Not everyone has nightmares, but everyone knows what a nightmare is. A nightmare is a frightening dream that can leave a lasting impression or fear after the dreamer is awake. There is a reason we have nightmares; be it either that our subconscious is in a state of worry or there is some big stress factor in our awake life. In Christian beliefs nightmares are dreams sent by the devil or other malicious spirits to cause trouble to the dreamer.
There are 2 primary kinds of nightmares; night terrors or anxiety dreams experienced in the REM stage of sleep. Anxiety dreams are mostly made up of all of your thoughts, worries, fears and concerns throughout the day; when you go to sleep the processes of your brain are still at work. This is how they manage to leak into your dreams bringing the daily stress and anxiety with them. Night terrors, however, are completely different. They are usually bad dreams often themed around death, threat or fear of pain inflicted on the dreamer or a loved one or even worse. These are the frightening dreams that’s purpose cannot be explained or rationalized in your daily life.
Recurring themes of typical nightmares vary by age and sex but typically include shadows, falling, being chased, snakes, the threat of physical harm and embarrassment or humiliation. The content of your dreams usually include a bit of recounting events or thoughts from the day, conscious thought used subconsciously by your always active brain. If you go to sleep worrying about bills and money then you might fall asleep and dream that you are drowning in a pool of sharks or alligators. This could be your subconscious visualizing your fears: that you are drowning in pool of debt and the sharks or alligators could represent the bill collectors or debts that are helping to add to your worry.
There have been many studies on the subject of dreams and nightmares, ranging in subjects with psychotic illnesses, mental limitations, age range, cultural ethnicity and so on, but most results are similar in that all actions in dreams or nightmares are based on the attitude and reaction of the dreamer. You will react to situations in the same manner in a dream as you would to the same situation in your waking life. Anything you wouldn’t normally do in your waking life you would not likely act out in a dream; this is a good way to get to know yourself. Pay attention to the way you react to dream situations and maybe you will find out that you are harboring anger issues, or holding yourself back due to fear.
The shadow is a common theme in most adult dreams. The shadow represents the undefined stranger inside yourself that you could fear. The shadow is a recurring theme in those that have dealings with the occult, paranormal, or unknown. The appearance of a shadow in a dream could also represent a fear of the unknown.
Snakes are often a common theme in the nightmares of women; almost every woman has had a dream with this slithery serpent. The snakes could also represent the unconscious mind itself being that both are secretive and fear-evoking. In your dream or nightmare, if you are trying to avoid stepping on a snake, or even a multitude of serpents, chances are that your subconscious mind is fighting with itself to keep certain memories hidden, or to step on them and have them revealed.
Nightmares can leave a person confused or upset when they wake up. Most nightmares are frightening enough for the dreamer to recall days after the bad dream. But when you take the time to find out what messages your dreams have for you, a nightmare can be a dream that is a helpful tool in analyzing our daily life a bit closer.