The Exaggerations of Nightmares (40-Day Mental Health Writing Challenge, Day 35)

I had a thought this morning about dreams.

Last night just before going to sleep I, for whatever reason, watched a bunch of horror movie clips online. To a lot of people this sounds like a surefire way to have horror-filled nightmares. But the truth is, I’ve never operated that way. Notwithstanding how I generally don’t remember any of my dreams, I have tended to remember a handful particularly scary or freaky ones. And none of them have been direct results of watching scary movies the night before.

Most of my nightmares don’t even involve direct confrontation with any kind of entity (monsters, killers, zombies, giant bugs, etc.). And that’s kind of the key: confrontation. In most cases the threat in my dreams is barely there. At best I see the entity at a distance. I recall a gorilla suit fiend staring down at me from above; a mysterious cloaked entity appearing like a silhouette from across a field; a zombie somewhere in a department store.

All of this would seem to speak directly to my fear of confrontation. It also reflects my anxieties and worries over potential problems and threats, whether they materialize or not. I’ve rarely had to directly deal with real, severe issues, moments or people. These troubles just kind of hover at a distance, only ever a possible danger. And made all the worse in my head, like exaggerated boogeymen in the closet and wolves at the door.

I rarely have these dreams. But they’ve happened for essentially my whole life – the gorilla episode is arguably the first dream I can remember having, at a very young age.

It’s not that the things that cause me heavy fear and anxiety in life are never real. Generally they are, and my subconscious just blows them out of proportion. But here’s an interesting theory: Whenever I find myself procrastinating over – or outright running away from – big problems in life, I do tend to feel better having addressed it. Even if the problem isn’t necessarily solved, the anxiety over it is often alleviated (if only for the short term).

Sometimes it pays to confront the boogeyman, to realize that his teeth aren’t so sharp, his bite not so harsh.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

© 2017 Day By Day Mental


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