An exploratory study on the relationship between dissociation in waking life and negative contents in dreams

Victor K.-L. Cheung


Even though the relationship between nightmare and dissociation is investigated in western populations with mental illness, relevant dream studies in non-patient Chinese population, and about specific type of nightmares, are completely lacking. According to continuity hypothesis of dreaming, nightmares reflect the negative emotion, mental conditions, and symptomatology of waking life. The present study recruited 608 participants without any record of mental disorder from student recruitment day. Five-hundred-and-ninety-eight of them completed the full set of questionnaire about dissociation and nightmare. As expected, the results suggest a significant and positive relationship between dissociative experiences and nightmare frequency or 13 nightmare themes about movement restriction, paranoia of being harm, psychosomatic anxiety, and natural disaster. Not surprisingly, people who have more dissociative experiences during their waking lives may have more nightmares while dreaming. The weakness is that all correlations found are significant but low, and, the nightmare frequency is also low. They would weaken the power of support to continuity hypothesis. Even so, this study will help researchers identify specific dream types of nightmares for further analysis and provoke practitioners’ thought on how studies of dreams are beneficial for mental health.


Dissociative experiences, continuity hypothesis, typical dreams, nightmares, anxiety

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