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Katz, J. (1988). The Night Mare. Ernest Hartmann. New York: Basic Books, 1984, viii + 294 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(3):489-491.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(3):489-491

The Night Mare. Ernest Hartmann. New York: Basic Books, 1984, viii + 294 pp.

Review by:
Josepth Katz

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was based on a nightmare in which Robert Louis Stevenson saw a man change from a handsome gentleman into a hideous monster. Likewise, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula were also based on the authors' nightmares. Hartmann, in his study of subjects with frequent nightmares, develops the hypothesis that having nightmares is associated with sensitivity and artistic or creative tendencies. He then attempts to explore in some depth the oft-postulated link between genius and madness. Hartmann suggests that one important aspect of what constitutes an artist or a sufferer of nightmares is having a psychological makeup of thin boundaries. This includes the ability to experience and take in a great deal from inside and outside, to experience one's own inner life in a very direct fashion and (sometimes an unwanted ability), to experience the world more directly, more painfully than others. Hartmann is not clear as to what these “thin boundaries” imply in terms of personality theory, nor does he try to explain or tie in his vague characteristics of a “thin boundaried person” with current theories of borderline disorders, notably those of Kernsberg, Masterson, and Meissner.

Hartmann minimizes the contributions of Freud, Jones, and Mack on the nightmare. He cannot view the nightmare as essentially portraying a wish as fulfilled or as a punishment for the wish.

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