The definition of the wiki is simple and factual : « A nightmare is an unpleasant dream that can cause a strong emotional response from the mind, typically fear but also despair, anxiety and great sadness. »… Anxiety ? « great sadness » !? While sleeping ? How about that ! :)
The state of knowledge on this subject is disparate, we find dozens of explanations, all completely different… I put some of them that I found:
– For Galen, it is a nocturnal asthma (…)
– For Boissier de Sauvages, the anguish of the nightmare is only the consequence of an obstacle to breathing
– For Dubosquet, it is a nervous disease (too strong, all the same are sick! ..)
– For Baillarger Jules, the nightmare is a painful dream (that one is Rantanplan :))
– For Ernest Jones, the nightmare expresses a psychic conflict related to an incestuous desire (…)
– For Michel Collée 1987, the nightmare is related to an unnameable suffering of an alterity that desire arouses, an image that signals the inaccessibility of speech to account for it (humm.. the technique of that one is to make us forget the question :D )
It’s funny at least no ? :) Ok, so, no : the nightmare is one of the notorious symptoms of a significant sensation imbalance, we’ve got them when we are in « lack » of significant amount of « sorrow« . It is a textbook case indeed, it symbolizes by itself all the consequences of the equilibrium constraint
In general we have some control over our feelings, if we « feel bad » we can « hide » it, or « contain » it in a way, but when we sleep this control is « released » and if a large « amount » of « sorrow » has been accumulated and is contained somehow when awake, it « explodes » when we are asleep, when our control is weakened. It wakes us most of the time because we can not feel sensations exceeding a certain threshold when sleeping.
Children of our « modern » societies are the most susceptible to be affected by nightmares, because they have, in general, no reason to feel bad in their nice life. They « have fun » all the time, they play, they don’t really have « real » worries, they are protected, and it’s very good like that. But as a result, they are frequently in a great sensation imbalance, like those Sunday evening for example after having had all that weekend of fun (and not only the children ;) ).
It is with children that we often notes the greatest sensations imbalances, their crying tears are disarming by their lack of « real » of causes, of « explanations »… A little thing will make them sink in a deep sadness incomprehensible for us… Some adults (not necessarily the parents) will get angry by scolding them for crying « without reasons » !… This is one of the most serious mistakes to make with children, it’s terrible to realize that it’s adding pain to someone who already suffers a lot…
Advised parents will know that it is wise in these moments of major crises (such as nightmares, therefore, but not only in fact) to limit their sadness, without hoping to stop it immediately. By a simple presence, taking them in their arms, talking to them, explaining to them that there is nothing to do, and that we understand them, that it is hard yes, but reassure them, and explain that it will pass, because it’s important to teach them how to manage all alone their « sorrow » too. And while waiting we should try to avoid the child to go too far in a strong anguish for example because it mark spirit, especially at this age, and leaves bad traces once an adult, seriously affecting self-confidence for example.
It will be good also later when finished to bounce back on what happened, to continue to explain to them gently, to make small remarks from time to time, on the functioning of our sensations, balance, and all that « equilibrium »… Kids understand right away it’s pretty amazing, much more than all those adults who were cradled with lies based on fairy tales where everyone is happy « forever » at the end…
I said that we can not live sensations exceeding a certain threshold while sleeping, but nevertheless I think that to a certain extent the balance is restored softly during the sleep, but not for « big volumes » therefore, it would be too easy :) ;)