Monday, January 21, 2013

NIGHTMARES and What Your Dreams Tell You

As a psychology major in college I learned about Carl Jung.

Carl Jung, protege of Sigmund Freud, believed that dreams were a way we could become acquainted with our subconscious.  He believed they could provide a window to solutions to our problems, subconscious or not, and assist us in achieving wholeness. I believed I would love learning about dreams and their meanings. I have had bad dreams that have come true, brilliant and bright dreams that I have turned into children's books and illustrations, and nightmares that have shocked me awake to a dark room and rapid heartbeat.

Some dreams seem prophetic, and certain individuals gained notoriety due to dreams coming true. For example, Joan of Arc predicted her death in a dream, Abraham Lincoln dreamed of his death only a few days before his assassination, and Einstein's theory of relativity came to him in a dream.

Jung believed, as do many others, that dreams can represent feelings, relationships, fears or any one of many situations that are occurring in your life. But unlike his contemporaries, he did not believe that each specific dream represented the same thing for every dreamer.

For instance, if I dream of fire and look it up in the Dream Dictionary on the web you will see several interpretations, but each of these would be the same for any dreamer. Jung believed many things had to be taken into account if one were to interpret their dreams. He thought there was not one single correct way for a dream to be described. Personal judgement is heavily relied upon, how the person feels, and the most significant interpretation of the dreamer is more important than what a book of dreams may say or another person.

To help a dreamer reveal the true meaning of his dreams, Jung developed and believed that certain symbols were present in all the dreams of men and women, and had universal meaning. These are ancient symbols, recognized across generations and locations, and derived from the collective unconscious called archetypes.

The main archetypes Jung considered were:

The persona is the image we choose to present to the world. The word is a derivative of the Latin word masca, which translated means mask, spectre, and interestingly, nightmare. It is a representation of ALL the masks we wear in social situation--a protector of the ego, a guard to help us from being hurt. Jung believes the persona can take many forms and can appear in our dreams.

The anima is the feminine inside the man that allows him to understand and communicate with women. The animus is the masculine in a woman, and allows her to communicate and understand men.
The shadow can be considered our dark side. It is the side we do not like to consider on a day to day basis. Jung thinks when we get to know our shadow side, only then can we truly know our whole selves. If the shadow appears in a dream it sometimes shows as a monster, demon or creature.

The self is a product of individuation, it represents the psyche as a whole--it is a unification of the conscious and the unconscious. The self is both the whole and the center, or the ego, as represented by the picture.

Jung did not believe there was a limit to the number of archetypes. He believed they were endless, and some other examples are the joker or trickster, the Mother or Crone, the wise Old Man or Wizard, the child or divine child, and the hero--or these days, the Superhero. Any and all can appear in dreams.

There are also many types of dreams. We discussed the prophetic dream, and if the dream is good we hope it comes true, but another type of dream we can have is a nightmare, or night terror. We have nightmares because of anxiety or fear, and it is said up to 10% of adults can have nightmares every month--or more. These dreams can cause rapid heartbeat, sweating, vocalizations, sleepwalking and waking up with an intense feeling of fear. Seeing a scary image, reading a frightening book or watching a horror movie or television show can all cause nightmares. Children can experience night terrors and moan and thrash while experiencing the dream. They may hallucinate and think they see the creature that is horrifying them in their dreams.

In a lucid dream the dreamer is aware they are dreaming and the waking mind gains control. Please visit The Lucidity Institute to learn to control dreams, remember them, and do experiments like the The Light and Mirror Test:

I have a friend who has dreams that cause her to experience a real  medical phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. (Click below to read a bit about her experience when a book caused it to rear its ugly head:

This is almost the opposite of lucid dreaming because the dreamer wakes but can't move a muscle. They are conscious but cannot do anything about the weird events taking place around them. My friend saw an evil man in her room during one of these dreams and could not breath. She knew he was evil, but could do nothing.

And he began to move closer. She was awake in her own nightmare, helpless.

Read more about sleep paralysis here in one of my favorite magazines, WIRED:

I remember as a child someone told me if you dream of blood someone will die. Not too long after I dreamt a girl I went to school with cut her father with a knife, and blood poured from the wound. Within two days a relative of a friend passed away, and I was SOLD on dream interpretation.

I read that water means anxiety, and the darker and deeper the water the worse the problems.  I read dreams of the devil mean you are sneaky and underhanded, and daisies mean a happy day will follow.

I bought a dream book and spent many afternoons looking up my own dreams and dreams of friends.

Although I do not look up my dreams any more, I sometimes try and interpret some dreams that are recurring.

Read 15 Interesting Facts About Dreams below--bet you didn't know that not everyone dreams in color...


