Going Into Fight Mode During Nightmare

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I've heard of combat vets with PTSD patrolling or going into fight mode and actually punching/kicking in their sleep or upon waking from nightmares.

How many complex, childhood trauma/abuse survivors also have this?
In my case, it gets triggered by my "Momma Bear" sense of needing to defend someone vulnerable.

I woke up today dreaming that I was beating the shit out of a man who was stealing my friend's art and purse and on the run. Somehow, in a dress, I managed to throw a high heal at his face, knock him down, snap his neck, and kill him with my bare hands.

It felt "good/right" to do this, and I basically felt, in the dream, the pure adrenaline "fight" mode rush that I recall from one of my trauma's in which I fought off an attacker who was trying to kill someone I loved and needed to protect.

In both the dream and in the memory of when I fought that person, I just realized how instinctual survival truly is. Yet, in the dream, my fear of fighting inappropriate to the threat level was highlighted. He was on the run and not an immediate threat to us. He was unarmed, just a thief. My anger at the injustice triggered fear and fear triggered my fight response.

I have been triggered into this "Fight" state in the past by anger/fear combos and have not had control over the next couple of minutes in which I actually started to attack. Luckily, I was able to snap out of it. But I have, I guess, good reason to fear myself.

As I process how I fought the attacker in real life, as a small child of age 6, I instinctively attacked the face/head of the assailant. If I had hit the nerve of the neck area, the attacker would have let go of the child she was attacking, who would have drown by being carried away in the white water of the river. Instead, I sought total submission and shock/awe, not loss of nerve reflex, grip, or consciousness.

I remember it happened so fast, and I remember seeking to dominate her will and make her submit to my will. She did. I gained power over her.

The downside? Yeah, we survived, but now, I am afraid of my willpower over others. I am afraid of being triggered into this mode again by a stimulus.

Do Vets with PTSD fear that their training will kick in at the wrong times, or that they will hurt someone unintentionally?

This seems to happen to me at a semiconscious level. I'm scared that if "Scared" in a situation I might kill someone, especially now that I'm an adult. If I could subjugate an adult at age 6 going into fight mode, what could I do now that I'm grown?

These fears seem to keep me from feeling confident, about my ability to have control over myself, to feel safe with myself, to trust myself to fight only when needed.

Please, if anyone has had this happen, to the point when triggered they actually fight when they are not in real threat, but are triggered into fight mode as if the need were real, please tell me how you have coped and how you have dealt with the re-traumatization of being afraid of yourself, feeling like you pose a threat to others.

Thank you.
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Yes, I have childhood trauma and my husband will quite enthusiastically tell you that I do this. my husband is flat out terrified of me while I am asleep. To the point that we have different sleep schedules. I do lash out during and right after nightmares sometimes and my husband has been hurt. Mostly early on when he would try to wake me from one. He doesn't do that anymore. However we are getting a futon when we have more money for those times that my nightmares seem to be more frequent.

This thread is very timely for me because my husband and I just had a discussion where he had lost control on bullies in school and has a great deal of fear that he could do something like that again. However,if he hasn't done anything like that in the last 30 years I think he has more under control than he thinks he does. I am guessing the same for you. Dreams a a different matter though. Lashing out from a dream means you aren't aware of your surroundings. It is a much different scenario and most likely will not spill over into your waking day.


@Fadeaway I think that under a perfect storm of conditions or triggers, I could seriously lose my shit. Because it's happened in recent years, and not from waking up or during nightmares. I think I've only ever woken up and not recognized my family and screamed in terror. Never fighting. Just afraid.

I go into flashback or switch into a fight alter and just start beating someone up. I try to not think about it or forget about that, or think that because I'm a woman and not muscular, that I really couldn't do any real harm.

But this nightmare was scary precisely because subconsciously, I am afraid that I am potentially dangerous, under certain conditions.

What also is messing me up right now is the amount of lust. I'm 39. I heard women can become like an 18 year old male in her 30s from hormones. I am afraid to ask for too much in that department from my spouse, but I have needs lately.

I guess I have shame issues, self-disapproval rating. I'm repressing violence and anger and tons of lust? WTF?


I am not in fight mode, so that part doesn't apply. I am flight.fawn. There was a horrific time that I actually had to tie myself to the bed so that a night terror wouldn't drive me into finding a spot to curl up in (outside) in the middle of winter. It did pass with time though.


Do Vets with PTSD fear that their training will kick in at the wrong times,

I do but I don't fear it, I work against it / to not let it do whatever I'm tempted to do or feel is So The Only Way To Get Through.

& Remind myself of other times I just had to reign the fight in, instead of act on it. The kind of '... Look it didn't apply then either, sit down.'

& I have a complicated relationship with look in people's eyes. So I'm not seeing myself taking some measures with people any time soon, because I bloody hate mind numbing terror in people's eyes, even if they're scumbags who would deserve it in my honor code. Better pass that to someone else.

In my sleep / acting while asleep fears are different but honestly I'm more risk to myself than others with that, and I'm lot less controled about flight than fight (a.k.a. might find myself standing on a bridge in another city with no idea how or why I got there, than taking someone down. More likely to disarm & run, my 'flight' is more enduring than 'fight', fight grounds me & gets me damned aware of surroundings super fast.)
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The fight urge seems to have passed relatively quickly. But the very high libido has stayed in place. As I suspected, my spouse was tired and irritated by my wanting sex more than one time per day. Realistically, I am in the mood to go somewhere and just have sex for like 2-3 days. And I'm physically aroused and totally frustrated.

In reading about this, it can come from internalized shame from my childhood abuse. Okay. Check. But how does that make it stop now?

It can be caused by hormones and testosterone from pesticides in my environment (which there are a lot of these here in FL) and being on the outskirts of menopause (at age 39, I suppose it's possible).

This is not the first time this has happened to me. It's happened in my early 20's a ton. I think it's just part of my genetics and unknowns.

My mom and sister also have times of ridiculously high libido, and in mom's case, orgasm happening when simply touched on the arm, etc. This is caused by too much blood flow to the female sex parts.

I'm eating walnuts that offer a boost in that department, and maybe I just don't need it, and maybe it's just too much of a good thing.
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