Anger and Aggression

Anger and Aggression


While fear is the most commonly expressed emotion in nightmares, anger holds the second place position. These two emotions, combined with anxiety, are twice as likely to occur in a dream than more pleasant feelings. Once other negative emotions are added into this equation—failure, sadness, and aggression—the rate of occurrence rises to around sixty-six percent. It has been suggested that violence or aggression in a dream is a direct result of anger and frustration in our waking lives.

There have been numerous studies on the different factors influencing the frequency of aggression in dreams—factors such as age, gender, birth order, social class, and even geographical location. The most prevalent of these is gender. As a rule, females of all ages remember dreams more often than their male counterparts; their dreams are also longer and more detailed. More friendly interactions occur in female dreams as compared to males. When it comes to aggression in dreams, males report slightly more aggressive encounters, even though they remember a significantly lower number of their dreams than women.

For children, the statistics concerning aggression in dreams are less conclusive on the role of gender. Most studies indicate that for boys and girls between the ages of two and twelve the level of aggressiveness in dreams is about the same. However, at the age of twelve, these levels begin to drop for girls. In males these levels do not drop until their thirties, at the earliest, and on occasion they have been known to remain high until they are in their seventies or eighties.

Gender is not the only factor that has been studied with respect to aggression in dreams. A study was done on a group of working mothers with preschool children and stay-at-home mothers with children of the same age. The working mothers reported more male characters in their dreams, fewer indoor environments, and experiencing more unpleasant feelings such as failure, aggression, and anger. The stay-at-home mothers had more friendly encounters in their dreams, but they dealt with more misfortune and hostility. It was also discovered that mothers with dual roles—mother and provider—experienced more work-related dreams than working fathers.

Another factor is birth order. Although men typically experience more aggressive dreams, this is not always true if the male is the first born. In this case he would typically see himself in a more positive manner than his younger siblings of the same gender, and therefore has more positive encounters in his dreams. First-born females tend to have more aggressive characters in their dreams. They are also more likely to be more aggressive than other females of the same age group who are not first born.

Yet another factor that affects the aggression in our dreams is geography. In an East Coast survey, forty percent of the total study group reported being the initiator of a violent act in their dreams. The same study was done on the West Coast and in the Midwest. On the West Coast that figure dropped to twenty-two percent, and it dropped to ten percent in the Midwest.

One final factor that has been studied is social class. Members of lower social classes reported more violently aggressive dreams than those in the middle or upper classes. They also experienced more dreams of anger and misfortune. A study found that lower-class high school girls experienced more angry and aggressive dreams than their male or female counterparts, regardless of social class.