nightmares and 431 bad dreams found an overall high prevalence of physical aggression along with death, healt hand threats.

Men’s nightmares seemed to center more around natural disasters and war, while women showed higher rates of interpersonal conflicts in their dreams including emotional threats. Within the realm of dreams and nightmares, we should mention that our knowledge is based more on speculation than on fact.

There is no consensus as to what directly causes nightmares since dreams can be a challenge for neurobiologists and psychologists to study. What we do know is that there appears to be a connection between our dreams and our day timelives, including our relationships with others, traumatic events we’ve experienced, and more.

So how can we minimize the presence of nightmares? There are a few potential ways to go about doing this. First, practice good sleep hygiene. Ideally, keep your room cool, dark and quiet. A temperature of 60-70 degrees is thought to be best. You’ve probably also heard that you should turn off all screens from the television to the cell phone since these can disturb your sleep.

Second, talk about your nightmare or write it out on paper. Chances are, once you externalize the nightmare from your mind and examine it from an outside perspective, you may realize just how funny or silly your nightmare was and no longer be afraid of it. Three, deal with any daytime stressors that may be bothering you and influencing your dreams.

If, for example, your next-door neighbor has been mowing his lawn in Cleveland Brown boxers and you’re a Steelers fan, perhaps this has been recurrently disturbing you in your dreams at night. Not only are you repulsed by the image of your half-naked neighbor being out in his boxer shorts, but you’re also put off by the apparel that is representative of your rival team.

Deal with this in the waking world by politely asking him to slip on some pants whenever he steps outside his house from now on. Be sensitive about your approach though so as not to embarrass the poor guy who didn’t realize he was making you uncomfortable with his ugly “dad-bod” and love for the wrong sports team. There’s no reason to be hostile.

Fourth - and this might just be the most fun suggestion on this list – play video games! That’s right. Playing video games is thought to make dreams less threatening because it instills in you the process of fighting and winning, which can carry over a feeling of control into the dream world. In this way, you’ll be less passive in your dreams and more ready to take action with sword in hand.

Perhaps your initial nightmare about being in a zombie-robot apocalypse will turn into a fun adventure as you save the world from those cyber corpses and become a hero, beloved by all. If none of these suggestions work for you and you are someone who has a serious issue with consistent nightmares, you may need to seek help.

You could have severe anxiety, or something called “Nightmare Disorder”, which isa real clinically recognized sleep problem. This disorder can also often be a symptom of PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder,so you should be checked out by a doctor or seek counseling just in case.

Do you find our suggestions helpful? What do you think your dreams are telling you? Let us know in the comments.

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