Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Cultural Variation in Nightmare: A Content Analysis

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Cultural Variation in Nightmare: A Content Analysis

Article excerpt

As expected, previous studies reveal to us interesting and important points about nightmare, such as follows. Nightmares often play a key role in character formation of individuals and psychologies of local cultures. Nightmares are an important part of self-growth (Hollan, 2003). Nightmares can result from ritual actions. Nightmares are central to conceptualizing how human life is related to the Supernatural Beyond and the dead persons. Thus nightmares serve as a key indicator of physical and spiritual health of humankind.

For all such important discoveries, however, nightmares have hardly been studied in the cross-cultural context. Interpretation of dream and nightmare across cultures has sometimes been the subject of important studies, for example, in books edited by Lohmann (2003) and Mageo (2003). Still, many questions remain unanswered.

Some of these questions could be as follows: Does nightmares share meanings similar if not identical throughout different cultures? Does the content of nightmares vary across cultures? How do interpretations of nightmares vary across cultures? Do people think reliving nightmares as the most upsetting dreams that are physically or spiritually damaging? In non-Western cultures, how do people think nightmares to arise? In non-Western cultures, do people prescribe treatments for someone suffering from having had nightmares, and how effective are those treatments, if any? In non-Western cultures, do people talk about nightmares among the family or with others, and are there any effects as a result? In non-Western cultures, are nightmares a rather salient part of mental disorder? Is the rate of nightmares identical across different cultures?

Interestingly, nightmare-related symptoms listed in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) are different as cultures, social groups, historical periods, or even individuals differ. Abstractly taken, substantial similarities, or rather, identicalness of symptoms exist among differing cultures, as the symptoms are simply labeled ??nightmare.'' Scrutiny in the concrete context, however, often reveals great differences due to different semantic networks and different practices associated with nightmares (Good, 1994).

To put it another way, upon discovering a symptom, listed according to the criteria of the DSM-IV post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to be common in a certain traumatized group, we must not stop there but proceed to investigate the symptom schema (Hinton et al., 2008; Kirmayer, 1996)-taken in the broad sense, ranging from metaphor, to indicated practices, to interpersonal meanings and aftermath, in the specific culture of that group.

If nightmares are a key feature exhibiting human beings as human (Hartmann, 1998), to investigate nightmares in cross-cultural context is an indispensable study to exhibit cross-cultural variation in common humanity. Nightmares are a critical node that gathers life events, views of a person, notions of the Beyond, social relations, personal feelings and bodily experiences, and makes a coherent sense out of them all.

Therefore studying nightmares studies many different sorts of nodes to understand many different cultures. Such investigations of cross-cultural variations of nightmares study the various ways in which nightmares make for many symptoms, so as to link cultural and social processes in daily life and personal experiences both somatic and spiritual. Only by such meticulous studies of how culture interweaves nightmares and how healing is facilitated in each culture, can we understand the intricate structure of humanity.

The present study examines the role of nightmares in two cultures: European White and Chinese/Taiwanese. Specifically, the study investigates nightmares in the light of local systems of interpretation and associated practices, in two different cultural groups: Western and Chinese/Taiwanese. …

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