On Gender Nightmares: Men Dream Of Floods, Women Of Relationships

A post last month on Slate about gender differences and nightmares got me thinking, yet again, about the profound, fundamental divide between men and women. We communicate differently, we eat differently and now, it turns out, we dream differently.

This particular story focused on research out of Canada that found men's nightmares tend to be about natural disasters like floods and earthquakes, while women's are about relationships. Here's more from Katy Waldman's post:

Analyzing themes and emotional content, the researchers found that men were more likely to report having nightmares about natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, fires, volcanoes), chase or pursuit, and insects. Women’s nightmare records more often featured interpersonal conflicts, such as an argument with a spouse and more frequently involved feelings of humiliation, frustration, or inadequacy.

Why might this be? My first thought was that, while women may not mind admitting to researchers that an ex-boyfriend still haunts them, men were only reporting the more cataclysmic plots. (Tsunami!) On the other hand, “dream content is tied into waking concerns,” [researcher Antonio] Zadra explained over the phone.

Last night I attended a forum where women discussed how they cope with serious illness (more on this later). All of the guests were women and the takeaway, for me, was about how vitally important — even therapeutic — the act of sharing, connecting and reaching out to our "village" is when we are sick and under intense, hair-raising stress. For men, it's all about fixing the problem; for women, it's all about being heard and understood. Not a newsflash, I know, but often, a reality.

So, in that vein, here's my current favorite battle-of-the-sexes commentary: "It's Not About The Nail." Even my husband doubled over with laughter:

(Hat tip to Kayla, a wise 22-year-old who passed this along.)

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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