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Dreams and their central imagery: A factor analysis of the CI Construct and how this relates to emotion and trauma


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Bilsborrow, GP 2012 , 'Dreams and their central imagery: A factor analysis of the CI Construct and how this relates to emotion and trauma', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The contemporary theory of dreaming proposed by Hartmann (2011) states that the
function of dreaming is to make broad connections in the mind in order to integrate new
material into memory systems. This process is not random but guided by the emotional
concerns of the dreamer, which helps the dreamer by integrating sometimes distressing
experiences by building meaningful emotional memory systems. This theory has as one
of its core constructs a scale that measures the central imagery (CI) of a dream and this
rating is said to be an indicator of the emotional concerns of the dreamer. Research has
demonstrated that higher CIs are found after traumatic events, are higher in people with
a history of abuse, and in people who have thinner boundaries. However, findings from
a recent study suggested that CI may not be unitary, a fact which would have an impact
on future research in this area. The present studies examined the underlying factor
structure of CI. In study one, we collected the dreams of 99 people for a total of 230
dreams which were rated using Hartmann's CI scale as well as a scale which rates the
descriptor words associated with CI. Dreamers also stated the level of emotion in their
dreams and completed measures of dissociation and of boundaries in the mind. We
found that CI was best thought of as having three dimensions, which were considered to
be related to the visual, impact and attention aspects of the imagery. It was found that
CI was not significantly related to boundaries or dissociation, but it was related to
emotion. The impact and attention factors were related to emotion but the visual factor
was not. In study two, we attempted to replicate the three factor structure of CI and also to
explore how CI was related to trauma in a person’s past. We collected two dreams each
from 143 participants and asked them to rate each dream again for emotion. We also
asked whether they had a history of trauma, and if so, we explored variables associated
with this trauma such as length of time since the trauma, level of distress at the time,
peritraumatic events, trauma and trait coping, impact of the event on their lives and
current distress. We expected to 1) replicate the three factor structure and also to find
that 2) CI was related to current and trauma related distress, peritraumatic events,
current functioning and dream emotion. There was partial support for hypothesis one in
that statistically we replicated the three factor solution, but two factors had better
economy. There was partial support for hypothesis two as overall CI and CI factors
were positively correlated with dream emotion and peritraumatic events. However, CI
was not related to other indications of trauma such as past and current distress, trauma
related coping, the development of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and the
impact of the trauma on the person’s life. CI was significantly related to emotion at a
similar level to what was found in study one.
Hartmann's theory would predict current distress to be related to CI or the CI
factors. As dream emotion and CI were correlated, the current findings raise the
question as to the mechanisms that increase the intensity of CI. Future research should
use longitudinal designs to explore the relationships between dream imagery and
emotion, trauma and coping.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Bilsborrow, GP
Keywords: dreams, imagery, trauma, factor analysis, emotion, central imagery scale, PTSD
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