WHAT VIOLENT DREAMS MEAN?
It has become common for people to share their dreams on online platforms in recent years. Dream Sharing is a trend that has its supporters and detractors. But without getting into the controversial question about whether one should share their dreams or not, we can safely say that it provides a plethora of rich and diverse case studies for anyone interested in studying dreams and their relation to humans.
The dreams that people share the most, ask questions about, and are looking to understand are violent or traumatic dreams. The most common question posted after sharing a violent dream is, “Why am I dreaming about this?”
Many other such questions like
“I am not a violent person. Why am I attacking someone in my dream?”
“I would never attack someone like this.”
“Why would I dream something so traumatic when nothing like this has happened to me in real life?”
These questions asked about violent dreams that we saw floating online, prompted us to start a discussion about this. It is high time that we stop being embarrassed about the violence that happens in our dreams and make an effort to understand what these dreams mean and what is their connection to our waking lives.
But before we delve deeper into understanding violent dreams, let us first briefly understand what dreams in general are and their significance.
In her book The Dream Class, Know Your Dreams, Know Yourself, author Patricia Eltinge eloquently discusses the different facets of dreams and what they mean to the individual dreaming them.
While explaining what a dream is, she writes:
Imagine you are walking on a beach and find a bottle. You open the bottle and discover a note in it. However, the note is written in Cyrillic Greek script. This is what a dream is like. We receive a message from the container of our minds, but it is written in a foreign language, the language of symbols.
It is essential to understand that the images that flash in our dreams are symbols that represent a thought, feeling, or event in our lives. You cannot take what you see in a dream in the literal sense. For example, being stuck in an elevator in waking life is just an event that occurs. But if you dream about being stuck in an elevator it could mean you are in a relationship that is not going anywhere or you are unhappy about not getting a promotion at work and feel you are not moving ahead.
Where Do Violent Dreams Originate?
Like all these other dreams, violent dreams too are symbolic. The difference may be that the symbols would be a bit more complex and require a little more than casual scrutiny to unravel. Violent dreams may represent our fears, anxiety, stress, trauma, emotional turmoil, or illness.
Of course, the answer will always depend on what is going on in the dreamer’s life. Each dream has a special meaning to the person dreaming it. However, there are some common elements that we can decode that may help ease some of the fear and pain many dreamers suffer from unnecessarily.
Violence in dreams may or may not have a direct relation to waking life.
If the dreamer has experienced violence in waking life, they can have dreams based on that traumatic event. This happens because the brain is trying to process and eventually heal from what happened. These dreams are commonly known as PTSD nightmares
In these situations, sometimes violence is dreamed of as an exact memory. At the same time, other times, experienced violence takes a new form that is symbolic of what happened while retaining the emotional charge.
But we are not discussing PTSD-induced dreams today. They are well documented, and most people suffering from them require medical help to deal with them.
We are here to discuss those violent dreams that confuse so many people because they consider themselves peace-loving people, and are appalled by the violence that plays out in their dreams.
That’s where symbolism plays a part
Author Eltinge explains this beautifully in the book:
Dreams are very useful tools for self-discovery and problem-solving. A dream is a coded version of the inner workings of our mind. By ‘coded’ we mean that dreams talk to us in symbols as we are not always ready to look directly into some hidden truths in our waking state.
In what we call nightmares, the unconscious mind speaks to us in stronger symbols indicating that we need to take a more urgent look at some issue in our life. However, it is very important to remember: There are no bad dreams! There may be scary images but each dream, whether it is seemingly pleasant or unpleasant, has a purpose that is worth deeper study.
In this process, we can discover the symbolic role of dream violence and how it can sometimes serve us in our evolving self-discovery, health, and wholeness.
Why Do You Have Violent Dreams?
When Someone is Violently Wounded in a Dream
You may have this type of dream when you are processing something regarding the person you are dreaming about.
You may have recently come to know that this person is going through some emotional trauma or illness.
Or you could have been hurt in the past by this person, in that case, your brain is trying to remind you of the pain that person caused you.
When Someone is Dying or Dead in a Dream
Death dreams, in general, have to do with change or the end of something.
If you are dreaming about someone dying, it could mean that your relationship with that person has changed or you no longer feel the same way about that person.
It could also mean that you are ready to let go of that person and are okay with them not being part of your daily life.
When You Kill Someone in a Dream
This is a highly symbolic dream, and a lot will depend on what is happening in a dreamer’s life at that point.
