I am a very vivid dreamer, and not always in a good way. I love to sleep, but I am a troubled sleeper. For as long as I can remember I have faced scary periods of sleepwalking and night terrors. Even when I am sleeping well, I still often talk in my sleep. I cannot understand why anyone would want to have a sleepover with me and my girl scout troop used to have a field day messing with me at camp. The disturbances come and go in phases, but pretty much on any given morning I can describe multiple dreams from the night before. Mostly nonsensical (especially the stupid ex ones that seem to appear from nowhere) in explanation, but the images and feelings are so distinct… and lingering.
This (long) advice column was a really interesting read for me. It’s not as though I haven’t read a ton about anxiety and stress dreams and such, but a lot of the material and forums out there center around trauma. Yes that’s helpful and soothing when there is an explanation for it, but what about the random dreams that wake me (and therefore others) with tears and unsettling fear? Traumatic life events certainly exacerbate (and take center stage) in my wild dreams but general anxiety and high sensitivity mean anything is fair game. When I was 7 or 8 it took weeks for my parents to sort out my terrible chasing dreams about trench coat man were about Robert Stack.
One of the best lines from that advice write-up is acknowledging “yes, that IS scary.” Wanting to comfort someone whose nightmares disturbed your sleep typically involves wanting that person to shut the hell up as soon as possible, but dismissing the episode as “not real” is not comforting or calming. At all.