  1. Very interesting.
    When I was in my teens, I kept a dream diary and dreamed vivid and detailed mind-movies with excellent recall upon waking. I also had a dream dictionary and would look up each detail trying to piece together the meanings. Now I rarely remember a dream, and if I recall dreaming at all, it's a blurry haze or glimpses that are long forgotten by noon. I DO FIND; however, that I tend to remember my dreams more often if they take place during an afternoon catnap on the couch - probably because they take place in a less deep slumber or not during REM sleep. I DO dream in color and have always been amazed that some do so in black and white...I wonder why that is?
    Great and thought provoking post!

  2. I wish I could remember my dreams, but I never do. I've only ever really remembered a handful of dreams in my life. Although, maybe I'm grateful that I don't remember them. :)

    I do know that if I start dreaming about colours, I WILL get vomiting sick. I've had two dreams where I was trapped inside a colour factory and both times I was sick. Not sure why, but that's what happens.

    1. Oh wow I have never heard anything like that before!! What the hell!?
      I also read once that if you cannot remember your dreams you need vitamin B12.
      I wish I could remember more of them...somethimes they feel so important.
      Thanks for stopping by Beth!

  3. Wonder if we had the same dictionary...
    I have been dreaming so much lately--what you said about REM is interesting--I wonder if changing the clocks changed my sleep cycle somehow.
    And of course I do that wake up at 3AM thing.
    There were times I woke up so scared from nightmares that I could not shake it for a WHILE...still felt scared and creeped out.
    I like being scared--but not in the middle of the night--ALONE.
    Glad you popped by.

  4. Lord, if I could control my dreams, wouldn't NOBODY be able to get me outta bed!!! ;-)

    I've had only one prophetic type dream that wound up getting my heart broken (though the dream didn't warn me about that, damn it). The better dreams I've had, and these are rare, are of me composing a song and then waking up with the melody and lyrics fresh in my mind so I can immediately jot them down. Again, very rare. It's happened to me maybe twice.

    My mom says something similar about water dreams. For her, the deeper/murkier the water, the more trouble's coming. And dreams of snakes (which she hates) mean that someone in the family's pregnant. A woman, obviously. :-D

    1. That is so cool about the songs. I wish that would happen to me too. I wish a dream would tell me how to play the guitar better too... :P
      Hm. Interesting about the water--and wonder where that comes from...are you Russian or Lithuanian by any chance??
      Glad when you stop by Mina :)

  5. PS: I'd love it if you popped round my blog and gave me your thoughts on the question I've asked in my most recent post.
    Some Dark Romantic

  6. Dream paralysis sounds horrible. I don't have dreams that I recall often, but I will try to remember them from now on and attempt to interpret them. Thanks for a great, informative and interesting post.

    Paul R. Hewlett

    1. It does sound awful I agree.
      My friend says it is awful--like she is really just stuck and can't move--and then terrified on top of it all.
      Always happy when you pop by Paul :)

  7. Also have a dream dictionary, but I usually know what my dreams mean. For example, I've had several dreams over the past years where I was either had a mouth chock-full of chewing tobacco (so much I couldn't talk) or very small pieces of windshield-type glass (not that it was cutting me, but I knew if I moved my mouth too much it would). Took me a few times to realize that it was because there was something going on in my life I felt like I couldn't talk about with my wife for one reason or another.

    And I'm a big fan of Jung, especially how his studies correlated to Joseph Campbell's.

    Good to read your post. I had almost missed it because I didn't see it at the TESSpecFic facebook page. You're still a part of that, right? Granted, I've been way out of the loop recently, but I still get email notifications when someone posts something there.

    Hope all is well.


    1. Yes. Happily I am still a member there. Things seem to have slowed down a bit though.
      I will have to look up his work with Campbell--I love Jung too.
      Hope that cute baby is doing well.
      Glad to hear from you!
      Love it when you stop by,

  8. I don't remember my dreams, generally. However, a couple of weeks ago, I dreamed there was an earthquake. The house was shaking and breaking apart. And then I started to float. Yes, the earth lost gravity. It was actually quite nice, like floating in water.

    A couple days later, I told some friends about the dream. They said, "When was it? There was a huge earthquake in Alaska a few days ago."

    This was the first I'd heard of the Alaskan earthquake, so I went home and looked it up. My earthquake dream happened a couple days *after* the Alaskan earthquake. Utterly useless dream. Though the floating was relaxing.

    1. Ha!! You are funny. :)
      Maybe the tremors were just getting to your part of the world...JK.
      I remember my dreams all the time and have given up trying to figure myself out a long time ago.
      Thanks for popping in and making me laugh.

  9. It's over, I have to go...

    What fun love this Pen :)

    1. Yay Dawn you made it!!
      Now I want to know what you are talking about!!
      Some of these are so clear and some are mysterious...
      we have to talk!!
      Thanks for coming by Dawn :)


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