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Record Type: Review   ID: 210

Dreams and Nightmares: The New Theory on the Origin and Meaning of Dreams

Hartmann, Ernest

 Hartmann’s new theory of dreaming is pretty basic. It is based on long experience as a psychiatrist and as one of the foremost sleep and dream researchers. He sees dreams as aids to helping the dreamer solve life’s problems. The chief characteristic of dreams is that they, like waking consciousness, make connections. However, dreaming enables us to make broader and more inclusive connections than our waking mind can. Whereas when awake people try to solve problems rationally, by "taking thought," Hartmann observes that dream connections are guided by the dreamer’s emotions and emotional concerns. Dreams may appear to be "crazy" or unrelated, but this is not the case when the emotional problems are known and addressed. Importantly, dreams provide a context for emotions. Dreams are able to note similarities and create metaphors. These metaphors are ways of picturing the dreamer’s emotional state. This capacity to make connections accomplishes two things. It "smoothes out the disturbances in the mind by integrating new material—"calming a storm"—and also produces more and broader connections by weaving in new material" (p. 4), thus increasing memory connections. It is these new connections that make dreams useful in problem solving, whether it be personal, work related, or involves scientific or artistic creativity. Hartmann has specialized in studies of how dreaming impacts on traumatic situations because in such cases it is easier to identify the emotional problem dreaming is trying to solve by making broader connections that make integration of the experience possible. One could say the trauma calls out these creative solutions. Ullman has pointed out the similarities of dreams and other exceptional experiences, some traumatic in themselves. They force us to broaden and deepen the scope of our lives, including our identities and worldviews, by insisting that outlying datapoints that initially make no sense be woven into the tapestry of our lives. And like dreams, if they are consciously attended to, they also provide the saving metaphors that will point up the healing connections. In fact, this book of Hartmann’s on identifying and using the larger connections dreams bring to us can serve as a metaphor for a similar process that occurs with other EEs and EHEs, many of which are either traumatic in themselves or follow after trauma and play an important role in helping the experiencer to ground his or her life in a broader, deeper base.
Publisher Information:New York: Plenum Trade, 1998. Pp. x + 315. Appendix: The Boundary Questionnaire: 251-264; Bibl: 291-304; Chapnotes: 265-289; 8 figs; Ind: 305-315; 3 tables
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