Abreaction is a re-experiencing of painful or traumatic events or situations. In many dreams it is obvious that the process underlying dreams is attempting to trigger an abreaction. This suggests the dream process, as Jung and Hadfield say, is a self-regulatory one in our psyche. In many cases where a person explores the feeling content of their dreams in a confident way, abreaction occurs. Although it has been given different names in recent years, such as primal therapy, rolfing, discharge, catharsis, abreaction is still a basic psychological healing process. Pans of our experience become repressed because there is an automatic reaction in us to avoid pain. Therefore painful experience may never be fully felt or understood at the time. Reliving them allows us to review and integrate vital information about ourselves. Frequently all the analysis in the world cannot relieve a neurotic pattern until the repressed emotion holding it in place is released and understood.
The strength with which we hold out against allowing our being to abreact spontaneously is seen in the above example. Mr KT is brought to the brink of reliving his very stressful childhood again and again. Yet he manages to avoid actual memory and, in particular, the experiencing of any childhood emotions and fears.
The opposite is shown in this account by Clive, who explored with me a dream about being shot in the arm in his father s shop. ‘For several hours I could find nothing about the dream. My mind simply wandered. But with help I persisted. Suddenly I seemed to break through, first to seeing how the shop was a place in which I have unconsciously experienced great emotional pain. My father was always criticising. Never a word of encouragement. Then I burst into powerful sobbing as I felt the pain of wanting my father to love me, instead of cnticising all the time, and help me grow into somebody capable of meeting life. And then, something I just had not wanted to see, the 30 years of my life I had wasted by avoiding any contact with authority. My father was the original authority in my life. I had cut off from him because of the lack of support, and I had done the same with school and other authority situations. But what a relief to understand myself, and to meet that young vulnerable boy I used to be. How I loved him and understood him/myself.’ abroad General: your feelings about that country.
If you have lived in that country: overall experience of that place. Were you happy there, lonely? What characteristics of the people did you take in?... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
A cenain theme may have begun in childhood and continued throughout our life—either without change, or as a gradually changing series of dreams. It might be that the feature which recurs is a setting, perhaps a house we visit again and again, but the details differ. Sometimes a senes of such dreams begin after or dunng a particular event or phase of our life, such as puberty or marriage.
Example: ‘This dream has recurred over 30 years. There is a railway station, remote in a rural area, a central waiting room with platform going round all sides. On the platform mill hundreds of people, all men I think. They are all ragged, thin, dirty and unshaven. I know I am among them. I looked up at the mountainside and there is a guard watching us. He is cruel looking, oriental, in green fatigues. On his peaked cap is a red star. He carries a machine gun. Then I looked at the men around me and I realise they are all me. Each one has my face. I am looking at myself. Then I feel fear and terror (Anon.).
The theme of the dream can incorporate anxious emotions, such as the above example, or any aspect of experience. One woman, an epileptic, reports a dream which is the same in every detail and occurs every night. In general such dreams recur because there are ways the dreamer habitually responds to their internal or external world. Because their attitude or response is unchanging, the dream which reflects it remains the same.
It is noticeable in those who explore their dreams using such techniques as described under dream processing that recurring themes disappear or change because the attitudes or habitual anxieties which gave rise to them have been met or transformed.
A recurring environment in a dream where the other factors change is not the same. We use the same words over and over in speech, yet each sentence may be different.
The environment or character represents a particular aspect of oneself, but the different events which surround it show it in the changing process of our psychological growth. Where there is no such change, as in the examples above, it suggests an area of our mental emotional self is stuck in a habitual feeling state or response.
Some recurring dreams can be ‘stopped’ by simply receiving information about them. One woman dreamt the same dream from childhood. She was walking past railings in the town she lived in as a child. She always woke in dread and perspiration from this dream. At 40 she told her sister about it.
