All about the mind

Nightmares and fears

Since I was a child I can remember my nightmares having a different flavour to them compared to what you hear most kids have. I didn’t have monsters or ghosts or vampires or any such thing chasing me and eating me up. Rather, one recurring nightmare I remember was of me being kidnapped.I still vividly remember it despite not having had it for more than 15 years. I am in my grandmother’s house (where we lived when I attended kindergarten) and I’m leaving for school. As I walk down the stairs, I see this person dressed in green and for some reason I am freaked out. And then, when I get out on the street, the same person is there and bundles me up in a car and takes me away. Away from my parents. Away from my mum. I remember crying and wanting to see my mum. And feeling scared that I’d never see her again. Until I woke up and realised it was but a dream nightmare.

Fast forward to the present.

My nightmares now no longer involve me being kidnapped. [I’d be a bit worried if they did!] Rather, they involve people I’m close to dying (usually my parents, my sister or R). Not in a gruesome way or anything. Just dying. And me hearing the news. And me crying. And feeling all that you feel when a loved ones dies. Things I wish I’d said. Things I wish I’d done. Until I wake up gasping feeling this choked up feeling as though I was really crying. Only to realise it was all a dream nightmare.

Rewind back to me being a kid.

I didn’t just have nightmares of being kidnapped. When I was awake, I had fears of something bad happening to my parents resulting in me never seeing them again or something happening to me (like being kidnapped and never seeing my parents again). I vividly remember one incident when I was around 7. My parents had left my sister and me in the car (door unlocked) and gone across the road to a shop. It seemed like hours and I started having intrusive thoughts about someone in the store shooting people [I have no idea where that came from!] and my parents dying and my sis and I being orphaned. You get the drift. Anyway, I started crying in the car and my 2 year old sister looked at me strangely. I prayed for a while saying all the prayers I knew. And then I started shouting for my parents [Yes, from across the busy road] until they did come out and get annoyed with me. Especially as I didn’t share with them my reason for making such a spectacle.

I had several other times when I feared their death especially if one of them fell sick. It was almost as if my mind took me straight to the worst-case scenario. Mum has the flu equalled mum was going to die. Dad has been hit by a motorbike equalled dad was going to die. Mum having a heart problem took me to the worst-case scenario. Dad having high blood pressure also takes me to the worst-case scenario. Both of them and my sister undergoing immense stress thanks to the evil grandmother, makes me think of the worst.

If anything, I wonder whether as a child I would have met the criteria for Separation Anxiety Disorder or even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (with the intrusive thoughts about death and then the compulsive behaviour of praying or seeking reassurance from parents without them knowing what was actually going on in my head).

Somehow though, the older I’ve grown, the thoughts have become less intrusive. But they haven’t completely disappear. As I said with my current nightmares, I still fear the death of loved ones. And sometimes, the intrusive images can be so vivid, they have the potential of reducing me to tears. The plus side of doing psychology though is that I understand these are just thoughts and images and don’t always get sucked into them. But then, in addition to being a psychologist, I’m human too. I have my failings and my thoughts do get the better of me at other times. Especially given that I am anxious in more than just this area.

One thing I can say is that these thoughts are no longer debilitating. I get them, I worry but then I can carry on my day to day tasks. The nightmares scare the shit out of me but then I am okay after a few hours.

At the end of the day, I guess this is a fear everyone has. Most of my clients with an anxiety disorder definitely have these thoughts. And most people who are worriers and not necessarily diagnosable also have them. It’s part and parcel of life and relationships.

I guess the only way to not have even a little bit of these worries and fears is to not have any close relationships. But if you are going to get close to people, you must be prepared that you will lose them.

Losing people is after all, a fact of life. Whether through death or otherwise.

Until next time,


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  • Reply
    April 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    You have the courage to face your fears PB. Kudos for that!!! I sail in a similar boat, though I haven’t summoned the courage to talk about it!

  • Reply
    April 24, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Wow!! What an interesting and objective analysis of your dreams. I must say you are too good….

