Dreaming myself: combining dreams, autobiographical writing and psychotherapy in addressing narrative fracture

Dennett, Janet Mary (2014) Dreaming myself: combining dreams, autobiographical writing and psychotherapy in addressing narrative fracture. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This study springs from my experience of what I term ‘narrative fracture’, a life-hiatus or crisis that derails one’s current life pattern and self-identity. It examines the nature of this phenomenon and its possible roots in early infancy and childhood. Three therapeutic modalities: dreams, psychotherapy and autobiographical writing, which were instrumental towards resolution of that narrative fracture for me, are then explored.

The study uses first person heuristic methodology because my own experience, and ongoing process towards resolution, lies at the heart of the research. It also, as part of that methodology, draws on the experience of three ‘textual co-researchers’ as recorded in their autobiographical writings. Each of the segments of the study, narrative fracture, roots of narrative fracture, and modalities towards resolution, are interrogated from three directions: my autobiographical narrative relating to that segment, and extracts from the other authors’ texts of theirs, then examination of these in light of the relevant theory, and finally a reflexive review made of the findings, following thus a pattern, identified by Michelle Davies, of a narrative ‘voice’, an interpretive ‘voice’ and an unconscious ‘voice’.

Most traumatic for me at narrative fracture was loss of self-identity and erupting internal chaos. Psychoanalyst/interpersonal theorist Karen Horney’s theories around the formation of a ‘false self’ and the related palliative measures of addiction and controlling are my foremost source of understanding here. To discover how self-identity is formed and can potentially be impeded, the mother-baby relationship, the issue of attachment, and the crucial involvement of the body in the infant developmental matrix are explored, principally through the works of Donald Winnicott and John Bowlby; and the related development of ‘affect-regulation’ and ‘mentalization’ through Peter Fonagy’s breakthrough work. Ulric Neisser and Jerome Bruner’s theories bring further understanding of development of the self and the socially constructed elements of self-identity. In the process towards ‘reconstruction’ Donald Kalsched’s theory of the crucial necessity of ‘re-traumatization’ is foregrounded, and the study holds this in mind during exploration of the three therapeutic modalities.

Neuroscience and brain research also inform this exploration, and a common denominator is found between the three therapeutic modalities via Ernest Hartmann’s notion of a ‘continuum’ of modes of mental functioning. It is established that the REM programming and reprogramming state, and input from unconscious mental processing are increasingly at work as we operate at the ‘creative’/’dreaming’ end of this continuum, and that here psychotherapy, autobiographical writing and dreaming are all shown to be located.

Four key points emerge in understanding the impact of these three modalities on healing narrative fracture: the centrality of the relational; the emotions as ‘linchpin’; the power of pattern, metaphor and image; and the potency of the sleeping brain.

With its personal accounts, and the new syntheses made between aspects of the different academic fields it mines, this study offers a new perspective on the nature, and lifelong consequences, of early childhood development. It is envisaged that this will provide valuable insight to the burgeoning numbers of quantitative researchers now recognising the need for first person input to their third person research, and to those who are professionally involved in the care of others, as well as to related policy-makers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0636 Applied psychology > BF0637 Special topics A-Z > BF0637.S4 Self-realisation. Self-actualisation
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF1001 Parapsychology > BF1048 Hallucinations. Sleep. Dreaming. Visions
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN3311 Prose. Prose fiction > PN3427 Special kinds of fiction. Fiction genres > PN3448.A8 Autobiographical fiction
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2014 15:57
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015 13:56
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/51129

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