The person you kill in the dream could be a symbol of something you are trying to get rid of in real life. In a ridiculous example, you may dream of killing your favorite baker if you have decided to go on a diet. Most of the time the violent imagery is so disturbing that we fail to see the simple message our mind is trying to give us.
When You Dream of Someone Killing You
There could be several reasons why you would dream of something like this.
It is often an irrational fear for our life vis a vis the violent events that occur around us. So sometimes the dream could be a result of the anxiety you are feeling.
Other times it could be possible that you are trying to avoid or cut off this person from your life, but they refuse to go away.
Or here too like in the previous case, the person trying to kill you may represent something that you fear in reality or are running away from.
No matter why they occur, violent dreams should not be feared and should not cause you anxiety. The best way to deal with such dreams is to analyze why they are happening. Ignore the graphic cruelty depicted in the images that you see, and concentrate on the hidden meaning behind these scenes.
How Can I Stop Having Violent Dreams?
Controlling dreams is not a simple science. And many different schools of thought exist on the methods that can be used. For many people nightmares aren’t really a major nuisance, they occur once in a while and generally do not affect their day to day lives. But for some people, violent dreams are a regular occurrence and it is traumatic to endure them repeatedly.
While there is nothing that can completely take away the nightmares, we have a few suggestions that will help you in reducing their frequency or decreasing their severity.
Good Sleep Hygiene
It’s not always possible to completely prevent bad dreams, having close to ideal conditions for sleeping will ensure you a sound and restful sleep. Sleep hygiene works in a combination of your sleep habits and sleeping environment.
Your sleep space can have some bearing on your resting state. Ideally, bedrooms should be cool, dark, and quiet. Make sure that your bedroom is a gadget-free zone.
In terms of habits, sleeping and waking up at the same time, at least during the week will regularize your body clock. This timely schedule is as important to your internal clock as daily exercise, exposure to the sun, personal relaxation.
If good sleep is what you are looking for, it is better to avoid caffeine and other stimulants before bedtime. It is better also to avoid bedtime snacking, but if you must then keep it light and stay away from spicy foods.
Sleep meditation is another practice you can adapt to relax before actually going to sleep. Sleep meditation helps slow down the thought process in your brain, and it will certainly help if you go to sleep with a calm mind.
Talking or Writing About It
The whole idea for this blog stemmed from reading what people were saying about their dreams.
Writing down your dream will help you understand and process them. You may even figure out the exact message your brain is trying to give you and resolve the issue.
If you are shaken by a violent dream and cannot go back to sleep, getting out of bed and writing about it will calm you down and help you go back to sleep.
Some psychologists believe that talking to others about our difficult or confusing dreams helps us deal with them. So, if writing is not your thing, you can always talk about it, either to friends or family members or on an online platform. This is similar to group therapy, where you discuss your problem and invite others to give their opinions.
Image Rehearsal Therapy is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that involves recalling the nightmare and then writing out a new, more upbeat version and rehearsing this new scenario daily to displace the original nightmare theme. You can try this if required.
Reducing Daytime Stressors
Stress leads to poorer sleep, and that poorer sleep is also associated with higher stress.
It will help if you deal with your stressors during the day. That way your brain will not have to resolve those issues while you are sleeping
When you’ve had a tough day, take a few minutes to de-stress before bed. Try a warm bath or other techniques to see what helps you most.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is another method recommended by AASM for nightmares. It involves relaxing different muscle groups and can be done with the help of guided audio.
Avoid watching scary horror or suspenseful crime movies or television series before bedtime. They will be the last thing on your mind before you sleep and can cause nightmares.
You can instead watch or read something neutral or light-hearted that will put your mind at ease before you retire for the night.
Getting Help If Required
There are times when violent dreams become more than an occasional nuisance and start affecting our quality of life. Many people who are subjected to constant nightmares often suffer from sleep anxiety. Nightmare disorder is a clinically recognized sleep disorder, classified by frequent and persistent nightmares that regularly disrupt sleep, cause bedtime anxiety and affect daytime behavior. They can also be a symptom of PTSD.
So, at any given point if you feel that you cannot cope with the stress of violent dreams, you should immediately get help. There should be no shame or embarrassment in needing help to deal with the trauma caused by violent dreams.
This article is just a glimpse into the enticing world of dreams. There is so much that we still have to learn about why we dream the way we do.
To get a better understanding of dreams pick up a copy of The Dream Class: Know Your Dreams, Know Yourself, author Patricia Eltinge and embark on a fascinating journey of the dream realm with her.