The NY Times has an interesting article about dreams... leaving me with much food for thought.
"Few of us suffer from nightmares crippling and persistent enough to demand treatment." Yeah, well- some of us have, and trust me it's not fun. Especially when they still can't figure out why, and so instead your shrink tells you to A) stay away from any kind of news (what, am I supposed to live under a rock?) and B) fundamentally change who I am as a person and my goals in life, because I shouldn't read books about war and violence. Seriously? On the bright side, he wrote me a prescription for some pills that do help me sleep- for the first time in my life I am getting a full night's sleep at night, and I am not afraid to go to sleep.
The formal definition of nightmares- bad dreams that wake you up. Cool. Now if there was only something they could do about it... But the fact that most of our dreams are bad? That's awesome! Not because I think everyone should have bad dreams, but it means that I am not so incredibly psychotic after all in the fact that I have never had a good dream. Everyone else is just in denial- that's perfect. Granted, once or twice a month would generally be a drastic reduction for me, but still I do feel a teensy bit validated.
Also- I can remember being 5 or 6 (at the oldest, it may have been younger) and being awoken by the same nightmare night after night after night. Mine actually seemed to decrease when I was a teen, which is consistent with the fact that I also don't dream if I'm going through something huge emotionally. Being a teenager wasn't exactly fun for me. However, now that I'm in my twenties, apparently my body thinks I can handle it again. Thank you body.
I thought the bit about being paralyzed during REM sleep was interesting. One of my exes- the stupid firefighter- also had crazy dreams like me (that's why we thought we were perfect for each other, we were the same kind of crazy), but he also had a tendency to do ... things in his sleep. Apparently he had in the past hit one of his ex-girlfriends, and I can tell you from experience that he did other things in his sleep too, things that you really need to be awake to enjoy. And he would have no recollection of any of it in the morning. That is not good for a girl's self-esteem. Maybe he just didn't get into REM sleep enough...
"Fear extinction memories..." interesting. I will buy this if they will allow this caveat: maybe I manufacture my own memories. Watching scary movies, or things of that nature- if those can give me the kind of memories that I need to work out in dreams than this may work.
I also like their point about a bad dream (where you stay asleep) being good and productive, while a nightmare is not because your mind doesn't get any resolution. I pretty much always wake up, but I know that there are some days that I can feel I'm going to have dreams, and definitely after a doozy I feel ill for a whole day afterwards. Part terror at the prospect of going back to sleep, part exhaustion and partly due to the fact that I usually spend the next day reliving the dream also.
All in all, it was a very interesting article to someone like me.