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An overview of the dreaming process and the selective affective theory of sleep and dreams

The dream exists as an experience extended in time which can be captured in the dream report as an excellent approximation of the experience. Dreams can be adequately collected and reliably measured. Dream reports are both stable and variable across time. Dream reports show meaningful content differences in group and individual situations where psychological differences are known to exist. Dreams and waking life are linked and dreams are responsive to the immediate emotional concern of the dreamer. The dream is sufficiently orderly that the search for its meaning is justified. Methods exist to establish the meaning of the dream experience working with dreamer through associations or amplification. A method “Dream Translation” is described in which the meaning of the dream report is explored using the associations of the translator rather than of the dreamers. The translation approach could be used by the clinician to assess whether the patient has improved and to establish the immediate current emotional concern of the patient at initial contact or at points of block in the therapy. Although the dream report has the necessary characteristics to establish a meaning from it; this does not address the possible functional significance of dreaming. I describe here my selective, mood regulatory function of sleep and dreaming. We have explored this question more thoroughly in a monograph on dream function (Moffitt et al., The functions of dreaming, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1993)

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