Nightmares
structure, genres and characters

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Nightmares, like dreams, come in different structures and genres, though a little less so than the more pleasant dreams. But what they lack in diversity they make up for in raw power. A nightmare is never unimportant. You must always take account of them. Though there are tape-recorder nightmares, they do not meaninglessly replay the events of the ordinary day, but are born of serious trauma. And there are no playful fantasy nightmares, though fantasy elements of the darker sort are very common in them. Happily, nightmares are also rarer than dreams.

Structures of nightmares:

1. Snapshot(as in dreams). These are very frequent. The worst kind of nightmares can be a constantly recurring single snapshot--such as for example, a witch's vicious face, with bloody teeth, glaring eyes on you(a real child's dream). Often leads to night terrors.

2.Scenes(as in dreams)These are often in random juxtapositions and, jarringly, can follow a good dream-scene. suddenly, sickeningly, unpredictably, what was pleasant dissolved into something dark and frightening.

3. Stories(ditto)--very frequent in nightmares, these can be totally erratic and chaotic but also utterly coherent. They often follow that pattern of a good start followed by a sudden twist into nightmare. Sometimes, if you're lucky, they will end just before some cataclysmic event is about to destroy you: the lion leaping, the bridge starting to collapse, the witch reaching for you, your child getting washed away by the sea(this is characteristic of the warning genre of nightmare, which is giving you a chance to fix whatever's wrong). Occasionally too this sort of nightmare will end in an unexpectedly positive way, for instance by the transformation of some object of terror into a mundane or unfrightening one(see characters in dreams). However the reverse can also be true, with something ordinary turning into something horrible. And some of the worst can take place in realistic settings, and feature realistic tragedies, in the most gut-wrenching sort of way.

4. Patchwork: (ditto) Very frequent in nightmares, these can combine scenes and snapshots and rag-end of story.

Genres of nightmares:

1.Tape-recorder: these as I mentioned above are usually born out of deep trauma--horrible events being played over and over. Refugees, returned soldiers, victims of violence or natural disasters most often are prone to these kinds of nightmares, and they will require a good deal of help and counselling.

2.Insight: as in dreams, but these usually show you something unpleasant about yourself or others. They can range from mild discomfort to full on horror. They are usually there to show you your deepest fears--and are not necessarily of the ''horror-movie'' kind but depicting such things as a beloved spouse cheating on you, children turning on you, etc.

3. Warning--similar to insight. Terror dominates, so these are very full-on, usually.

4. Inspirational--these can find their way into books, films, art, etc. Many creative artists have sought to understand and exorcise such nightmares by expressing them, though this can be very dangerous, as it can lead to madness.

5.Visionary or psychic: terrifying and often difficult to comprehend, these are usually extremely harrowing.

6. Prophetic: usually a little easier to comprehend than the former, these are nevertheless closely related.

Characters in nightmares:

Very similar to the population of dreams, though there are often more shapeshifters of different sorts(for instance, in one child's nightmare, a vicious robot turned into a loaf of bread; in a young woman's, her boyfriend turned into a monstrous statue ). There are very many supernatural beings, especially of the more unpleasant kind: witches, demons, sorcerers, hostile aliens, etc. The machines in nightmares are always hostile--such as formations of black planes filling the sky; alien warships; cars you cannot control. Similarly, nightmare animals are out of control, savage and inescapable. They frequently appear unexpectedly, running fast, like wild horses, for instance, or alternatively may be waiting in ambush (lions, tigers, etc). the human populations of dreams are almost always only half-recognisable or if they are recognisable easily, have something wrong with them. Often, they will change anyway--someone you know well turns intio a ravening beast or else is masked and then take the mask off and show something horrible.  

How to deal with nightmares(the basics):

If the dreamer is a child under the age of puberty, go to them and comfort them immediately. Reassure them that it''s 'just a dream.' Young children must not be forced to confront their nightmares or try to understand them in terms of what it might mean. if reassurance does not work, give the child a weapon to fight the nightmare: that is, get them to tell you exactly what happens and suggest a way they can fight the monster, or whatever it is. Or escape from a bad situation or person, or make them imagine, if it's about the dark, that they have a lamp in their hand.  

If the dreamer is a teenager, you can start to approach some kind of explanation--encourage them to talk about it, maybe write it down.  Perhaps get out books of dream symbols, or contact an expert such as myself for assistance.

Adults prey to nightmares should of course also be encouraged  to do the same things, and to perhaps meditate on what the nightmare, in all its brutality, is trying to tell us.  In the majority of cases, the nightmare will then go away. However if the nightmare persists, you may think of hypnotherapy, or seeing a counsellor or a priest.

 

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