The Inspirational Horror of Nightmares

Perseus Andromeda by Emmi VisserDo you have a lot of nightmares? I do. At the very least, my nightlife is unusual. The things I experience aren’t listed as any common sleep disorders. Let’s say I’m a unique sleeper. 🙂

One of the things that is unusual about my sleep is that I experience a lot of nightmares, and only very rarely have a pleasant dream. To give a concise summary:

Pleasant dreams = once a year.
Nightmares = 5-10 per week

What I call nightmares is a very, very broad category. All of them are unpleasant, featuring a scenario that makes be either a) scared, b) sad or, very rarely, c) frustrated. Despite the common negative emotion, there are vast differences in the intensity at which these emotions occur. I call this the Emmi-nightmare scale:

1. Mildly unpleasant. For instance: having to pee, but all the toilets are in public areas without any walls and if I don’t manage to pee in the next two minutes I will fail my high school exams/miss my plane/something.

2. Unpleasant. For instance: finding myself in an area where scary dinosaurs/soldiers/aliens are hunting me and some other people.

3. Very unpleasant. A close friend of family member dies and I’m heartbroken. Or I’m locked up in a very nasty kind of facility where they want to do creepy procedures on me and I kind of know that I really do belong in that facility and should let them proceed, but instead keep running away.

4. Absolute horror. Think witnessing gruesome, bloody massacres with plenty of running and hiding but never finding a safe place. These nightmares have a knack for dragging out the most uncanny, abject scenarios that I never thought my mind capable of conjuring.

Legendary triffids on the beach by Emmi VisserSo, I can’t really say sleeping is my favourite pass time, although some nightmares do include very nice bits and they evoke interesting questions. For example, where do these horrific images come from? How did they get to be in my mind? I’m a total wimp when it comes to horror, so I practically never read or watch anything in the horror genre.

Even more interesting, however, is that I sometimes manage to use (part of) nightmares as inspiration for art works or writing. There is more than one snippet of nightmare that made it into The Grand Asylum! It took me a while to realise the inspirational potential of nightmare. I’ve always expressed my emotions, including those that lingered from a nightmare, into my creative output, but it is only recently that I have started using images and stories from my nightmares.

Last night I dreamt that I was admitted to a mental clinic. There were several other patients there, and they were absolutely bonkers. I was so terribly ashamed that I belonged to their group, but I also knew that I was in the clinic for a reason. Still, I wanted nothing more than to please, please, be let out and not have to be associated with the nutters anymore. A level 3 on the Emmi-nightmare scale. I woke up feeling awful, even though it was all entirely ridiculous.

Perseus Medusa by Emmi Visser

And then I realised it was actually a pretty interesting concept, pretty much like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And I had experienced it myself in that dream, so I actually know what it feels like now. That is kind of cool. So I’ve parked that nightmare on my ideas shelf – who knows if it might come in handy some time!

Do you have a lot of nightmares? Pleasant dreams? Do they give you inspiration for your portraits? Let me know!

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One response to “The Inspirational Horror of Nightmares

  1. Perhaps it’s just your brain/ subconcious’s way of dealing with the accumilated emotions, fears and frustrations of everyday life that you normally, in your waking state, keep bottled up inside of you instead of venting on others, (which you might think isn’t always appropriate). If they are “acted out” in dreams as it were, they can be vented in a way that doesn’t harm anybody. Well, apart from yourself that is. Also, when you have the toilets dream ( I have that one a lot too), you need to wake up and go pee! 🙂
    Last night I dreamt I was a member of a platoon and actively killing enemy opponents with some kind of phaser gun. ME!!! Killing people!!! I don’t know. It must have some meaning.

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