The Meaningful Patterns of Dreams: A New Study

A brief update on a study of the dreams of a former religious cult member.

Posted Jan 26, 2018

A new article shows that many important aspects of a person’s waking life concerns can be clearly identified in the word usage patterns of her dreams.  The article is titled “The meaningful continuities between dreaming and waking: Results of a blind analysis of a woman’s thirty-year dream journal,” and I have just finished and sent a revised draft to the journal Dreaming, which will publish it sometime in 2018. 

The participant in this study, “Beverly,” is a fascinating person in many ways.  As the article describes, she was a member of a religious cult for many years, then left the group after a series of violent conflicts.  Her dreams chronicle her life during the period when she was a member of the group and immediately afterwards; this is incredibly interesting material from a research perspective, and my article is just the first effort to begin exploring Beverly’s collection of dreams.  

Her journals include more than 6,000 reports, of which only a subset of about 1,000 was analyzed for my project (all of which are currently available for further study in the Sleep and Dream Database).  Right now she is working on transcribing her handwritten dream journals into a format that can be studied using digital tools of analysis.  Beverly is at least as excited as I am about this project, and we will both be making presentations at a research panel at the upcoming annual conference

Kelly Bulkeley
Source: Kelly Bulkeley

in June 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona. More on that later.

Here is the abstract for the article:

This paper reports the findings of a new exercise in the “blind analysis” of a long dream series.  The study focused on 940 dreams from a woman (“Beverly”) who kept a regular dream journal for thirty years. Four subsets of her dreams (from 1986, 1996, 2006, and 2016) were analyzed using a digital word search template, then predictions were made about Beverly’s waking life based on the word usage frequencies of her dreams. Twenty-six predictions were made, of which Beverly confirmed twenty-three as accurate.

The correct inferences included aspects of Beverly’s emotional temperament, preoccupations, relationships, financial concerns, physical health, and cultural interests, especially revolving around religion and spirituality.  The waking-dreaming continuities identified by the blind analysis method in this study strongly support the claims by Hall, Domhoff, Schredl, and others that patterns in dream content have meaningful connections with people’s concerns, interests, and activities in waking life.