Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gambling With Dreams

While writing up a recent manuscript on addictions and dream interpretation an interesting finding was revealed with The Storytelling Method (TSM). Participants reporting an addiction (alcohol, drugs, sugar, food, or cigarettes)participated by completing self-report measures of waking day mood and completing a TSM worksheet. With TSM both a dream and discovery or meaning of that dream was reported. Many past findings were confirmed including "using" dreams, unpleasantness, cravings, repressed substance use, and images continuous of waking day preoccupations (e.g. Araujo, Oliveira & Piccoloto, 2004; Choi, 1973; Denzin, 1988; Fiss, 1980; Hajek & Belcher, 1991).

One new and interesting findings was the correlation between discovery about waking day gambling, tension/anxiety in waking day, and anger in dreams. It was found that people who scored low in tension/anxiety in waking day reported their dream to be about gambling. Also, those who were high in anger in their dreams (via content analysis) also reported discovery to be about gambling in waking day.
These findings imply that high anger in the dreams of addicts may be an important feature that is linked to gambling in waking day. It is important to note, that gambling was not reported as an addiction by any of the participants.

In a further analysis with a regression model, it was found that anger in dreams predicted discovery about gambling in waking day. For example, participants reported such things as; I have been spending my time at the casino, or, my family and friends are telling me that I gamble too much. Again, this finding has important implications for working with addictions.

Dream interpretation with TSM was found to be useful with addicts since it led them to relevant waking day discoveries (e.g. I miss my drinking friends, I need to go to an AA meeting soon). The finding that anger in dreams was linked to discovery about gambling suggests that further research needs to be done in this area. Also, since addictions seems to occur in clusters then gaining insight about another possible addictions with dream work, would be very valuable.

In an extensive literature search only a handful of empirical studies have been found linking addictions with dreams and discovery. The research, past and present, suggests that this be studied on a larger scale but also, that the applied implications may be quite far reaching.


  1. Il mio interesse riguarda più le dipendenze da sostanza ( alcool , droghe , cibo …) . Anche in questo caso sono stati trovati alti e significativi livelli di rabbia e di dolore?

    Della mia esperienza terapeutica ho presente le situazioni non tanto di dipendenza , quanto di astinenza da alcool , da sostanze ….e il sogno le registra puntualmente .
    E questo probabilmente è indice di un certo stato cerebrale “ difficile” .
    In queste situazioni ho trovato soprattutto immagini di insetti , di scarafaggi, di crepe nel soffitto o alle pareti a forma di insetto….
    Credo che queste immagini ci possano dare uno strumento utile anche per l’intervento psicoterapico tramite , per esempio tecniche di rilassamento o ipnosi ecc.
    Cosa ne pensi?

  2. Donatella says...My interest is in substance dependences (alcohol, drugs, food…). Also in this case were there meaningful levels of anger and pain found?

    Of my therapeutic experience imagery can foresee the situation, not so much about dependence, but much of alcohol abstinence, from substances, and the dream records this.
    This is probably an index of a certain cerebral “difficulty.”

    In these situations I have found above all, images of bugs, cockroaches, of cracks in the ceiling, or in the walls in the form of bugs.
    I believe that these images can also give us a useful tool for the interventions, for example, techniques of relaxation or hypnosis etc.
    What do you think of it?

    We certainly found that high levels of anger in the dreams were related to discovery of gambling in waking day. We did not find pain in the dreams but did see it in discovery or meaning. People reported pain in relation to their addiction and also being pain-free since they quit using the substance.

    It is very interesting that Donatella sees images of bugs and other microzooscopic images. I too, see this in my work and people have reported this many times in the past. Unfortunately, this imagery has not been studied in detail. In our study we did find that "animals" in dreams were related to the number of characters in dreams.
    Also, animals predicted discovery of one's emotions. In previous research we have found animals to be related to waking day anxiety (DeCicco, unpublished data).

    More importantly, imagery of bugs, rodents and other microzooscopic imagery should be examined in detail. This is a common imagery with addictions and may be a very important diagnositic marker.