Dream Interpretation: A Dark Shadowy Man Caresses Me

Scorpions album cover via Flickr

Other people’s dreams are never interesting…except when they’re about sex. Each week, our dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg tells one lucky reader what their dirty dream means. Got a dream you want Lauri to analyze? Click here to submit it) This week, a reader asks Lauri:

I am asleep in my dream, on my left side. This dream is a recurring one; there is always a stimuli of some sort that awakens me. The most recent I had it was the ringing of my cell. In my dream I understood that the particular ringtone that played as I was receiving a call was not the same I have in reality. This thought processed in my mind and I awaken to a figure of a man, he is almost like a shadow, completely black. He always caresses me… from my neck, down to my shoulder blades… to the small of my back… in each dream he is always touching me, running his hands on my body and he speaks but I am always too frantic to actually hear what he is saying to me. When I wake in actuality, I have chills that surge through me or goosebumps on my skin.

Lauri: It sounds like you are experiencing a parasomnia called Sleep Paralysis or The Old Hag Syndrome! And there is not a thing one should worry about when it happens. Here’s the deal: When we sleep and enter the REM state, which is when dreaming takes place, our brain releases a chemical that literally paralyzes our skeletal muscles so that we don’t act out our dreams. When we’ve had a fitful night of sleep or haven’t slept long enough, we will start to wake up before our brain can re-activate our muscle control, which causes us to get “stuck” in that in-between state of sleep and wakefulness. This is called Hypnogogia. Cool name, huh? In this state you are asleep and awake at the same time, which is why you are aware that you are in your room and in your bed. You may also find that you can’t move, speak or scream… because you are still paralyzed!

Another very common symptom of Sleep Paralysis is the dark figure in the room. Usually it is a sinister presence, which evokes a tremendous amount of fear in the dreamer. Often the figure will seem to sit on the bed or even get on top of you and try to suffocate you… or so it seems. It is such a frightening experience because the fear centers in the brain are very highly active during this state. Luckily for you, your dark figure seems to be more romantic than menacing!

There’s not a thing in the world to worry about when this happens. If you just relax, within a moment you’ll be fully awake and all will be well. But, what I suggest, the next time this happens, is to take advantage of it. Remember, it’s a way cool state of mind to be in: asleep and awake. It’s like having a foot in both worlds! When that dark figure enters the scene and begins to caress you, you can have fun with it and will him to turn into… I dunno… Brad Pitt… or your hottie of choice! At this point, you have become lucid and can take control and whatever you would like to happen at that point on is completely up to you! I also tell people to ask the figure a question like, “Who are you?” or “What’s the meaning of life?” and see what kind of answer you get!

Oh, and one last thing, these episodes often begin with a strange sound in our ear like a buzzing, a ringing, a whisper or even a ring tone! Researchers believe that is caused by the three tiny little bones in the inner called the hammer, anvil and stirrup. These bones tend to vibrate while we are in REM and can sometimes continue to vibrate when we experience Sleep Paralysis. Remember, this is a hallucinatory state so our minds will interpret the vibration into something else. So again, this is not anything to worry about. It typically means you aren’t getting enough good, solid sleep, and when it happens again, you can turn it into an amazing experience! Let us know what happens next time. I think we’d all love to know what you come up with!

Dreamer’s response: The science behind it all is definitely reassuring, seeing as any amount of information I tried researching on my own was futile. When I was younger, I actually had these occurences with a ghostly figure that had very unique distinctions about him. The only difference was he’d enjoy attempting things, as you mentioned, suffocating or holding me down. Always seemed to be the reason for my paralysis. I have heard of lucid dreaming and I think your idea of control is one I would have never thought possible but now am eager to try! I am psyched and plan to keep you posted with my next dream. Thank you so much for your quick and extremely insightful response!

Got a dream you want Lauri to analyze? Click here to submit it. Anonymity guaranteed! Don’t forget: you can get access to Lauri’s Instant Dream Decoding Dictionary on her site. And check out Lauri’s new book Dream On It, available everywhere!