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Record Type: Review   ID: 970

The Nightmare: The Psychology and Biology of Terrifying Dreams

Hartmann, Ernest

 A sleep researcher and psychoanalyst, Hartmann reviews what is known about nightmares, who has them and why, and their meaning. In Part I he reviews what has been learned about nightmares, or dream anxiety attacks, in the sleep laboratory and distinguishes them from night terrors. He considers nightmare data from many earlier studies and the theories offered to explain the phenomenon. He attempts to find out who has nightmares using information based on his clinical experience, five years of research in interviewing adult nightmare sufferers, and the results of formal studies with 50 of them; and an examination of special groups that might be prone to nightmares, such as war veterans, schizophrenics, and artists. Based on the foregoing, he is "led to characterize persons with frequent nightmares in terms of unusual openness, defenselessness, vulnerability, and difficulty with certain ego functions" (p. 7). He observes that these people have "thin boundaries," including "sleep-wake boundaries, ego boundaries, and interpersonal boundaries" (p. 7). Hartmann notes that almost half of those he interviewed reported spontaneous ESP or other paranormal experiences. He points out that many persons who do not suffer from nightmares also have these experiences. However, he notes: "In our study the nightmare sufferers had these experiences much more frequently and dramatically, although several of the twenty-four vivid dreamers and ordinary dreamers also reported such experiences" (p. 151). In Part II he considers clinical aspects of nightmares, tracing them to childhood fears and traumas. One chapter is devoted to post-traumatic nightmares and another to a discussion of nightmares, night terrors, and post-traumatic nightmares as regards their natural history, diagnosis, and prognosis, and their treatments, if required. The chemical and biological substrata of nightmares is examined in the last chapter, where he notes that the underlying biology of the nightmare appears to differ somewhat from that of the dreams. He suggests that "the biology of the nightmare may also lead us to an understanding of the underlying biology of boundaries in the mind" (p. 9).
Publisher Information:New York: Basic Books, 1984. 294p. Bibliography: 273-282; 22 graphs; 3 illustrations; Index: 283-294; 15 tables
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