The response was ‘Oh, that’s simple. Don’t you remember that when you were about four we were walking past those railings and we were set on by a bunch of boys. Then I said to them, ‘Don’t hurt us, our mother’s dead!” They left us alone, but you should have seen the look on your face.’ After realising the dread was connected with the loss of her mother, the dream never recurred. Another woman who repeatedly dreamt of being in a tight and frightening place, found the dream never returned after she had connected it to being in the womb.
Recurring dreams, such as that of the railings, suggest that pan of the process underlying dreams is a self regulatory (homocostatic) one.
The dream process tries to present troublesome emotions or situations to the conscious mind of the dreamer to resolve the trauma or difficulty underlying the dream.
An obvious example of this is seen in the recurring nightmare of a young woman who felt a piece of cloth touch her face, and repeatedly woke her family with her screams. Her brother, tiring of this, one night woke her from her screams and made her talk about her feelings. His persistence gradually revealed that she associated the cloth with the burial shroud of her grandmother. This brought to the surface grief and feelings about death she had never allowed herself to feel before.
The nightmare never returned. See nightmares; dream processing. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
Revelatory dreams are more common to men than women. This may be because more men concern themselves with questions of what the universe is.
If the dreamer creates a mental or emotional tension in themselves through the intensity with which they pursue such questions—and we need to accept that often such intensity anses out of anxiety regarding death and one’s identity—then the self-regulatory process of dreaming might well produce an apparent revelation to ease the tension. On the opposite tack, research into mental functioning during dreaming, or in a dreamlike state as in research using LSD, shows that there is an enormously increased ability to access associated ideas, allow feeling responses and achieve novel viewpoints. Freud pointed out that dreams have access to greater memory resources and associated ideas. P H. Stafford and B.H. Golightly, in their book dealing with LSD as an aid to problem solving, say that this dreamlike state enables subjects to ‘form and keep in mind a much broader picture . . . imagine what is needed—for the problem—or not possible . . . diminish fear of making mistakes*. One subject says ‘1 had almost total recall of a course I did in thermodynamics; something I had not given any thought to in years.’
Although humans have such power to scan enormous blocks of information or experience, look at it from new angles, sift it with particular questions in mind and so discover new connections in old information, there are problems, otherwise we would all be doing it.
The nature of dream consciousness, and the faculties described, is fundamentally different to waking awareness, which limits, edits, looks for specifics, avoids views conflicting with its accepted norm, and uses verbalisation.
A nonverbal, symbolic scan of massive information is largely lost when translated to waking consciousness.
My experience is that the content of revelatory dreams is almost wholly lost on waking.
If the individual explores the dream while awake, however, and dares to take consciousness into the realm of the dream, then the enormous waves of emotional impact, the massive collection of details, the personality changing influence of major new insights, can be met.
The reason most of us do not touch this creative process is in fact the same reason most of us do not attempt other daring activities—it takes guts. See creativity and problem solving in dreams. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
For instance most times this happened I have been in the middle of a dream in which there is a sense of absolute imperative that I must make love/have sex.
It is like being lost in a storm of glamour and fantasy or vision in which I am totally involved.
The whirl of the “dream” is towards the wonder, totality of the need to have sex. As this imperative is expressed in my still spontaneous, dreaming physical action, the experience of sex is also visionary and enormous’ (Charles W).
This fairly common dreaming experience demonstrates powerfully how dreams are an expression of a self regulatory or compensatory action in the psyche and body. Charles says that he had been restraining his sexual activity. This shows the enormous gulf which can exist between what we will to do as a conscious personality, and what our being needs to do or wishes to do outside conscious decision making.
The ‘glamour and fantasy’ Charles describes are regular features of how these deeper needs make themselves known, or attempt to coerce the conscious mind, into fulfilling the need.
If we reject the fantasy, the unconscious processes will attempt a more radical approach, as in actual physical movement while we sleep. This may have given rise to ideas about possession or devils in past ages, when it was not understood that we can split our mind by such conflicts. Fear of the possessing’ influence actually heightens its power through suggestion.
It is much better to understand what one’s needs are, and seek an acceptable fulfilment. See abreaction. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
If this area is damaged or suppressed, humans or animals make full muscular movements in connection with what is dreamt. He observed that cats would stalk, crouch and spring at imaginary prey. These very imponant findings suggest a number of things.
