Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams

Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams

Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams

Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams

Synopsis

Drawing on his clinical practice, his research on sleep and dreaming, and over five thousand of his own dreams, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Ernest Hartmann proposes a new theory of dreams that shows us how they help us make sense of our emotions and, ultimately, reveal most profoundly who we are. Dreams are meaningful, he argues -- and in the process takes on neurobiologists, who believe that dreams are merely random products of the chemistry of the brain, and Freudians, who attribute every dream to the fulfillment of a childhood wish. He shows how dreams, guided by the emotions of the dreamer, make broad connections among our experiences in life. In the end, he concludes, dreaming is immensely useful to the most important psychological task we face -- gathering knowledge about ourselves.

Excerpt

I am gratified that my book Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams has generated interest and some very positive reviews in the past two years. The reviews suggest that I have managed to present some new and convincing ideas about dreams in a solid and comprehensible manner.

What impressed me greatly and surprised me somewhat was that everyone seems to agree with my main points. Since my work has led to conclusions which conflict with both Freud's views and the views of those who believe that dreams are random nonsense or material being discarded by the brain, I expected all kinds of arguments from my usually argumentative colleagues. However, the critics and commentators appear to agree with my main propositions, which are detailed in the first half of the book: 1) Dreams make connections more broadly than waking in the nets of the mind. In other words, dreams are hyper-connective. 2) The connections made are not random, but are guided by the dominant emotion or emotional concern of the dreamer. 3) The dream image pictures or "contextualizes" (finds a picture context for) the dreamer's dominant emotion. 4) The dream provides an explanatory metaphor for the dreamer's emotional state.

Rather than any major disagreements, I have heard criticism only along the lines of either, "This needs more support in several places. More research is required," or "Is this really original, or is it a synthesis of various previous views of dreams?" Both of these issues are important, and I will briefly address both of them, which will also allow me to discuss recent and ongoing research.

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