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July 9, 2001

Republicans more likely than Democrats to have nightmares, says researcher

By Jennifer McNulty

The voting booth is not the only place differences emerge between Republicans and Democrats, according to a researcher who has found that Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to experience nightmares when they dream.

Not only is the frequency of nightmares much higher among Republicans, but the content is different, too: The nightmares of Republicans tend to be characterized by more aggression, misfortune, and physical threats to family and friends, while Democrats' nightmares are moderated by familiar settings, familiar characters, and more elements of hope, power, and positive action, said Kelly Bulkeley, a dream researcher who will present his findings during the 18th Annual International Conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams, which takes place July 10-15 at UC Santa Cruz.

"Half of the dreams of Republicans in my study were classified as nightmares, compared to only about 18 percent of the dreams of Democrats," said Bulkeley. "My speculation is that people on the right are very attuned to the dangers in the world, and they're seeking ways to defend themselves against those threats. They're drawn to a political ideology that favors things like a strong military and traditional moral values. People on the left tend to be more utopian and open to the possibility of going beyond the way things are now to how things could be made better."

Bulkeley's presentation will take place on Wednesday, July 11, in Oakes College, Room 105, from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m. It is one of more than 100 events being featured during the conference, including presentations by the world's foremost dream researchers, authors, and clinicians. Workshops and seminars will feature psychological, medical, artistic, anthropological, spiritual, and cinematic perspectives on dreaming. A weekend symposium July 14-15 will focus on "Nightmares and the Life Cycle: Psychological and Biological Perspectives." The complete schedule of events is on the web at http://www.asdreams.org. Some highlights follow:

  • During a symposium on "Dreams, Illness, Facing Death, and Grieving," Tallulah Lyons will discuss her work with a long-term dream group of cancer survivors who have been using visualization and nightmare images in treatment and recovery; transformed images correlate with biochemical changes in the direction of healing.

  • Research sessions will focus on new directions in dream research, featuring presentations on the differences between men's and women's dreams and the use of dreams in problem solving; accuracy of dream recall; and a session about the experiences of trauma survivors in dream groups, including brain-trauma survivors, the homeless, war veterans, and AIDS dementia patients.

  • G. William Domhoff, research professor of psychology and sociology at UC Santa Cruz and a leading dream scholar, will present a workshop on advanced methods for the scientific study of long dream journals. The author of Finding Meaning in Dreams: A Quantitative Approach, Domhoff is a major advocate of the use of a sophisticated new content analysis method to study the nature and meaning of dreams. His research is described on the World Wide Web at http://psych.ucsc.edu/dreams/.

  • Another session will feature comparative interpretations of a dream series with panelists representing different schools of dream interpretation. Panelists include Domhoff (above) and Veronica Tonay, a lecturer in psychology at UCSC and the author of The Creative Dreamer.

  • Robert Bosnak will lead a three-part session on dreamwork techniques that are used with patients suffering from severe physical illness, in psychotherapy, and by actors, visual artists, and writers to enhance their work.

  • Researcher Stanley Krippner will present a paper on exotic dreams, the content of which is purportedly telepathic, clairvoyant, creative, lucid, out of body, or referring to past-life experiences. Based on 1,666 dream reports gathered in Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States, Krippner's study found that Russian reports contained more exotic elements than those from other countries.

  • Expressive arts workshops and a conferencewide art exhibit of dream-inspired artwork.

  • A panel discussion by six long-term keepers of dream journals who will discuss their own approaches and explore techniques, benefits, and the research value of the personal dream journal.

  • Screening of the Emmy-winning HBO movie Goodnight Moon and Other Sleepy Time Tales, featuring children talking about dreams and narration by Billy Crystal and Susan Sarandon.

The Association for the Study of Dreams is an international organization dedicated to the investigation of dreams. Members represent a variety of dream-related activities, including academic research, clinical practice, and individual study. For conference fee information, please visit the association's web site at http://www.asdreams.org.

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