a continuum of repetition
William Domhoff, an American researcher and psychologist, suggests that there is a continuum of repetition in dreams. In extreme cases, there are painful nightmares that lead directly to the production of an experienced trauma, such as recoveryIts presence is one of the main symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Then there are recurring dreams, in which the same dream content is partially or completely reproduced. Unlike painful dreams, recurrent dreams rarely directly reproduce an event or conflict, but instead reflect it metaphorically through a central emotion.
Moreover, there are frequent themes in dreams. These dreams tend to repeat a similar situation, such as being late, chased, or lost, but the exact content of the dream varies from time to time (the train is late, not all at once).
Finally, at the other end of the continuum, we find the repetition in the same person of certain elements of dreams, such as characters, actions, or objects. It is said that all these dreams 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, gradual, positive changes in the content of traumatic nightmares are often seen when people who have experienced trauma recover from the difficulties they are experiencing.
Why are the topics often shared from person to person? One possible explanation is that some of these “scripts” could have been preserved in humans due to their evolutionary advantage. By making simulating a threatening situation possible, a stalking dream, for example, provides a space to practice perceiving and evading predators during sleep.
Some typical themes can also be partially explained by physiological phenomena that occur during sleep. A study conducted by a research team in Israel in 2018 found that the famous dream of losing teeth is not specifically associated with the dreamer’s anxiety symptoms, but rather gnashing of teeth during sleep or dental discomfort upon awakening.
When we sleep, our brains are not completely disconnected from the outside world. He may continue to perceive external stimuli, such as sounds or smells, or internal bodily sensations. Thus, other topics, such as not being able to find a toilet or undressing in a public place, can be linked to the need to urinate during the night or to wear loose-fitting pajamas to bed.
Certain physical phenomena of REM sleep, the stage of sleep in which we dream the most, can also play a role. In REM sleep, our muscles are paralyzed, which can cause dreams of heavy legs or paralysis in his bed.
Similarly, some authors have suggested that dreams of falling or flying are caused by our vestibular system, which contributes to our balance and which activates automatically during REM sleep. Of course, these bodily sensations are not sufficient to explain the recurrence of these dreams in some people and their sudden occurrence in times of stress, but they are likely to have a significant impact on the construction of our typical dreams.
Get out of the loop
People who experience a recurring nightmare are somehow stuck in responding to and anticipating the dream scenario. Certain treatments have been developed to try to resolve this recurrence and break the vicious cycle of nightmares.
One technique is to visualize the nightmare upon awakening and rewrite it, i.e. modifying the scenario of that by changing an aspect, for example the end of the dream, to something more positive. Practicing becoming lucid in dreams may also be a solution.
Lucid dreams are dreams in which we are aware that we are dreaming and where we can sometimes influence the content of the dream. Becoming lucid in a recurring dream can make it possible to think or react differently to the dream and thus change the recurring nature of these dreams.
However, not all recurring dreams are bad in themselves and can be beneficial because they tell us about our personal struggles. Thus, paying attention to the recurring elements in our dreams can be a way to better understand and solve our desires and torments.
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