Linking psychological need experiences to daily and recurring dreams

Motiv Emot. 2018;42(1):50-63. doi: 10.1007/s11031-017-9656-0. Epub 2017 Nov 30.


The satisfaction of individuals' psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, as conceived from a self-determination theory perspective, is said to be conducive to personal growth and well-being. What has been unexamined is whether psychological need-based experiences, either their satisfaction or frustration, manifests in people's self-reported dream themes as well as their emotional interpretation of their dreams. A cross-sectional study (N = 200; M age = 21.09) focusing on individuals' recurrent dreams and a three-day diary study (N = 110; M age = 25.09) focusing on daily dreams indicated that individuals experiencing psychological need frustration, either more enduringly or on a day-to-day basis, reported more negative dream themes and interpreted their dreams more negatively. The contribution of psychological need satisfaction was more modest, although it related to more positive interpretation of dreams. The discussion focuses on the role of dreams in the processing and integration of psychological need-frustrating experiences.

Keywords: Dreams; Emotions; Need frustration; Need satisfaction; Self-determination theory.