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Dreams and Violence

Lately, I have become increasingly aware of a disturbing trend. Movies, which I have enjoyed dating back to my childhood, are becoming increasingly violent. There has always been some degree of violence in films as they attempted to portray realistic renditions of life, but this is far different. The wholesale slaughter depicted in horrific ways has taken violence to sickening extremes, and is often unnecessary to the film plot and narrative.

During my years in elementary school, my brother and I spent every Saturday at the matinee while my mother, as a struggling widow, worked at her second job. The movies we saw provided entertainment and escape from the often-harsh reality of our lives. There was some violence in the movies, but it was a comic-book kind separate from real life. And there were real heroes, not modern day film versions who are often darker than the villains are. The good people won because they were good people, not because they could kill better than their enemies could.

We have become a society that can accept extreme violence for entertainment, but wonder why there are shootings in schools. A swear word is not permitted on network TV, and a display of even partial human nudity comes with severe warnings. However, murder and rape are permitted. I was watching Kiefer Sutherland on a “The Tonight Show” last year. His character on “24” is well known for his sadistic steak in dealing with the bad people. He was asked about something that he apparently said many times during an episode of “24,” which is “Damn it, “often to conclude a scene. I recall that Kiefer said he could kill as many people as he wanted, but he couldn’t swear on network TV. Apparently damn it was OK.

A number of years ago I was in Paris on business when I decided to turn on the TV in my hotel room one night. There was a movie playing that I recognized as an old Arnold Schwarzenegger film. There were a couple of violent scenes almost completely edited out, which was not easy to do. I found in my trips to Europe that there is an abhorrence of violence. However, nudity in a film would not be a problem in France or other parts of Europe. The situation is the exact opposite of that in the US. Here we crave the violence and are horrified by nudity.

I wonder if there is a parallel here with the Roman games and their horrific spectacles of slaughter. The games in the coliseum became increasing violent: more deaths and greater varieties of killing. The politicians offered the people more deaths in increasingly bizarre ways to keep them pacified.

There is a connection here with dreams. A comparison of dreams across cultures that included the United States and other certain highly industrialized European countries indicated that the dreams of the participants in the U.S. compared with the European counterparts studied had a much higher degree of physical violence ( This site references Chapter 6 of a book titled Finding Meaning in Dreams: A Quantitative Approach (Emotions, Personality, and Psychotherapy) by G. William Domhoff (May 31, 1996). The author provides several caveats concerning the results. However, I believe we cannot feed ourselves daily with violence in the streets and the gratuitous violence found in many movies and TV programs without an effect, and that effect is on our subconscious minds. In most of my posts, I have focused on the communications from the subconscious to the conscious mind through dreams, not in the other direction. However, as I pointed out in the previous post, advertisers long ago discovered they could reach the subconscious by feeding the conscious mind with repetition using images and words. They know that if they present a message often enough, people would begin to believe it. It doesn’t matter if it is true or false.

I do not consider myself squeamish, and I can tell the difference between reality and theater. But I know the effects of the so-called entertainment that is being presented today. And I must confess there are a number of TV programs and movies, including news, I have turned off after a brief viewing. If you surround yourself with negativity, you are building that into your subconscious. The results will become apparent in your mood and in your dreams. We don’t need to ignore the horrible outcomes that many people are experiencing in their lives, but we also don’t need to wallow in it. We create what we believe in and focus on. If you seek peace, you can’t find it by focusing on violence. You have to believe in peace and fill your thoughts with those that reflect that belief. And you will sleep better at night with fewer disturbing dreams.

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