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Brenneis, C.B. (1995). Reply to. Psychoanal. Psychol., 12(4):561-563.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 12(4):561-563

Reply to Alpert (1995) Related Papers

C. Brooks Brenneis, Ph.D.

In her commentary (1995) on Brenneis (1994), Alpert disputed the findings on the relation of dream content to traumatic experience; argued that clinicians, in reconstructing trauma, work from a broader context than dreams; and urged that clinical findings discrepant from research findings not be summarily dismissed. Let me address each point in turn.


Alpert noted that many clinicians have observed that dream content “replicate[s] traumatic experience.” If one understands replicate to mean metaphoric or symbolic rendering, we are in agreement. Alpert, however, appears to take it to mean some literal or direct rendering of traumatic experience and laments my “discrediting” data in support of this idea. A close look at the evidence Alpert refers to reveals the following. Bonaparte (1947) recounts dreams whose resemblance to their traumatic antecedent is confined to the fact that both are about lion attacks. Renik (1981) mentioned dreams that literally parallel trauma, but he no longer had the dream texts when he was asked for them (personal communication, August, 1993). Van der Kolk, Britz, Burr, Sherry, and Hartmann (1984) took the word of combat veterans that their dreams exactly replicated actual battle experiences without collecting either dreams or memories for comparison. Finally, Terr (1979, 1990) gives the full text of two “exact repeat” dreams, but these accounts are extremely sparse and general.

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