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Nightmares: The Science and Solution of Those Frightening Visions during Sleep (Brain, Behavior, and Evolution) Hardcover – July 30, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0313345128 ISBN-10: 0313345120

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Product Details

  • Series: Brain, Behavior, and Evolution
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger (July 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0313345120
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313345128
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,398,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Many examples of nightmares are presented and explained. The content of nightmares is given unusually detailed attention, and the latest science on nightmares is succinctly reviewed. Tables in every chapter summarize existing findings and conclusions on nightmares, and strategies for dealing with nightmares are described. In this novel view, McNamara shows why, rather than being harmful, nightmares can be a helpful adaptive system. The special theme of spirit possession, which frequently occurs in nightmares, is discussed and related to similar themes in horror movies and horror fiction.

"…the author illustrates findings in clear tables and graphs and includes an extensive list of references…Well written and including a wealth of information…Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."



"In the tradition of dream studies, McNamara breaks new ground for future theories about the nightmare. The nightmare resembles any other adaptive system, in its functional design and the problem it addressed for ancestral populations. For readers, fascinated with the origin of nightmares, the brain's physiology and current trends in neuroscience, McNamara's book offers a concrete and perhaps less bleak look at nightmares."


Book Description

Draws us into the world of nightmares, explaining what is known, suspected, and still mysterious about them, as well as why they might not be a sign of disorder but, instead, like a fever - unpleasant yet adaptive and even life-giving.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. E. Tappan on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book concludes that a nightmare is: a horrific or disturbing vision of a physiological processes, a meaningless occurrence (in any practical sense of emotional or self understanding), a gender magnet for the opposite sex (at least to our pre-modern ancestors), a schizoid event, a lethal threat to the weak heart, a non-metaphorical construct, a story-line for the ancient shaman, and a real downer.

The author theorizes that nightmares persist in human experience as a vestige of ancestral human pre-history when natural selection gave the advantage to those who gained social prominence, prestige and respect by compellingly reporting their night-time dream struggles and battles. The effect of reporting these nightmarish dreams in the culture of our "pre modern" ancestors, McNamara states, not only acted to elevate social status, but served to funnel these creative individuals (those with a frequent history of nightmares) into spiritual (shamanic) and healing "professions." According to the author, the prestige gained increased the likelihood of survival and "positive selection" within tribal communities. McNamara also theorizes that the stories of nightmares themselves, if believed, could have led to increased vigilance and thus improved chances of survival in a hostile world.

McNamara contends that the figure of a dreamed "supernatural monster" or demon who wants to possess or take over the dreamer's sense of self is central to the understanding of nightmares.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By lit crit on August 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was apparently a scientific paper fleshed out just a bit for book length, making an already slim volume even slimmer in actual material because it was so repetitive. Nonetheless, it is solid science and quite intriguing in its implications.
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