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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Self-Disturbed Dream



I once worked with an adherent of psychoanalytic theory who professed the ability to interpret people’s dreams. Perhaps I’m a bit too skeptical than to naïvely concede that anyone retains the capacity to do so.


Nevertheless, the individual in question proclaimed to understand dream content. Regarding this topic, one source states, “Content in Freudian dream analysis refers to two closely connected aspects of the dream: the manifest content (the dream itself as it is remembered), and the latent content (the hidden meaning of the dream).”


Although I’m suspicious of those who claim to thoroughly understand what dream content of other people means, I was given an opportunity to make sense of a dream I had last night when waking this morning. To do this, I examined and determined the dream content through the lens of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).


When in the United States (U.S.) Marine Corps, I served on a diplomatic tactical team as a Marine Security Guard (MSG). The first post to which I was assigned was at the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.


As a junior member of the Marine detachment (det), I was subject to bullying in the form of extra assigned duties, written disparagement from other Marines in a “dog log” book, continued written admonishments in my performance file, and other forms of disparate treatment.


Prior to my arrival in Rio, there was another junior Marine who was said to have received similar treatment. Herein, I’ll refer to him as “Busta.” Once I entered the det, the other Marines proportionately relaxed their mistreatment of Busta and predominately focused on me.


Whereas Busta told me he generally remained silent about the bullying, I was unlike him in this regard. In fact, before I knew of REBT I was quite confrontational. Therefore, I wasn’t well-liked by many of the Marines of MSG det Rio, because I poked back.


As we were outfitted to serve as a tactical unit, MSGs functioned in a similar manner as special weapons and tactics members who were skilled at use of small arms deployment and strategic countermeasures within the consulate. Still, division within the det reminded me of a circular firing squad which wasn’t special or strategic.


Last night, I had a dream about members of my former det. Busta was in the dream and told me something along the lines of, “No one here likes you.” From a Freudian perspective, that was the manifest content of my dream and upon waking I felt sad.


Unlike the psychoanalysts who purport to interpret latent content of dreams, I didn’t need to speculate about the hidden meaning of my dream. Rather, I used REBT to quickly resolve my unpleasant mood.


While it may be beneficial to some people to seek abstract understanding about unconscious motivations, I made sense of my dream from information I could readily verify. As such, REBT removes the illusion of interpretation and allows a person to address matters in a concrete manner.


Through the lens of REBT, I knew there wasn’t an Action-Consequence connection regarding my dream. In other words, having an unfavorable dream (Action) isn’t why I felt sad (Consequence).


Alternatively, during the unfavorable dream (Action) I maintained an unhelpful assumption (Belief). It was the presence of an irrational belief that later resulted in sorrow (Consequence). In this way, I disturbed myself with a Belief-Consequence connection.


The ABC model of REBT acknowledges the Action, assesses the Belief, explores the Consequence of self-disturbing assumptions, Disputes the unhelpful attitudes people maintain, and invites people to consider more Effective new beliefs which better serve their interests and goals.


This process doesn’t require any woo-woo nonsense whereby a psychotherapist essentially guesses what a dream means. As such, I understand that I likely believed about what Busta told me in my dream was something like, “I can’t stand not to be valued in the det!” That rigid belief caused sorrow.


When I awoke from the dream, I asked myself, “If it were true that I couldn’t stand being devalued by MSG det Rio, how is it I made it through the experience?” After all, one of the senior Marines ultimately pulled some strings with our parent command in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and had me transferred from the det earlier than expected.


I not only tolerated the mistreatment endured by det members, I subsequently accepted that I was deprived an opportunity other Marines enjoyed when I was transferred early. When admitting truth to myself, I was able to quickly move from sorrow to disappointment this morning.


For many of the clients with whom I work, disappointment is a preferable outcome of the ABC model. However, I’m an REBT practitioner and I was willing to push further in the disputation process regarding my own self-disturbed dream.


As I was exiting my bed this morning, I reminded myself, “I left Rio in July of 2000, and that was over 23 years ago. Am I gonna let a dream about the past ruin this day?” At that, I laughed and transitioned from disappointment to confidence which comes with unconditional life-acceptance.


My self-disturbed dream was an example of an automatic irrational belief. I didn’t intentionally hurt myself with my attitude about my time attached to MSG det Rio. After all, I was asleep and had no conscious way of knowing that I was making myself sad.


Nevertheless, I was self-disturbed upon waking. Rather than wallowing in despair, I immediately began disputing the content of the dream. Whether or not this content was manifest or latent mattered very little.


It’s important to understand that people can disturb themselves even during sleep. However, it’s when waking that an individual is able to reduce self-disturbance. I did this through use of REBT techniques and so can you.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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