Stress and Anger Management

Bill, 23

For most of the past year, I've become prone to almost nightly dreams in which I'm screaming at someone. For a while, my parents or others in my family were often the victims, but increasingly the victims are anonymous faces. I usually scream as loudly as I can, but I remember feeling like I wish I could scream louder. When I first started having the dreams, upon awaking the next morning it would take me a couple of minutes to reassure myself that the dreams didn't occur. Because of the emotional intensity of the dreams, I've had occasional and brief moments when I have difficulty distinguishing between real memories and dream memories. From what I've read, I understand screaming in dreams could be a sign of repressed anger or frustration, but is there a better explanation if I scream in my dreams every night at no one in particular?

It may help to point out that before these dreams started, I had gone through a six or seven month period of major depression (I've had chronic depression since my early teen years), and I've been on medication since. These days, during my waking hours, I'm a very amiable and easy-going individual. To an extent, I still deal with some social anxiety, but not nearly at the level it's been in the past. I'm never one to scream at anyone, but I'm afraid to ignore the possible warning signs my dreams may be providing.

What is the best approach to eradicating these dreams? I feel as though having these dreams so frequently is very unhealthy. I often have fatigue throughout the day, and I also wonder if the dreams have any correlation. Help me out, please.

Mr Hagen's Reply; Warning Signs -or- The Primal Scream

The approach or your point of departure for "eradicating these dreams", is answering the questions of how to practice stress and anger management. There are a variety of anger and stress management related techniques. You need to find the one(s) that work for you. You say you are on medication, but medication usually only masks the emotional problems you are trying to cope with. You cannot always hide behind a mask, persona or façade. Medication is usually not intended to be a long term solution, instead its'purpose for the most part, is to give you some stability while we seek out a therapist to talk about and help work through whatever unfinished emotional problems you have. If you don't get the help you need, then much as in your dream the problems begin to escalate out of control. Have you discussed your dream symptoms with your family physician? Your medication may have to be adjusted. Other dreams received by the IIDR, such as Side Effects point to the potentially noxious effects of medications on dreams and dreaming.

While you say that others such as family members and anonymous faceless people are the "victims" of yours screams, it occurs to me your dream can be read from your perspective...were you ever victimized? The dream may be sending you a message that you are feeling victimized? You have labeled yourself as having "social anxiety", why? What is its'cause?

I agree with your diagnostic, that screaming can be a "sign of repressed anger or frustration". John Dollard's ( theory of frustration-aggression fits the bill for providing understanding of many dreams received by the IIDR.

I would also like to present to you a different perspective, namely Arthur Janov's Primal Scream because as you yourself say; "I have difficulty distinguishing between real memories and dream memories." Janov asks about one patient; "Why hadn't she screamed out in the dream?" Janov comes to the conclusion that people mask, hide and "cover up" so much of their true feelings; "that they never approach screaming in a dream." In one chapter of the Primal Scream; Pain and Memory (Chapter4)  Janov tells us that; "Memory is intimately related to pain. What will tend to be forgotten are those memories too painful to be integrated and accepted consciously." The pain that Janov for the most part attempts to release are the repressed accumulated emotional pain from childhood.

Some might find Janov's ideas without merit or foundation, however neurological evidence, such as the Papez circuit discovered in 1937, as well James Olds discovery of the pleasure and pain centres in the brain, provided pioneering foundation stones for the neurosciences which suggests otherwise. Physical and emotional pleasure and pain does motivate our thoughts and behaviour, we can find these motives in our dreams. Dreams received by the IIDR Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying and Who Will Write the History of Tears underscores the emotional hurts we take such great pains to hide. Your dream would then be speaking about the need for emotional pain and psychological trauma management.

On a final note, you seem to believe that dreams can provide health related "warning signs". I would also agree with this observation, the dream acts as an early warning system. Anna Freud used the term "signal anxiety", meaning anything that might pose a threat or danger to the mind and bodies self-equilibrium. As stated earlier if these dreams are a warning sign it is best to see and consult your family physician.



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.