The unconscious process behind dreaming, apan from creating a non-volitional fantasy, can also reproduce movements we have not consciously decided upon. This shows we have at least two centres of will which can direct body and mental processes. Christopher Evans, linking with the work of Nicholas Humphrey at Cambridge University, sees the movements of dreaming cats as expressions of survival ‘programs’ in the biological computer. These ‘programs’ or strategies for survival need to be replayed in order not only to keep in practice, but also to modify them in connection with the influx of extra experience and information. In the human realm, our survival strategies and the way we relate to our social, sexual, marriage and work roles may also be replayed and modified in our dreaming.
Such movements are not linked simply to survival or social programs’.
An important aspect of dreaming is releasing painful emotions or trauma, and moving toward psychological growth. Also, the process producing these movements does not keep strictly to the realm of sleep.
It is observable that many muscular spasms, ticks, or unwilled waking movements arise from this source—the will’ of the unconscious—attempting to release trauma or initiate a necessary programme of psychological growth. That such dream’ activities as spontaneous movement or verbalisation should occur during waking would appear to suggest that a dream must occur with them. Research shows this is unlikely. It does however show that a dream may be imagery produced to express this mental, muscular, emotional ‘self regulation’.
The imagery may not be necessary if the process is consciously experienced.
Because the self-regulatory process produces spontaneous movements, emotions and verbalisation, it is likely there is a connection between it and many ancient religious practices such as pentecostalism, shaktipat in India, subud in Indonesia and seitai in Japan. These are forms of psychotherapy practised by other cultures. They create an environment in which practitioners can allow spontaneous movement and fantasy while awake. Because consciousness is then involved, and can co-operate with the self-regulating or healing activities of the unconscious, such practice can lead to better health and utilisation of unconscious functions.
The older religious forms of this practice relied on belief systems of spirits or gods. Once the connection between these practices and the dream is realised, much in them which was obscure becomes understandable. In my book Mind and Movement I explain the connection between the dream process, self regulatory healing, extended perception and waking consciousness. See abreaction; sleep walking; dream as therapist and healer. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
If the child is agitated, excited or acting in a manner to injure themselves during the sleep walking, then it may be a sign of emotional distress.
The same applies to adults. Many sleep walkers perform complex acts without coming to harm.
A young Ponsmouth boy drove his father’s car 27 miles before waking in Southampton.
The police checked his story and did not charge him. But sometimes severe injury is inflicted either upon themselves or others. During a dream phone-in on London Broadcasting Company, a man told me his experience of smashing through a glass window, cutting an artery and nearly bleeding to death. In America and England homicidal acts have been committed while the person claimed to be sleepwalking, and the people involved were acquitted of murder.
Because of such powerful activity during sleep, many people who experience this type of sleep walking are worried about what they might do to a partner sleeping next to them.
In most cases one wakes as the contact is made, or the involved person wakes one, but the element of risk cannot be denied. Where such worry exists, hope can be gained by understanding what was observed with many men who began to sleep walk after war combat. In their cases the movements, speech and emotions were observably connected with trauma occurring during their war experience.
The self regulatory process in dreams was thereby attempting to release the tension, horror or emotional pain of the events. Where these emotions could be met consciously, perhaps with the help of a psychotherapist, the sleep movements stopped. This suggests that dramatic activity while sleep walking has similar roots, and can be dealt with. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
The body possesses a natural reflex for getting rid of something harmful that has entered the digestive system. This regulatory impulse senses the presence of toxins or poisons and triggers a muscular contraction to expel the unwanted material. While vomiting can be caused by different stimuli, from tainted food to a viral infection to self-inducement, the symbolic meaning is the same: getting rid of something that is perceived to be bad. Because of the connection between vomit and food, this image will always have something to do with nurturance and self-care.
If it shows up in a dream, there is something amiss in how you are being nurtured.
(See Gagging.)... Complete Dictionary of Dreams