Summary: Do you have recurring nightmares where you are being attacked, chased or falling? Researchers report your dreams may be a reflection of frustrations you experience in daily life.
People who are frustrated because their basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and feeling competent are not met are more likely to have a recurring bad dream and to analyze their dreams negatively. This is according to Netta Weinstein of the University of Cardiff in the UK, who is lead author of an article on dreams published in Springer’s journal Motivation and Emotion.
Dreams and their interpretation have been investigated since the days of Jung and Freud. However, the research done by Weinstein’s team is the first to explore whether people’s daily frustration or fulfilment of psychological needs plays out in their dreams.
The researchers conducted two studies. In the first, 200 people were asked to reflect on their most common recurring dream. The second study analyzed the entries that 110 people made over a period of three days in “dream diaries”. This was done to explore whether experiences related to psychological needs in waking life are related to the deeper level of processing that dreams provide, and that so-called “bad” dreams might be “left-overs” of poorly or even unprocessed daily experiences.
“Waking-life psychological need experiences are indeed reflected in our dreams,” says Weinstein.
The results from both studies show that frustrations and emotions associated with specific psychological needs influence the themes that will occur in people’s dreams. Participants whose so-called psychological needs were not met, either more enduringly or on a day-to-day basis, felt more frustrated. They reported having more negative dream themes such as frightening dreams, or ones in which sad or angry emotions surfaced. When asked to interpret their own dreams, they tended to do so using more negative words. Participants whose psychological needs were met were more likely to describe their dreams positively.
“Negative dream emotions may directly result from distressing dream events, and might represent the psyche’s attempt to process and make sense of particularly psychologically challenging waking experiences,” explains Weinstein.
People who were frustrated with their daily situation tended to have recurring dreams in which they were falling, failing or being attacked. According to Weinstein, recurring dreams may be more sensitive to distressing psychological experiences that a person still needs to process.
“Researchers and theorists have argued that recurring dreams challenge people to process the most pressing problems in their lives, and these may be thought to result from their failure to adapt to challenging experiences. As such, dream content may be more affected by enduring need-based experiences,” says Weinstein.
Funding: The work was performed at the Springer department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology and at the SpringerH Neonatal Units.
Source: Stella Müller – Springer
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams” by Netta Weinstein, Rachel Campbell, and Maarten Vansteenkiste in Motivation and Emotion. Published online November 30 2017 doi:10.1007/2Fs11031-017-9656-0
Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams
The satisfaction of individuals’ psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, as conceived from a self-determination theory perspective, is said to be conducive to personal growth and well-being. What has been unexamined is whether psychological need-based experiences, either their satisfaction or frustration, manifests in people’s self-reported dream themes as well as their emotional interpretation of their dreams. A cross-sectional study (N = 200; M age = 21.09) focusing on individuals’ recurrent dreams and a three-day diary study (N = 110; M age = 25.09) focusing on daily dreams indicated that individuals experiencing psychological need frustration, either more enduringly or on a day-to-day basis, reported more negative dream themes and interpreted their dreams more negatively. The contribution of psychological need satisfaction was more modest, although it related to more positive interpretation of dreams. The discussion focuses on the role of dreams in the processing and integration of psychological need-frustrating experiences.
“Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams” by Netta Weinstein, Rachel Campbell, and Maarten Vansteenkiste in Motivation and Emotion. Published online November 30 2017 doi:10.1007/2Fs11031-017-9656-0