Dreaming in quarantine: linguistic analysis of referential process of dreams during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown



  • Rachele Mariani | rachele.mariani@uniroma1.it Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, and Health Studies, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5952-3525
  • Silvia Monaco Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, and Health Studies, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6838-7537
  • Christopher Christian City College, City University of New York, New York, NY, United States. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3389-9206
  • Michela Di Trani Department of Dynamic and Clinical Psychology, and Health Studies, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.


The spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) became a collective trauma adversely affecting physical and psychological health. The impact of this trauma made itself manifest in a myriad of ways, including through dreams. This study aimed to explore the Referential Process (RP, Bucci, 2021) of dreams reported during quarantine. Dream samples were collected through a social blog. Linguistic analysis and clinical evaluation were conducted to explore the group’s collective elaboration of a shared traumatic experience. Sixty-eight people (22 males; mean age 26.16 ds. 7.68) contributed to a social-blog, writing their dreams. 91 dreams were collected and transcribed using transcription rules for the Discourse Attributes Analysis Program (DAAP). Linguistic measures of RP were applied and a statistical cluster analysis was performed. In addition, each dream was evaluated by trained judges on three specific qualities of the RP (Arousal, Symbolizing, and Reflection/Reorganizing). Clinical judges in a double-blinded method reached reliable scoring (Arousal α.874 ICC 0.701; Symbolizing α.783 ICC 0.671; Reflection/reorganization α.884 ICC 0.758). Cluster Analysis yielded three dream clusters. 26 dreams fell under a cluster defined as a symbolizing process (Cluster A); 16 into a cluster defined as arousal of emotional activation (Cluster B); and 49 dreams fell into a cluster defined as Reflection/Reorganizing elaboration (Cluster C). Each cluster showed specific linguistic features. The dreams collected through a blog showed a Referential Process that is similar to that found in psychotherapy process. Results suggests that writing dreams can play different functions in processing and integrating social traumatic experience.



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Special Section: Working on dreams, from psychotherapy to neuroscience
Dreams, COVID-19, referential process, collective trauma, linguistic measures.
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How to Cite
Mariani, R., Monaco, S., Christian , C., & Di Trani, M. (2021). Dreaming in quarantine: linguistic analysis of referential process of dreams during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Research in Psychotherapy: Psychopathology, Process and Outcome, 24(2). https://doi.org/10.4081/ripppo.2021.537

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