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Greenberg, R. Pearlman, C. (1975). A Psychoanalytic-Dream Continuum: The Source and Function of Dreams. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 2:441-448.

(1975). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 2:441-448

A Psychoanalytic-Dream Continuum: The Source and Function of Dreams

R. Greenberg and C. Pearlman


The discovery of physiologic correlates of dreaming (the phenomena of REM sleep) has stimulated re-examination of psychoanalytic theories of dreaming. There have been interpretations both in terms of drive discharge theory (Fisher, 1965)and of a more ego-orientated, adaptive conceptualization (Hawkins, 1966); (R. Jones, 1970). A series of experiments in our laboratory has led to the conclusion that REM sleep is involved in information processing in the service of emotional adaptation. Freud's metaphor of the 'mystic writing pad' served as a springboard for both Hawkins (1966) and our group (Greenberg & Leiderman, 1966). From our studies of dream deprivation, we have arrived at the following formulation: emotionally significant waking experiences touch on conflictual material from the past, arousing affects which require either defensive operations or an adaptive shift in response. Dreaming (REM sleep) provides an opportunity for integrating the recent experiences with the past, with a concomitant institution of characteristic defences or a new resolution of the conflict. We have found that REM deprivation impairs this process (Greenberg et al., 1970); (Greenberg, Pillard & Pearlman, 1972a).

In a study of patients with traumatic war neuroses, we found that the greater the subject's awareness of aroused conflictual material before sleep, the greater was the pressure to dream, as reflected by REM latency (time between sleep onset and first REM period.

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