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9-11 dream study [Apr. 21st, 2007|10:35 pm]
Laughing Moon
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In an attempt to waken the slumbering beast that is Laughing Moon, I thought I'd post something that appears to be pertinent to the sleepy conversation once in a while...Such as, for instance, the following -- excerpted from this article focusing on the dreams of people in the two weeks before and after 9-11 (the "before" part is actually quite interesting to ponder, is it not?):

(Ruth) Propper (an associate professor of psychology at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass) said the relationship of dreams to daily stress levels is still being debated. "Some people think that dreams relieve or ease stress; others that dreams merely reflect processing that leads to decreased stress; and others think there is no relationship," she explained.

However, in this study, "we interpreted dreaming about specific references to 9/11 as indicative of stress," Propper said. In other words, dream imagery such as burning towers, crashing jetliners and the like were thought to indicate more stress than vaguer imagery not directly tied to 9/11.

The journals revealed that "the content of people's dreams changed after 9/11," Propper said. For example, compared to dreams occurring in the weeks before the event, "dreams after 9/11 were twice as likely to contain specific references to 9/11, to be threatening, or to contain themes related to 9/11," the researcher said.

But not every student had the same level of frightening 9/11 imagery in their dreams.

Specifically, participants who watched the most TV coverage of the attacks were also most likely to have dreams with high levels of explicit elements of 9/11, suggestive -- according to Propper -- of higher stress levels. In fact, the likelihood of this type of imagery rose with the number of hours per day that students watched 9/11 coverage (anywhere from one to 12 hours daily, according to student reports).

This research isn't unique, Propper noted. One study, published in 2003 in the journal Dreaming, yielded similar findings among 16 people who had kept dream diaries during the month before and after 9/11.

How this study might relate to creativity lies between the lines. If we have an understanding that artists (or "artistic people") tend to be more attuned to what is going on both around and inside of them, it isn't difficult to make the leap from "anxiety dreams" about current events to the kinds of imagery and/or dissonant sounds (or lyrics) that might find their way into the literature/visual art/music we create during times of tension. We of course tend to dream more violent dreams when we feel some sort of internal stress, be it over our personal situation or over the situation our world is mired in. It seems to me that the collective unconscious, to use Jung's phrase, is at work in us all, thereby "providing" such dreams and/or inspiration to create work that is relevant to our times, no matter how surreal/irreal or difficult to interpret/deconstruct our work may be (the Surrealists may have focused a lot on Freudian sex, but they also focused a lot on politics).

The article/study specifically links bad dreams to the amount of television (i.e. news) a person watches (up to 12 hours a day! yow...). Has anyone here ever used that most wretched of contraptions, the "groove tube," as a receptacle through which their creative endeavors have evolved in some way? While I myself don't watch much television, I must admit to frequently being moved by things I hear or read about in the news, and by documentaries (e.g. "An Inconvenient Truth," "Why We Fight," "Who Killed the Electric Car?," etc.). There is little doubt that these kinds of films have inched their way under my skin and into my subconscious mind, my dreams/fears, and certainly my creative work. How about you? Any thoughts/comments?


[User Picture]From: louise_norlie
2007-04-22 08:06 pm (UTC)
I agree with your conclusions, particularly that the "collective unconscious" created by current events in the world and in our lives filters down to our dreams and writing. I try to avoid television news, which may account for the fact that my dreams, while strange, aren't generally too dark. Perhaps I should change my viewing habits? I do watch documentaries and I can account for at least one time when this inspired one of my "flash" pieces. I think the visual aspect of television has more impact on dreams than the content itself.

It is interesting that this article is about 9/11 dreams. I did have a distinct 9/11 nightmare, but it didn't impact my creative work.
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From: malo23
2007-04-23 03:38 am (UTC)
Would you be willing to share your 9-11 nightmare with us? Have you ever considered incorporating the imagery into a short fiction or prose poem?

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[User Picture]From: louise_norlie
2007-04-24 04:21 pm (UTC)
The content of the 9/11 nightmare was not unusual: a fiery conflagration with falling bodies. There was not so much plot as imagery. I may try to incorporate it someday into writing because I know I will never forget the dream, which took place during the week after 9/11. This is the odd part: when I woke from the dream, the walls of my room were spinning around me. I was extremely dizzy and nauseous, and couldn't eat or do anything all morning. I had no idea what caused the illness. For a while, I thought I might have taken too many sleeping pills. It was only later in the day that I realized that the illness was psychosomatic in origin. I haven't had such an experience since.
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