Home Personal Psychology Sleeping/Dreaming Dreamer Beware: The Insightful Dreams of Sarah, Dan and Katherine

Dreamer Beware: The Insightful Dreams of Sarah, Dan and Katherine

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A sleep committee is always looking after the best interests of the dreamer. At times, the committee believes that the dreamer is not ready to “face the truth” – thus uses the dream to divert attention from the problem – much as Freud uses anxiety to signal the need for engaging a defensive structure. At other times, the committee believes that the dreamer is ready to face the truth. Sometimes, the committee finds it hard to get the dreamer’s attention—so it repeats the message (redundancy) or heightens the poetry or drama (magnitude).

In the case of Sarah, the purpose might relate to her “victimhood.” One of the major conceptions concerning the etiology of trauma relates to this condition of being powerless—becoming a traumatized victim—in the face of some powerful force (Levine and Frederick, 2009). Martin Seligman (1992) is noted for his own description and analysis of this condition of helplessness and hopelessness.

In Sarah’s case, she appears to be the victim of her colleague’s cutting attacks. Sarah is helpless because she doesn’t acknowledge that the cutting has occurred. Like many traumatized victims, she considers herself to be the source of her wounding rather than looking for some external perpetrator. Her dream committee might have noted this self-blame and set up the drama of Sarah’s dream to identify the actual perpetrator forcefully and dramatically. The committee seems to have been successful in gaining Sarah’s attention and getting her to look outside herself for the reason she holds a negative self-image after meeting with her male colleague.

We find that Dan’s committee has identified a quite challenging issue. While Sarah can probably avoid her male colleague and has little invested in her relationship with this abusive colleague at work, Dan is experiencing the abuse of a “loved” one with whom he is planning to spend his entire adult life. Even more than Sarah, Dan’s abuse is traumatizing because of the important role played by Betty in his personal life. Many victims of trauma find that they are being victimized by someone who plays a central role to their life (parent, sibling, spouse). I suspect this is not the first time that Dan’s committee has brought up this matter of Betty’s potential abuse—for it is always very difficult to consider that love and hate can be toxically intermixed in the relationship one has with a loved one.

Our third dream comes from the committee spending a night in the dream lab. Many of the dreams retrieved from those participating in the laboratory experiment concern the dream lab itself—at least during the first night or two. It would be quite understandable that the committee was concerned with sleeping and dreaming in this strange setting with electrodes stuck to the head and face. And what about this disturbing experience of being woken up several times during the night and being asked to report on something (a dream) that was meant to remain “confidential”? It is interesting to note that many participants in a dream lab find it hard to recall their dreams when woken up after several nights in the lab. In some cases, lab participants actually stop spending time in a REM state during the night. In these instances, the laboratory sessions actually have to be called off so that the participant can get a good night of sleep.

Coming during the third night that Katherine spent in the lab, the glass mobile dream was probably not related to her experience in the laboratory—though her sense of vulnerability could have been heightened by her sharing of personal information (dreams) with other people (those working in the lab). Whether precipitated by the lab or not, the theme of vulnerability might have been introduced by the committee because it was a dominant issue in Katherine’s life at this moment in time. In pondering her relationship with this boyfriend, Katherine might have been working at multiple levels (both conscious and unconscious) on the matter of trust with this new person in her life. Should she open up to him or “play her cards close to the chest”? Should she seek a long-term, intimate relationship with this man or keep him at a distance (make him into just another playing card)?

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