Stress, Anxiety, and Dreams

Stress, Anxiety, and Dreams

(dreams)

The closely related emotions of anxiety and fear are common themes of many dreams—such as in dreams of falling, nakedness, being chased— and fear dominates the dream landscape in nightmares. Anxiety-filled dreams can emerge as a result of inner conflicts, particularly repressed conflicts that we attempt to hide from ourselves. Sigmund Freud and other therapists in the tradition of depth psychology have explored these dynamics at length, especially those conflicts rooted in childhood experiences.

The content of our dream life is, however, also shaped by external factors that intrude upon our consciousness entirely independently of repressed childhood conflicts. Thus stress in our environment, such as stress resulting from interactions at home or at our place of employment, may be the proximate cause of anxiety-filled dreams. However, while the distinction between inner and outer causes of dreams is clear, anxiety dreams often partake of both realms. In other words, stress on the job may, for example, bring up self-confidence issues from adolescence, or contemporary conflicts at home may resonate with certain childhood conflicts. Thus many anxiety-filled dreams will simultaneously express contemporaneous stress from the environment as well as conflicts from one’s past.

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