I asked this question and it was closed and got a lot of downvotes:

How long have people been having nightmares about showing up to school wearing only underwear?

I'm wondering what to do about it. It's obviously something that struck me as interesting enough to put into a question here, but other people don't like it and I don't want to get banned from asking questions on this site.

First of all, I don't understand the reason for closing it: "Questions on social sciences other than History are off-topic here, unless they also involve history in some fashion. While ethics, archaeology, etc. are all connected to history, each field has their own experts who are better equipped to answer such questions." Obviously, the question does "involve history in some fashion"; I am not asking if other people have these nightmares, I am asking about the history of them. However, some of the commenters mentioned questions about "phobias" being bad. So I thought maybe I would find something about phobias under help/on-topic, but I didn't. It does say that questions about "Cultures and historical practices" are on-topic.

I suppose this is a moot point, if people don't like the question and have been downvoting it, maybe that is more relevant than the fact that it has been closed. Anyway I'm wondering if I should:

  1. Delete the question and forget about it, not waste any more of my time or that of other people

  2. Include more research showing that this is indeed a modern phenomenon and trying to motivate why it might be interesting to know how long it has existed

  3. Simplify the question, delete stuff that maybe people found irrelevant

  4. Move it to a different site

I thought other people would be interested in this, but I could be biased or unobservant in some way that is clouding my judgment. Maybe I am failing to recognize what great variety of similar questions could be asked, or how difficult it is for a professional to research this topic. This also suggests a sixth option:

  1. Make it broader and less ambitious, "How do we investigate the history of [nightmares/underwear/phobias]?"... (if this can be done without inviting mere opinions)

There is also

  1. Leave the question around but keep it off the front page by refraining from commenting on or editing it; maybe someone else who is interested will find it years later and communicate some useful information via a comment

I'm not sure what is the thinking of moderators or close-voters, maybe there is a legitimate desire to keep certain low-quality questions off the site, and sometimes the various rules are interpreted somewhat creatively to accomplish this; at any rate I can see other questions where it seems this has happened. I am happy to delete it, but I am also curious if there is more to be said. I've never posted on a per-site meta before.

LangLangC wanted me to edit this question indicating that I read Why did my question get a downvote?. I just did, it was interesting. Things that stuck out to me with regard to the subject question: "Cite every non-trivial assertion in your question" and "Don't include anything you don't want to defend" (by the way, thank you Mark C. Wallace for your answer - while I was composing this edit - I see there is some overlap)

I'm not sure, but maybe part of the problem is that the close-voters cited one reason, and the downvoters were using a different reason.

  • 2
    Welcome to HistoryMeta. First, do not make the question broader. Second: have you read Why did my question get a downvote?. That vote count will make it tough to re-open it. Please edit this question above indicating you've read the link I just gave. Sep 25, 2018 at 6:58
  • Thanks for bringing to meta. We are a better site for examining these issues. There is no risk of being banned for an unpopular question. I dropped a comment supporting re-open, but it has to be a community decision.
    – MCW Mod
    Sep 25, 2018 at 10:07
  • 3
    @MarkC.Wallace there's an automatic post ban imposed by the system if the user has a history of posting Q/As that got heavily downvoted though.
    – Andrew T.
    Sep 25, 2018 at 10:37
  • Missed that - I think that chance of that being invoked for one question is so small as to be not worth considering. Best approach (In my opinion) is to edit this question.
    – MCW Mod
    Sep 25, 2018 at 11:35
  • 1
    You might consider documenting your research - What sources, what search terms. That might focus the question more on research methodology and less on phobias.
    – MCW Mod
    Sep 25, 2018 at 11:37

2 Answers 2


You might consider documenting your research - What sources, what search terms. That might focus the question more on research methodology and less on phobias.

Have you checked sources like psychology today ?? There is a relevant article at ELL, which introduces the problem of how to distinguish between these anxiety dreams and night terrors. (Has anyone studied the historical patterns of night terrors? I don't remember the organic origin of the phenomenon.) I found one paper from NIH that might help to constrain the research.

Based purely on the comments, I wonder if people are distracted by the particulars. At least to my read, you're asking about a reasonably well defined class of anxiety dreams, not on the specific dream of showing up in school in your underwear. (which limits the answer to only those times in which school is a concept. It would be interesting to discover that this type of anxiety dream is contemporary with the modern notion of school; it would be equally fascinating to discover evidence that medieval students at the Sorbonne had anxiety dreams. I can construct narratives that support either, but the trick is to find evidence.

  • I just decided to delete it. I realized that however different things were in the past in, say, the U.S., there are probably other parts of the world where they are still that way today. Even if they are few, I think they exist. So rather than a problem of historical research, maybe it would be better to approach it as a problem of cultural anthropology - even if the cultures being studied may include past ones. But thank you for your helpful guidance (and for supporting a more reasonable definition of "on-topic"). Sep 26, 2018 at 4:24

History is the study of change over time in the documentary record. The hypothesised psychological individual of the discipline of psychology doesn't appear in the documentary record of the past. (The hypothesis does, of course.) the topic you're asking about is off-topic, like asking why red apples taste like they do on physics.se. Red is in part a physical phenomena, apples are an example in a parable about gravity, doesn't make a question about flavour physics.

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