Nightmares are very substantial, vitally important dreams. Usually they frighten or startle us into wakefulness. The main feature of a nightmare is the shock and the terrible lingering dread that they leave in their wake. The word nightmare comes from the word mare or horse and the idea that an evil monster in the form of a black horse was after you in the night.

The most important part of a nightmare is the point upon waking up. The unconscious demands that we attend to and literally wake up to this aspect of ourselves. In your exploration of the images begin here, at this dreadful waking up point, where you find yourself hovering in that nether land between dream, and wakefulness.

Given that dreams are revelations of our deepest hopes, desires and fears, potentialities and conflicts, it is not surprising that such deep seated emotions should manifest in these extreme graphic and terrifying ways, especially at times of stress and crisis. It cannot be emphasised enough that every dream is first and foremost symbolic. Its images are to be read, therefore, not literally but as metaphors. Many examples of this are explored in the section on the interpretation of specific subjects.

An important counter for nightmares is to speak the dream out loud to another person, there is evidence to the dream maker that if the dram has somehow got through it will dissipate in intensity or not recur.

Many people worry after a particularly disturbing dream or nightmare that something terrible will happen to them, and most of us have heard of instances when dreams do in fact come true. We have only to recall the Pharaoh's dream about the seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, that Joseph interpreted in the old testament of the bible for an example of this. Further we should not dismiss the fact that many of the greatest discoveries in science came via dreams. At a simple level then, some dreams do appear to come true, however these are rare. Dreams, including nightmares, contain images that express very powerful feelings. By engaging in the struggle to unravel and bring to consciousness some of their meaning they become integrated into our life as an inner truth rather than being acted out unconsciously in daily life. As Joseph Campbell so aptly said:

 The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.