Saturday, 22 January 2011

What dreams may come..?

Poor old young Dave has been suffering disturbed nights over at Dave - The Blog and I sympathise.

Anyone who says to me: 'In your dreams' hasn't been there when the molten sky is falling and we few survivors are sheltering in caves, or when I come out of primary school one afternoon and it is years later and my family moved away a long time ago, or when everyone in the room is about to turn into a monster - but no-one knows which kind so you have to watch for snake tongues, claws...

As a child I lay awake in the fear of having nightmares. More recently I learned to quite enjoy them, their imagination. But they're still odd. My friend's husband is a clinical psychologist. He says it isn't what happens in your dreams, it's how you feel in them. And he says that everyone in the dream is really another projection of yourself.

But it could be worse...

I was in my 30's before I had even heard of sleep paralysis or 'night terrors'. It occurs when the consciousness is still awake while the body is shutting down for sleep and the symptoms are the inability to move, pressure on the chest, an acute sense of danger and terrifying hallucinations.

It's believed that the old idea of an incubus sitting on your chest comes from this and potentially a good number of 'ghost' sightings and 'alien abductions' - with the symptoms being so very realistically physical and so little heard about it.

Oddly, my first experience of sleep paralysis (that I remember) was not long after first reading about it. I had just moved house - one of the triggers can be a change in environment or lifestyle (and I've certainly had a brilliant flying dream after another house move.)

I 'saw' a malevolent, shadowy figure in the corner, 'heard' indiscriminate, but evil voices and felt a heavy pressure rolling over my body from head to toe. Throughout all this I knew I was wide awake. It was genuinely very frightening and would have been so much more so if I didn't have a clue what was going on. It's happened to me a couple of times since then and, whilst scary at the time, is fascinating.

After this, I started asking people whether they had heard of it or experienced it. And although most were blissfully unaware of it, I was shocked how many people had had it without it being common knowledge. At least three people I know have suffered from it on a regular basis all their lives - one even thought she could never marry because who would want to share the bed of someone who spent their nights in terror?

Around the world there are different beliefs about it and word for it. And guess what? The word nightmare is derived from the old Norse word 'mara' or... a goblin that rides on your chest.

So - how many of you have had this or heard of it? And -really - what is your worst nightmare?

Further Reading:
DARK INTRUSIONS: An Investigation into the Paranormal Nature of Sleep Paralysis Experiences
Sleep Disorders for Dummies (For Dummies (Lifestyles Paperback))


  1. Once, I dreamt that I was force-fed a giant marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was missing! No, seriously, I have experienced sleep paralysis, but not for many years...thankfully.

    One of the strangest nocturnal events I can recall, happened HERE

  2. Fortunately I can rarely remember my dreams. All I know, at the moment, is that they are much more vivid, intense, 'real' - but that's the effect of the drugs.

    Mind you, I spend time, especially when walking, daydreaming (or planning ahead, as I think of it). Things like what equipment I should pack in my ruksac when the molten sky is falling and we few survivors are sheltering in caves. Or the layout of cabins on my spaceship.

  3. I've had them, but thankfully not for several years. The last time it happened, I remember trying to convince myself that it wasn't real.

    I was still paralyzed, but it didn't last as long as normal. And it's never happened again since then. Maybe I worked out the terror until it was impotent. I'm just glad they've not come back.

  4. I think it happened to me last year the night after going for an MRI scan in Cambridge.
    I'm claustrophobic so the experience was a fairly anxious one for me and I woke three or four times that night unable to move.
    The third or fourth time there was someone whispering loudly into my ear and then my covers were being pulled off, just like in the many ghost stories I've read over the years!
    Of course when I woke in the morning, the covers hadn't moved, but it was so real at the time, and affected me for the rest of the day.

  5. Martin - I read your link and that is spooky... but in a nice way.

    Dave - I'm a big daydreamer too. Sounds like we both have a very rich 'inner life'!

    Maria - Interesting that it went when you stopped being afraid of it. Maybe that's why I haven't had it for a while too!

    Mounen - It sounds like that's exactly what you experienced. Had you heard of it before?

  6. My 'inner life' is much richer and more interesting than my real one.

  7. One of my kids used to have night terrors. More frightening for us than for him, I reckon, as he seemed to know nothing about it.

  8. Dave - I feel the same about mine!

    Fran - That's what makes me wonder if I had them when I was too young to remember properly but that's what made me scared of going to sleep - or was it just the vividness of my dreams anyway?

  9. This has only happened to me once - the night before I married my first husband. I really thought that there was someone in the room who had come to lie on my chest. I couldn't even cry out. Years later, I thought it was an omen of things to come. That marriage was truly a nightmare.

  10. Sleep paralysis often goes along with narcolepsy, which a fair number of people have but don't know, it seems.
    My worst nightmares have involved my kids being in mortal danger - not surprising really, since that's the anxieety every parent lives with. Oh, and the moving nightmares - as in 'oh god I have to get everything out of the house by noon'.

  11. Kass - Ah yes, marriage!... before you know it there really isa malevolent presence lying on your chest!

    Deborah - I didn't think that many people had narcolepsy. I've never met anyone who had it... although people do sometimes fall asleep when I'm rabbiting on... hmmm.