Let’s Dream Big on Nightmares

Optional audio transcript

Nightmares are one of the more challenging aspects of the human brain that no one really fully understands. They can come and go, last 5 minutes or feel like an eternity, and some scare you out of your slumber. But why does this happen?

The Sleep Foundation has some idea as to why you would dream. It could possibly deal with memories, emotional control, or cleaning out any unnecessary brain data. This is interesting but could very well have some reason behind dreams themselves. While dreams can happen at any stage during sleep, it is most common during the REM portion, meaning ‘Rapid Eye Movement’.

Nightmares are no different and in my personal opinion, they happen because of many negative aspects of life. During my own time of working in stressful situations, my nightmares were more prominent. Whether it be a chase through various fancy bedrooms from an assassin or on an empty street fighting a very large jaguar, nightmares are linked to stress.

And I will be using my jaguar nightmare as a baseline for explanation, for those lucky enough to not have nightmares, or just would like a good example. This dream of mine was around the time of high stress for me and that is all I’ll say as to why I was having it.

Disclaimer for having nightmares

As a disclaimer, I do not use drugs, am not on medication, and I do not drink alcohol. This happened about 4 months ago. I remember this nightmare vividly to this day.

This dream was really about a kitten, hiding under a wicker chair on the road in front of my house. I’m a lover of animals and really wanted to save this kitten from any duress, so I tried to grab it. It being a dream, obviously I had some issue moving. I could have been moving around in real life and it would not have made a difference.

Well, this kitten was hiding from a massive jaguar. I’m talking the body size alone being as big as a Mini Cooper. I looked it up one day to see what type of wildcat it was, and it very much resembled a melanistic jaguar, just twice the size.

The nightmare in question

So, I am circling this kitten, ready to fight this jaguar for it. And no, it wasn’t its baby. I just knew that. It was prey. I dove to grab the kitten, but it was gone. It may have run away from under this strange wicker chair. When I looked up, the jaguar lunged at me, and I felt its claws rip me open. I woke up at this time, thinking that massive cat was still in the room with me. My heart was pounding, and I was absolutely terrified. I hid under the covers like I was a child again and just waited for the adrenaline to subside. It took me a few hours to fall back asleep. I had awoken around 2 a.m.

Reaching through the curtain type nightmares
Reaching through the curtain type nightmare

Nightmares can also be linked to other stressors, such as PTSD, substance abuse, and sleep deprivation. These issues can be prominent or just be underlying, waiting on you to figure out what is going on.

What types are there?

There are many types of nightmares, with the majority being the bad dreams we all know and despise. There is also night terrors, dreams happening with such intensity, they can certainly cause physical reactions. They are also the most easily forgotten.

There is also sleep paralysis, where the body hasn’t exactly realized that it can move. This terrifying phenomenon is called atonia. It can bring our worst nightmares to life, just by existing in our subconscious.

And what can you do about them? You can destress, get better sleep, and avoid any temptation that would give you restlessness. That, to some, is like chewing a brick; it isn’t as easy as just saying it is. Your mind creates a world from what you see, from what you experience.

Is there going away from having nightmares?

Honestly, this question has an answer, and it is what you would think it is. Nightmares are always going to be there, and they will come in different shapes and sizes.

The most common from a study by Hulsey Cason in the 1930s where it was ranked, with 1 being the most common and 7 being the least.

  1. Animals
  2. Being chased
  3. Death
  4. Home
  5. Falling
  6. Miscellaneous
  7. Accidents

This list could also be combined as even the jaguar will chase you down the road, near your home.

In this list, you could easily say that having your life in danger is what makes it a nightmare, a stressful situation full of fear and anxiety, not knowing what else your mind will bring to the table. This is the kind of fear that I would not label ‘fun’.

What can these dream types indicate?

Well, there are many ways to think of a dream and I will tell you how they end up being portrayed.

Some are obvious, like being chased being about running away from something you would typically like to avoid. With the jaguar, there was no chasing but a certain match to the death that was expected. In the dream, I didn’t think I was going to die. Being attacked was the closest I could find to the jaguar situation, and it represented something in life that I was trying to avoid.

Reaching out type nightmares
Reaching out type nightmare

Oddly enough, in life, I was pretty headstrong about everything I was doing, but the subconscious is a sneaky thing.

Even jaguars themselves have a meaning. I’m a critic, as you may have known reading my other posts, of things like this, but the meaning was spot on (heh, spot…). I do have pet housecats, but none resembling a jaguar, and none named anything near it. I did not watch an animal documentary recently and had no experience with big cats.

The jaguar was just there.

Looking up the meaning of why it was that wildcat and nothing else stated that it was meaning to let go of any fear and do what you know you need to do. Oddly enough, that was exactly what I ended up doing in my situation.

The kitten, on the other hand, was an interesting one as it resembled innocence and the “birth of intuition.” It ran away from me, which was both sad and confusing, but I think it was acting as a wake-up call. My own dreams typically do not involve so many cats.

Even the chair has a meaning, including the wicker. It can resemble to look at what you are doing and to maybe, just maybe, give it a rest. Which is exactly what I ended up doing. The wicker itself was to give insight of starting anew, which is something I also did.

Mind you, I am looking up these meanings the week of this post coming out, to give the incentive that I didn’t just make this up as I went along.

Realization on nightmares

Overall, the dream scared me to a point of realization that I don’t think I could have gotten to on my own, well, in enough given time to help in my sanity. I always think of it when someone indicates something stressful with no plan, and how death by jaguar might be helpful, in an alternate reality, of course.

So, dreams are strange, and they may or may not have meaning, but this one was fascinating to investigate. I never would have thought I would have a dream so violent that I would one day put it on the internet.

These meanings of dreams do seem a little bizarre and there is evidence that nightmares are caused by stress, bad sleep, as well as many other factors, but finding why it is that dream, that chair, that unnecessarily angry cat does help with coping. Finding a reason of why within the why is always a nice question to grasp for, especially when it is your own mind trying to warn you or help figure it out.

So, what have you dreamt lately?

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