War Psycho-Neurosis—II

F. W. Mott
1918 Scientific American  
I HAVE asked numbers of soldiers and officers to write down their recurrent dreams for me, and I possess a considerable number of such records. Almost without exception they have a direct relation to war experi ences. This method avoids suggestion on my part by putting leading questions. I ask them to state how far the dream is related to previous experience and whether any particular dream or dreams constantly recur. I tell them that a correct description in writing will prove a valuable means
more » ... of throwing off the terri fying effects. In only one instance was there any pro nounced sexual basis; the subject of that particular dream, which constantly recurred, was of a disgusting and horrible nature, and when it occurred gave rise to most distressing hysterical manifestations. The patient was a private and wrote down the nature of this dream on condition that I would never make it public. ' Whether, as he affirmed, he had actually wit nessed the scene, or whether, as is possible, it was gross exaggeration, or a delusion arising from a recurrent dream, I am unable to say. In one case, however, the patient when just dozing oQff was disgusted by the smell of dead bodies, and this smell was followed by horrifying visions of putrified 'corpses. He explained it by the fact that he had been -serving some time at the front, and the continuous shell fi re had shattered his nerves, rendering him unable to continue to fight in the trenches, and he had latterly been employed in burying the dead. A very common complaint of soldiers is a falling feeling; this is not limited to men in the R. F. C., although it is usual for them to dream of their especial experiences. A not infrequent dream is that they are 'engaged in bombing or fighting; that their machine is hit, and that they are descending in an aeroplane in 'flames. It does not necessarily mean that this has been their experience, but the anticipation of the possibility 'of such a catastrophe from the knowledge of the fate of 'others has left such a deep impression on the mind that the imagination provides the source of the terrifying dream. A very remarkable ,dream of an officer of sound nerv 'ous constitution is worthy of full consideration, and I will merely record what he wrote, for it clearly shows 'his dream accords with his experience, and it illustrates :how true is the observation of Lucretius: "And generally to whatever pursuit a man is closely tied down and strongly attached, on whatever subject we havl\ previously much dwelt, the mind having been put to a more than usual strain in it, we for the most part fancy we are engaged in the same." This is the one instance in which an individual has dreamt the experience of hunger and thirst in addition to battle experience.
doi:10.1038/scientificamerican03231918-183asupp fatcat:mn4ymz5gcfh2jlxzob7cvzpbfm