What does science say about recurring dreams and how you can avoid them?
Having the same dream over and over is a well-known phenomenon: nearly two-thirds of the population say they have recurrent dreams.
Being chased, finding yourself naked in a public place or in the middle of a natural disaster, losing your teeth or forgetting to go to class for an entire semester are typical recurring scenarios in these dreams.
But where does this phenomenon come from?
Science has shown it Recurring dreams can reflect unresolved struggles in the dreamer’s life.
Recurring dreams often occur during times of stress or for long periods of time, sometimes for several years or even a lifetime.
Not only do these dreams share the same themes, but they can also repeat the same narrative night after night.
Although the exact content of recurring dreams is unique to each person, There are common themes between individuals and even between cultures and in different periods.
For example, being stalked, falling, not preparing for an exam, delaying or repeatedly trying to do something are among the most common scenarios.
Most recurring dreams have an extension negative content Includes emotions like Fear, sadness, anger and guilt.
More than half of recurrent dreams involve a situation in which the dreamer is in danger.
But some recurring features can also be positive, even joyful, such as dreams where we discover new rooms in our house, exciting dreams or where we are flying.
In some cases, recurring dreams that begin in childhood can persist into adulthood.
These dreams can disappear for a few years, reappear in the presence of a new source of stress, and then disappear again when the situation is over.
Why does our brain reproduce the same dreams over and over again?
Studies show that dreams, in general, Help us regulate our emotions Coping with stressful events.
Incorporating emotional material into dreams can allow the dreamer to do so Addressing a painful or difficult event.
In the case of recurrent dreams, the repetitive content can represent a failed attempt to incorporate these challenging experiences.
Many theories agree that recurring dreams are associated with unresolved difficulties or struggles in the dreamer’s life.
Frequent dreams have also been associated with lower levels of mental health and the presence of symptoms of anxiety and depression.
these dreams Tends to recur during stressful situations And they stop when the person resolves their personal conflict, indicating better well-being.
Recurring dreams often metaphorically reflect the emotional fears of dreamers.
For example, dreaming of a tsunami is common after trauma or abuse. This is a typical example of a metaphor that can represent feelings of helplessness, panic, or fear that we experience in waking life.
Similarly, wearing inappropriate clothes in a dream, being naked, or not being able to find a bathroom can represent scenarios Embarrassment or modesty.
These topics can be thought of as texts that provide us with a space in which we can digest our conflicting feelings.
The same text can be reused in different situations where we feel similar feelings.
This is why some people, when faced with a stressful situation or a new challenge, may dream that they appear unprepared for a math test, even years after they enter school.
Although the circumstances are different, A similar feeling of stress or desire to excel can lead to the same dream scenario repeatedly.
a continuum of repetition
William Domhoff, an American researcher and psychologist, proposes the concept of a continuum of repetition in dreams.
On the one hand, painful nightmares reproduce direct live trauma. This is one of the main symptoms of PTSD.
Then there are recurring dreams in which the same dream content is partially or completely reproduced.
Unlike painful dreams, recurring dreams rarely directly reproduce an event or conflict, but rather reflect it figuratively through a central emotion.
Moreover, there are frequent themes in dreams.
These dreams tend to reproduce a similar situation, such as being late, being chased, or lost, but the exact content of the dream varies from moment to moment, such as being late for a train rather than an exam.
Finally, at the other end of the continuum, we find certain dream elements that recur in the individual’s dreams, such as characters, actions, or objects.
All these dreams will reflect, on different levels, an attempt to resolve some emotional concerns.
Moving from an intense level to a lower level in the repetition cascade is often a sign of an improvement in a person’s psychological state.
For example, in the content of painful nightmares, gradual and positive changes are often observed in people who have experienced trauma as they gradually overcome the difficulties encountered.
Why do subjects tend to be the same from person to person? One possible explanation is that some of these texts have been preserved in humans due to evolutionary advantage that offer.
By simulating a threatening situation, a stalking dream, for example, provides a space for a person to practice perception and escape from predators during sleep.
Some common themes can also be explained, in part, by physiological phenomena that occur during sleep.
A 2018 study by a research team in Israel found that dreaming about losing a tooth is not specifically associated with anxiety symptoms, but rather with it. Gritting your teeth while you sleep Or disturbing the teeth when waking up.
When we sleep, our brain is not completely isolated from the outside world. Continue to be aware of external stimuli, such as sounds or smells, or internal body sensations.
This means that other issues, such as not being able to find a bathroom or getting undressed in a public place, can actually be driven by the need to urinate at night or to wear loose-fitting pajamas.
They can play into some of the specific physical phenomena of REM sleep – the phase of sleep in which we dream the most.
In REM sleep, our muscles are paralyzed This may lead to dreams of heavy legs or paralysis in bed.
Similarly, some authors have suggested that dreams of falling or flying are such Because of our vestibular system, which contributes to homeostasis and can be automatically reactivated during REM sleep.
Of course, these sensations are not enough to explain the recurrence of these dreams in some people and their sudden appearance in times of stress, but they probably play an important role in the construction of our typical dreams.
People who suffer from recurring nightmare They got confused Somehow in a certain way to respond to and anticipate the dream scenario.
Treatments have been developed to try to resolve this recurrence and break the vicious cycle of nightmares.
One technique is to visualize the nightmare while awake and then rewrite it, i.e. modifying the narrative by changing one aspect, for example, the end of the dream, and replacing it with something more positive.
the lucid dream It could also be a solution.
In lucid dreams we realize that we are dreaming and sometimes we can influence the content of the dream.
Clarity in a recurring dream can allow us to think or react differently to the dream and thus change the repetitive nature of the dream.
but nevertheless, Not all recurring dreams are bad in and of themselves. even in can be useful As much as they inform us about our personal disputes.
Paying attention to the recurring elements in dreams can be a way to better understand and resolve our desires and torments.
* Claudia Piccard Deland is a doctoral student in neuroscience and Tor Nielsen professor of psychiatry, both at the University of Montreal, Canada. This note originally appeared on The Conversation and is posted here under a Creative Commons license.
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