The oddest thing about that dream, in terms of "nightmare or not" was that I only technically consider it a nightmare, even though I wasn't afraid or even creeped out, it was a nightmare because I could feel the boy's fear in the dream, and because there threatened to be gore. (It also had a creepy vibe.)
There are apparently several considerations as to whether something is a nightmare for me or not:
1. Is the scary thing I'm dreaming about real? Serial killers are real, monsters are not. Which makes them scarier to me.
2. Am I the potential victim in the dream, or just watching them? If I'm just watching, there's less of a chance it's a nightmare, even if I'm seeing things from the victim's point of view. But if I can feel their emotions (like I *am* them or empathically feeling their fear) then it is probably a nightmare.
3. Is the potential victim someone I care about? If yes, then it's pretty much guaranteed to be a nightmare.
4. Am I the monster? If I'm playing the role of the monster, it's less likely to be a nightmare for me. I have not yet had a dream where I was a serial killer or mad scientist, so I don't know what my reaction to that would be. But I've had dreams where I was a monster eating people and far from it being a nightmare, I was disappointed when the dream ended. Which probably stems from a lifelong obsession with monsters and with pretending to be a monster. (What I wouldn't have given, in elementary and high school, to be able to turn into a monster and slaughter my bullies! Or at least scare them witless. I've even considered writing a story about a girl with a monster for a friend.)
5. Do I wake up afraid and/or creeped out? If yes, it was a nightmare, regardless of content. A good example of this is I've had two different dreams, months apart, where I was a professional exorcist in a dream. One was merely entertaining (that was the one where I invoked Shao'Kehn to exorcise the spirit), and the other had a creepy, oppressive air despite the silly way I finally exorcised the demon ("Be them counted and compelled, they can quickly be dispelled!")
6. Is there a lot of gore? The higher the gore content, the more likely it is to be a dream. I remember one of my most frightening relatively recent nightmares was one where I witnessed a mad scientist making "human centipedes" and taking people's brains out while they were still alive and not anesthetized. This despite the fact I've never watched any movies like it. But just the fact people talked about that human centipede movie so much gave my brain horrible ideas.
This was cross-posted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1163687.html
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