That different people tend to have different nightmares –or no such bad dreams at all– is fairly common knowledge, though the factors that have an impact upon the actual content of nightmares remain largely unexplored. A study recently performed with the sponsorship of the International Association for the Study of Dreams has examined the differences in nightmare content between men and women, and has found that the sexes tend to diverge. The study included the participation of over two thousand people, all of whom were asked to submit information regarding their dreams, and particularly their nightmares. While nearly fifty percent reported never experiencing nightmares, those who did reported about the specific scenes and sequences involved in their bad dreams.
Among the respondents, themes of being late, being chased or paralyzed, falling, and experiencing the death of a family member or other loved one were especially common. The study found that men tended to experience more nightmares focused on physical violence or on losing a job, whereas women were more likely to have nightmares involving distressing death, sexual harassment, and scenes involving the loss of hair or of teeth. The study’s author suggested that the differences in the content of nightmares between the sexes may reflect differences in waking fears, though he noted that further research was necessary in order to explore the metaphors that may be responsible for creating various types of symbols and meaning within dreams.
While there are scores of ways to interpret dreams and many people –both amateur and professional– who claim to be able to translate the language of dreams into an every-day lexicon, meaningful research is also being conducted to help investigate why people dream about the things they do –and what parts of their waking lives may play a role.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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