Dreaming in Color

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Reporter Margaret Talbot takes us along to visit the Maimonides Sleep Arts & Sciences center in Albuquerque to learn about nightmares. Her story begins with a series of case studies detailing patients’ ailments—receptionist Toni, graduate student Yael, flight attendant Joan, widower Ed—are four among many patients who are gripped by quiet terrors once the lights go out. These individuals have all chosen to seek treatment through a fairly new method of clinical dream psychiatry published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Barry Krakow, the head doctor at Maimonides. Following this treatment method, patients are asked to focus on their nightmares as the source of their problems, contradicting traditional popular Freudian lines of thinking, which names an often traumatic, past, external cause as the nightmare source. Throughout therapy, patients are encouraged to discuss and “rewrite” their nightscapes with a positive twist. The hope is that this positive thinking will trickle into the patient’s dream state and eventually turn nightmares into pleasant dreams.

Relating to color, the article makes note of a study conducted in China by University of California Riverside professor Eric Schwitzgebel and two chinese colleagues Changbing Huang and Yifeng Zhou who confront the question of whether people dream in color, “Most Americans now claim that they dream in color. So did most people who asked themselves that question before the early twentieth century, including Aristotle, Descartes and Freud. But in the middle of the twentieth century most people began reporting that they dreamed in black-and-white.” In Schwitzgebel, Huang and Zhou’s findings individuals who watched color images on television or in film were more apt to dream in colors, “‘dreams may be neither colored nor black and white, leaving the colors of most of their objects unspecified, as novels do. Perhaps it takes time and energy to fill in all the colors in a richly detailed scene, with the result that most of our dream imagery is fairly sketchy.'” Regardless. Dream on.

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Image by Flickr member Delphine

Written by Angie Mah

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