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Cooper, S.H. Hartmann, E. (1986). Hostility Levels of Lifetime Nightmare Sufferers: A Test of a Clinical Hypothesis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 3(4):373-377.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 3(4):373-377

Hostility Levels of Lifetime Nightmare Sufferers: A Test of a Clinical Hypothesis

Steven H. Cooper, Ph.D. and Ernest Hartmann, M.D.

Psychoanalytic theorists such as Mack (1970) have hypothesized that the failure to master various conflicts involving aggression toward valued others during childhood may be related, in part, to the persistence of nightmares into adult life. Research by Hartmann and a group of investigators (Hartmann, Russ, Oldfield, Sivian, & Cooper, in press; Hartmann, Russ, van der Kolk, Falke, & Oldfield, 1981) emphasized the importance of boundary disturbance among nightmare sufferers but did not focus directly on the degree to which higher levels of hostility might account for lifelong nightmares. The present study examined hostility levels through both ratings of thematic content on the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and blind clinical summaries of the TAT among lifelong nightmare sufferers, ordinary dreamers, and vivid dreamers. Nightmare sufferers do not appear to be high in levels of hostility relative to vivid and ordinary dreamers. Instead, in agreement with Hartmann's earlier reports, the results suggest that the occurrence of nightmares may reflect the individual's inability to protect the self from ordinary levels of hostility through a variety of symbolic and defensive transformations.

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