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Response to Dreaming and Illness Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

J.H. Boothe’s unpublished overview on dreaming and illness was well-researched and provided great information about the different aspects of the subject matter.  However, Boothe tended to put too much data without proper direction. He first mentioned that Freud’s basic understanding of dreams indicated that these were just infantile wishes to remain asleep.  Somewhere in the middle of the study, he suddenly mentions that Freud’s primary theory was that dreams hold a protective function. The author made a lot of research but focused vaguely on dreams’ relation to illness.

A topic that surfaced but was not discussed enough was on how dreams serve as a protective mechanism against the pressure of an illness and can aid in the development of a cure. Being sick can be caused by stress due to a person’s incapability to handle real situations. Research on how stress affects the immune system, in particular Natural Killer (NK) cell function, is providing a new and more comprehensive model to explain the onset and progression of chronic fatigue syndrome and its variety of physicals, cognitive and emotional symptoms (Kenner, n.d., para. 1).When a person is stressed, the NK cells are called to function and the body acts as if it is sick.  This can result to chronic anxiety and pain. However, stress is usually related to real life problems which are emotional in nature.

Recent studies of dreams after traumatic events have led to the suggestion that dream imagery can often be understood as picturing the dominant emotion or emotional concern of the dreamer (Hartmann, 1996, 2001 cited in Hartmann and Basile, 2003, p. 21). The dreams that people experience do

not necessarily have to recall the specific moments that caused stress but rather the emotions that

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accompany it. This seems to validate Boothe’s belief that dreams can function as a psychological defense mechanism.

An experiment on dream incubation with 96 college students was made by Gregory L. White and Laurel Taytroe.  Dream incubation refers to a variety of techniques that supposedly aid practical problem-solving or creativity (2003, p. 4). It involves a person thinking about a certain problem for fifteen minutes before falling asleep.  The purpose of incubation was to find solutions to the problems through dreams. The experimenters found their research inconclusive but noted that there was a relation between the frequency of dream recall to how strong emotions were while processing the dreams.

Another study on nursing care brought about the importance of dreams for rehabilitation of patients. Eight patients with chronic illness were interviewed about their dreams. Participants’ narratives were immensely rich in symbols of transformation, transcendence and rebirth which altered their attitudes toward death and resulted to an increase of spirituality after getting over their illness (Papathanassoglou & Patiraki, 2003, 18). This just proves that dreams can help resolve certain emotional issues and relieve the stress to aid a person towards healing.

As with Boothe’s patient with chronic pains, “D,” the unresolved issue about her being raped has caused stress and illness.  With counseling therapy and constant dream interpretation, “D” was able to slowly understand how she can control her emotions and this seemed to be cause a decrease in the chronic pains she was experiencing.

Boothe researched so well on the field of dreaming but failed to focus on one aspect of such a vast topic.  With his experience and knowledge, he could have given more relevance to dreams in connection with chronic illness or traumas to help bring direction to his study.  More experiences in his dealing with patients would have brought more strength in his research.


Hartmann, E. and Basile, R. (2003). Dream Imagery Becomes More Intense After 9/11/01.

            Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, 13, 21.

Kenner, D. (n.d.). How stress affects anxiety, fatigue and chronic illness. Retrieved September 1,

            2007 from



Papathanassoglou E. & Patiraki, E.  (2003). Transformations of self: a phenomenological

            investigation into the lived experience of survivors of critical illness. Nursing in Critical

            Care 8 (1), 13–21.

White, G. & Taytroe, L. (2003). Personal Problem-Solving Using Dream Incubation: Dreaming,

            Relaxation, or Waking Cognition? Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams,

            13, 4.

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