What our dreams might signify is often thought by many to be nonsense. However, new research in the has found that feeling frustrated in daily life could in fact influence what type of dreams you have, and make recurrent nightmares more likely.
Carried out by researchers from the University of Cardiff, the two-part study looked at whether people’s daily frustration or fulfilment of their psychological needs, such as feeling autonomous or competent, affects their dreams.
In the first part, they recruited 200 participants and asked them to write about their most common recurring dream. Participants were asked to provide as much detail as possible, including how positive or negative they perceived the dream to be.
They were also asked to report whether they had experienced any of nine negative common dream themes in their dream, including falling, being attacked or pursued, being frozen with fear, being locked up, the presence of fire, being nude in public, trying repeatedly to do something, failing an examination, being inappropriately dressed, and arriving too late.
For the second study, the team asked 110 participants to keep a “dream diary” over a three-day period, in order to look further into whether fulfulling our psychological needs during the day is related to our dreams at night.
The results from both studies showed that the frustrations and emotions associated with unfulfilled psychological needs did indeed influence the themes noticed in people’s dreams.
The team found that participants who felt frustrated that their psychological needs were not met, whether it was on a day-to-day basis or over a longer period of time, were more likely to report negative dreams which were frightening or included feelings of anger or sadness.
In particular, the results from the first study also showed that people who were frustrated with their daily situation tended to have recurring dreams in which they were falling, failing or being attacked.
Frustrated participants were also more likely to interpret their dreams negatively, whereas those whose psychological needs were met were more likely to describe their dreams positively.
“Waking-life psychological need experiences are indeed reflected in our dreams,” concluded lead author Netta Weinstein. “Negative dream emotions may directly result from distressing dream events, and might represent the psyche’s attempt to process and make sense of particularly psychologically challenging waking experiences.”
The results can be found published online in the journal “Motivation and Emotion”. JB