“When you look at the dreams of patients with PTSD, you see these nearly veridical ‘replays’ of the actual trauma event,” says Stickgold.
This sort of dreaming just doesn’t happen in healthy people. “When you collect dream reports from normal people and ask if they know what actual events might have caused their dreams, the dream event has always been changed in that bizarre, somewhat meaningful, but crazy way,” he says. Stickgold thinks this is a window into how the healthy brain processes new, emotionally-charged memories, integrating them with others in dreams, and in REM dreams especially. In patients with PTSD, that process has broken down.
The definition of hell: to repeat an act for eternity. The association between dreams and freedom – “in your dreams”, “follow your dreams”, “dreams are free” – and the life sentence of a nightmare which is anything but spontaneous, stripped of all potential.