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Levine, H.B. (1995). Posttraumatic Nightmares: Psychodynamic Explorations. : By Melvin R. Lansky with Carol R. Bley. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press. 1995. Pp. 188.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:1279-1281.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:1279-1281

Posttraumatic Nightmares: Psychodynamic Explorations. : By Melvin R. Lansky with Carol R. Bley. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press. 1995. Pp. 188.

Review by:
Howard B. Levine

This book challenges a long-neglected contradiction embedded in the psychoanalytic theory of dreams. On the one hand, Freud's (1900) original model held that the manifest content of the dream was a defensive screen for latent dream thoughts linked to conflicts surrounding unfulfilled, unconscious, infantile wishes. The press of these wishes for gratification and discharge was intensified by the events of the day (the day residue) and opposed by the defensive operations of the ego (the dream work). A conflict ensued, which Freud believed had the potential to disturb the dreamer's sleep, unless it was resolved by a form of compromise: forbidden wishes would be represented in the manifest content of the dream, but only if they were disguised by the mechanisms of the primary processcondensation, displacement and symbolisation. Thus, Freud proposed that the manifest dream was a defensive distortion of the ‘true’ (latent) dream thoughts that lay beneath it and that the dream was the guardian of sleep.

Twenty years later, however, in considering repetitive dreams that occurred following trauma, Freud (1920) concluded that their manifest contents were more or less accurate accounts of actual events, which were being dreamt in an attempt to master trauma. In this second dream theory, Freud excepted the post-traumatic dream from the rule that the instigation and raison d’être of the dream was the gratification of unconscious infantile wishes and the protection of the dreamer's need to sleep. He also conceptually freed the manifest content of such dreams from the assumption that it was a disguised, multiply-determined representation of unconscious, conflicted infantile wishes. Thus, Freud viewed the structure and function of the post-traumatic nightmare as being more like an affectively charged memory than a ‘true’ dream.

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