Posted by Ryan Hurd on August 9, 2008
On the topic of the dreams of trauma survivors, I saw another great talk in Montreal by Ann Goelitz, a clinical social worker from New York. In a nutshell, Goelitz’s work compares the emotional content of dreams of trauma survivors to the general population.
Goelitz found that trauma survivors” dreams are empirically more emotional, and they also have more intense emotions. Further, she found that human-made trauma stirs more emotion in dreams than non-human trauma. For example, family abuse or exposure to war results in more emotional dreams than natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.
Isn’t that interesting? It’s as if conflict in dreams is heightened when people have a hand on the drama wheel. Conversely, dreams from those exposed to non-human trauma experience more awe.
I should mention that Goelitz observed that most trauma survivors don’t want to talk about their dreams. It’s not for everyone. Yet, those that do extol the virtues of dream work.
In particular, Goelitz found that dreams:
- allow safe processing of trauma
- signals where the work needs to be done
- enables healing
I think it’s plausible that Goelitz’s work illustrates another layer of the phenomenon that was revealed by the recent study testing the threat simulation theory of dreams in traumatized children. From an integral perspective, in other words, Goelitz’s heightened emotions may reflect the interior of, or the “what it feels like to be inside of,” Revonsuo’s heightened threat events in the dreams of trauma survivors.
Who can say at this stage? But when both studies were presented back to back, I definitely felt the breeze of future mixed-method dream studies in the air.