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Palombo, S.R. (1987). The Nightmare. The Psychology and Biology of Terrifying Dreams: By Ernest Hartmann. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1984. 294 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:380-382.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:380-382

The Nightmare. The Psychology and Biology of Terrifying Dreams: By Ernest Hartmann. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1984. 294 pp.

Review by:
Stanley R. Palombo

Do different kinds of people dream different kinds of dreams? Information is sparse on this important question. With the possible exception of Harold L. Levitan's work on the dreams of psychosomatic patients, attempts to correlate psychopathology with dreaming have not been conclusive. In The Nightmare, Ernest Hartmann approaches the issue from another direction. His results are surprising and interesting.

Hartmann's population of nightmare dreamers is a self-selected group recruited through newspaper advertisements. In the laboratory, they are clearly distinguishable from normal controls and from another control group that reports unusually vivid dreams that lack the frightening quality of the nightmare. As a group, the nightmare sufferers see themselves as especially creative people and try to live creative lives. They tend to be writers, artists, teachers, and therapists, often quite successful in their work.

They report having had frequent nightmares since childhood and continuing to have at least one per week as adults. They have more psychopathology than the control groups, usually of a schizoid rather than neurotic type. They have few defenses, seem to be unusually sensitive in a variety of ways, and demonstrate a characteristic that Hartmann calls thin or permeable boundaries.

Hartmann's description and interpretation of the thin boundaries concept is one of the major contributions of the book. The permeable boundaries of the nightmare sufferers permit them to identify with the experiences of others who are quite different from themselves, and to experiment imaginatively with otherness of time and place as well as person.

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