Expressive Writing About Dreams That Follow Trauma and Loss

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Abstract

In a study of expressive writing about impactful dreams, the effects of writing instructions (factual writing, emotional writing, experiential writing) were examined among individuals who had recently experienced either significant trauma or significant loss. Among those who had recently experienced trauma, both emotional writing and experiential writing about their impactful dreams accentuated traumatic distress. However, experiential writing distinctively facilitated the affirmation (or rehearsal) of a trauma narrative that emphasized unintentional responsibility rather than direct self-blame. In contrast, among those who had recently experienced loss, absorption in the revisualized dream predicted significant (but unspecified) shifts in self-perception, especially in the experiential writing condition. While the trauma-specific effects of expressive writing are consistent with prior research suggesting that expressive writing benefits those who have recently experienced trauma but not those who have recently experienced loss, the present results suggest the importance of examining population-specific outcomes in studies of the psychological benefits of expressive writing about dreams.

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