I've been having these dreams for about 2 years now, on a pretty regular basis. At least once a month, sometimes more. I'm in bed, awake or so I think, but I find I can't move and something will try to drag me out of bed. I usually wake up to be in the same position. Sometimes I really wake up, but sometimes it just happens again, over and over in one night. Just two nights ago was the most violent attack, I actually got out of the paralysis and was fighting an unseen force. I finally woke when I heard the "thing" scream. It was awful and terribly frightening. What does this dream mean and why is it both more vivid and scary to me than other nightmares I've had? Ok, that's it. I hope you can shed some light on this for me.
-Jessica.Good morning, Jessica.
The specific images you relate have to do with feeling helpless in a bad situation. But I'm concerned that there's much more to this issue than just psychological symbolism.
I would like to ask what position you wake up in? I'm betting that it's on your back, because of the nature of your dreams. I'll explain.
You're experiencing hypnagogic dreams, which occur during the "in-between" times of consciousness - just as you're really starting to get into a deep sleep, or just as you're coming out of one. Paralysis and extreme fear are common in this type of dream. This is because normally you aren't aware of your physical paralysis while dreaming, but this mixed state of consciousness allows you to feel it...which also explains why the dreams are more vivid and real to you.
If you're having more of this type of dream for the past two years, then it's likely because you're not getting enough normal R.E.M. time, when dreams usually occur. This means that your sleep is suffering for some reason - a change in schedule, or stress, or sleep apnea, or even malnutrition in some cases.
If the cause is sleep apnea, this will explain why you wake up on your back, because apneic episodes nearly always occur in this position.
What I'd strongly recommend is a sleep study. Discuss your problem with your doctor, and ask him to approve one for you. Most insurance will cover it if you get this approval, though some will require a specialist's recommendation as well.
I'm betting that the sleep study will find that the cause here is physical. But even if it's not, that doesn't mean it's any less serious. To have recurring nightmares of this force for so long would of necessity have a source - most likely stress - and it would have to be something which started when the dreams did. And it would be an event which has not stopped, or has not been dealt with, which made you feel just as helpless as you do in the dreams. A new job, a new baby, a new relationship... something which is not going at all well for you.