As a child, I had nightmares every night. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal until I was in my teens. Most of my friends rarely had nightmares, and when they did, it didn’t involve people chasing them with knives trying to kill them. One of the reasons for the repeated horror scenes I saw in my dreams were all the slasher films I watched in the 80s. Nightmare on Elm Street films were my favorite and Child’s Play movies are a close second. Who doesn’t love an evil doll?! There was no censorship at my home. I never understood why the kids in my first grade class thought The Wizard of Oz was scary.
I had nightmares so often that I became conscious my dreams when I was in them. I didn’t like the nightmares, so I trained myself to stop them. The easiest thing to do was to close my eyes in my dream. When I opened them again, the scenes disappeared or changed into something else. When I got better at this, I was able to make myself wake up.
I no longer have nightmares on a regular basis. It’s usually triggered because I’m sick or when my energy is low. That’s when I know that it’s time to slow down and take better care of myself.
When I do have nightmares, it rarely involves anyone chasing me up and down the hills of San Francisco trying to stab me in the stomach with a giant machete. In high school, nightmares involved unfinished essay assignments or having to take math tests I didn’t study for. In my 20s, I had work nightmares where I was making a million mistakes and customers were yelling at me. Nowadays, I have nightmares about people I don’t like (i.e. family members, ex-lovers/friends). I no longer try to manipulate these dreams and let them play out. These nightmares are more annoying than scary. I can deal with annoying.
If my nightmares don’t scare me, what’s there to be afraid of?!
I haven’t thought about nightmares in a long time, and it’s probably in my consciousness today because of a book I just read. My friend gave me an American horror story by Shirley Jackson called We Have Always Lived in a Castle. Since I’m such an expert on nightmares, perhaps I should try writing horror!