    Somehow I am more stable person hardly get any dreams or nightmares. I though once (or may be a couple of times ) had a dream in my childhood, if you driven in Indian highways you would know of the Trucks carrying Iron Bars which are long in lengths and keep dangling out of the truck. I could see myself driving a car and ramming into such truck while these bars broke the windshield piercing into my heart and killing me on the spot. I don’t know why that dream came to me, may be I read some incident like this in newspaper. But even today I get some shivers when I see such a truck and I never try to drive behind this truck will maintain distance or let some other car take over and come in between, seeing the Iron bars still sends jitters down my spine dunno why ๐Ÿ™

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    April 24, 2011 at 4:59 am

    Pal, thanks to psychology I’m aware of all my fears and anxieties. I must
    admit though that I don’t always do something about it which is a shame.
    Like I said though, I’m human…hence despite knowing my fears sometimes I
    succumb to them. I’m sure you too are aware of your own fears and worries
    and somehow sort it out in your own head even if you haven’t spoken about
    it. Take care…

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    April 24, 2011 at 5:31 am

    I think some nightmares can be so realistic Prats that they scare the hell
    out of us. Sounds like you have had one of those which keeps you cautious
    even in real life. I don’t believe in dream analysis like Freud did but I do
    think our dreams have our fears and worries as well as our joys and things
    we encounter or think about during the day.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I had this whole river of negativity and scary thoughts flowing through my mind, unconsciously. Often I had to consciously stop them before they drowned me. And yeah, mine were also of bad things happening to loved ones. Although, not at your scale. mild.
    I have bad teeth genes. And my nightmares almost always involved my teeth falling out, esp when a dentist visit was due, or when i avoided telling anybody I had a problem in spite of being aware that it might become too late. those are the ones I distinctly remember, and suffer from even now sometimes.
    don’t we all have a little of this and that disorders in varying degrees? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Aakash Johry
    April 25, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Jeez.. I just got dinosaurs and aliens and Justin Bieber + Rebecca Black nightmares…
    yours must be scary o_o

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    April 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Ooh…bad teeth…well, I’ve had recurring dreams of my teeth falling out Rohini. I blogged about it as well a year or so ago. It never scared me but it felt like my teeth really were falling off. Apparently, according to dream interpretation (which I don’t really believe) falling of teeth is related to fear of old age and rotting teeth is related to death. And yes, in terms of the clinical disorders, we all have them in varying degrees…not necessarily clinical but definitely some of it.

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    April 25, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Welcome here Aakash! I would have loved to have dinosaurs and aliens and monsters in my nightmares…unfortunately I guess I had fears greater than those… ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Reply
    April 27, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Well you sure are optimistic and i do not understand the separation anxiety disorder but sure enough your dreams were horrible..Mine generally involved falling from bed, which occurs even now:(..

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    April 28, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Some kids do have separation anxiety disorder but it’s mainly something
    diagnosed under 18 years of age. As an adult it tends to be more
    generalised. Falling from the bed, eh? I have that too sometimes — you get
    those jerky movements and wake up, don’t you?

  • Reply
    April 28, 2011 at 1:09 am

    fear of old age!! more like fear of dentists hahaha.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    April 28, 2011 at 1:09 am


  • Reply
    April 28, 2011 at 1:11 am

    I read once somewhere that if you fall in your dreams, you always wake up. I don’t know if its proven (kind of hard to prove I suppose, other than in ‘fringe’), but its always happened to me. One of my recurring dreams, just around when I fall into deep sleep is falling off a flight of stairs. its very annoying ‘cos I always wake up. ๐Ÿ™

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    April 28, 2011 at 3:10 am

    Hmm…I don’t know about that…I know I jerk and I’m aware of it but not
    sure if that’s equivalent to waking up. And yes, it would be hard to prove!!
    And that dream is annoying…!

  • Reply
    May 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    I did dream of monsters but recurring dream was of falling. But I dreamed mostly about treasure hunts and banquets at the end ๐Ÿ˜€ in Technicolor with lots of details. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Psych Babbler
    May 25, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Sounds like fun…the dreams about treasure hunts and banquets…very
    Indiana Jones-ish!

  • Reply
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