Psychotherapy Services in South West London

Dreams and Trauma

Ribeiro argues that repetitive dreams of the trauma patient eliminate once and for all any suggestion that dreams are the result of random cortical activation. Rather recursive nightmares are an important symptom of post traumatic stress disorder, which is characterised by disturbed, hyper aroused REM sleep. Hillman reminds us that “the dream animal shows us that the imagination has jaws and paws that can wake us in the night with panic and terror or move us to tears.” Trauma has been shown to result in impaired development of the corpus callosum, such function leads to disavowal and disconnection. Patients can speak about emotional events but deny their emotional significance. Dream work over time may actually help to reverse such effects, encouraging inter and intra hemispheric connectivity. In working with dreams the individual develop the creative capacity to make conceptual and affective links across different realms of knowing. Material may begin to move from unconscious implicit memory towards the explicit realm of knowledge. Some dreams that include an anxiety inducing primitive content that frightens the dreamer may actually indicate the fulfilment of a stage of psychic integration. Such dreams indicate a coming together of a split off part returning to the dreamer’s self. The threat form the unconscious diminishes and the patient begins to assimilate contents that were previously unconscious. That is why every dream is an organ of information and control, and why dreams are our most effective aid in building up the personality. Dream work is therefore an essentially integrative process in the brain. In the context of work concerning early relational trauma it is the containing therapeutic relationship that makes it possible to dream the undreamable as a prelude to the mind being able to think the unthinkable, and as a prelude to recreating experience not in terms of the historical past but in terms of the relational present.

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