What Causes Nightmares?

Ever wondered why do people have nightmares? Gain insight into what causes nightmares and how to work with them.

What are Nightmares?

Nightmares People have been having nightmares since the beginning of time, but it's only in the medieval Europe era that the experience was given a name.

The word 'nightmare' refers to an attack by a night demon (the 'mare' being the demon). The 'night mare' was believed to oppress the dreamer.

Today, nightmares are more commonly thought of as dreams, or experiences during sleep, that evoke intense emotions of anxiety and / or fear.

Why do People have Nightmares?

Nightmares serve a purpose. They are usually caused by some kind of conflict that we're experiencing in our lives. A good example is having a nightmare about the sensation of falling, which often indicates feeling overwhelmed by emotion. Once the situation and emotion are addressed in waking life, nightmares usually stop.

In her book, The Complete Book of Dreams & Dreaming, Pamela J. Ball identified the following causes of nightmares:

  • Childhood memories of intense emotions, especially those centered around loss;
  • Childhood fears, including fear of being attacked, and anxiety surrounding basic survival needs, such as food, warmth and shelter;
  • Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, where the dreamer had experienced the kind of trauma that threatened their survival;
  • The general every-day drive to survive that shows itself as a fear of the future. Dominant themes in this regard include fears connected with aggression, sexuality, and concerns about change and growth;
  • A sense of foreboding, perhaps picking up information on a sublimal level, without being able to understand that information, and then manifesting in precognitive dreams;
  • Serious illness with fears about death can also cause nightmares.
Recurring nightmares can cause a lot of distress - and they're unlikely to go away until you face them. You can do it unconsciously over a period of time, or consciously through consulting a dreams dictionary or in-depth dream analysis process. For example, if you're falling over a cliff, or down a minehole, or out of an aeroplane, get in touch with your feelings. Ask yourself,

  • What is happening in my life that's distressing me at the moment?
  • Why am I feeling overwhelmed?
  • Why am I feeling unsupported?
  • How can I create a safe landing?

"Perhaps there is something important that you're not seeing that your higher self is trying to warn you about."

Common nightmare themes include dreams that involve the death of a loved one, dreams of being chased or attacked, and dreams of spiders and snakes.

If you choose to work with your nightmares rather than give in to the fear, you are provided with a golden opportunity to release your fears in the dream state and experience relief in waking life.

The Power of Nightmares

Nightmares are extremely powerful as a tool to gain self-insight and achieve personal growth. They give you an opportunity to work with your shadow side and allow you to get in touch with some painful experiences in order to transcend them.

Related Pages

* Nightmares in Adults

* Dream Disorders

* What are Dreams?

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