Sleep Paralysis - or - The Living Dead in Argentina

Dreamer: Manuel, 24, Argentinean male

In the first place, I would like to inform you that this dream belongs to my brother. Since he is not able to write in English, I decided to help him by writing this letter. Related to my brother's dream, he would like to receive some additional information, since he is absolutely sure that he is not sleeping, but he is awake. He is a 24 year old man and he had felt (at least five times), the following sensation: After being asleep, he realizes that he is awake, lying on the bed with his arms holding his chest and his eyes are open. He feels and he ensures he is awake and he can see everything around him, but he wants to move his arms or any part of his body, or even talk, but he can' he starts to feel desperate and starts to try hard and after a couple of minutes he can start to make a sound and finally he can move....he ensures he feels he is awake but he can't make his body react...he feels like if he where inside a "dead" body (his body). He is a sportive man, he has no health problems or any disease and he do not smoke, he do not drink alcohol, so he seems no to have physical problems. He has been having problems in his marriage.

My question is how can we detect if what he feels is real (I mean if he is really awake, and "tied"), or if it is just a weird dream in which he feels he is awake. To tell you the truth I believe him and I am really concerned about it, because he insists that after being 10 minutes fighting against his body (with his eyes open, and being conscious) he finally can escape from that situation by recovering his voice as well his mobility little by little.

Mr. Hagen's Reply: Sleep Paralysis - or - The Living Dead

I think it would be wise to consult your family physician to rule out any organic causes for his nightmare. His dreams may represent a case of sleep paralysis?

From a psychological perspective, the dream seems to point out that it is important to learn how to escape from frightening situations. In the dream your brother is experiencing more terror than horror.

Horror is an emotion that paralyses the mind while terror paralyses the body. That your brother feels that he is inside a "dead" body is significant. It may represent a psychological symptom of a depression. Seriously depressed individuals are mesmerized by their emotional pain and can no longer coherently organize their actions or speech. Martin Seligman ("Helplessness: On Depression, Development and Death") has shown that when all escape routes are blocked, individuals learn to withdraw rather than fight or flee, subsequently this retardation of the fight-flight response which can be labeled "depression" is a learned reaction to what one feels is a dead-end situation. Is his marriage a dead-end situation?

The Lacanian psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva ("Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia") sees in depression "the spectacular collapse of the meaning of life". Depressed individuals' metaphoric body language resembles that of the dead living in a "crypt" with no way out.

These links may offer some further insight:

Hope these thoughts are of help and provide some insight,
Mark H.

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