The Dream Journal
The Dream Journal
Helplessness, Trauma, and Nightmares with Dr. Greg Mahr

Can we predict who will develop PTSD? Our guest, Dr. Greg Mahr, studies patients with acute trauma, and he discovered that their dreams in the days and weeks after their injury suggest who will recover fully and who will be mired in PTSD months later. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that occurs after trauma marked by intense nightmares and increased risk of suicide, but only about 30% of those traumatized go on to develop PTSD. In Dr. Mahr’s acute trauma center in Detroit, he interviews victims of car accidents and assaults and asks about their dreams in the days immediately after the trauma and finds that experiences of helplessness in their dreams and during their trauma correlate with the development of PTSD.

After the traumatic event, nightmares tend to replicate the event exactly, but changes soon develop in those who recover in which the person finds some agency and the dreams eventually start to have happier endings. This mimics the process of IRT, Image Rehearsal Therapy, in which people can deliberately change their nightmares by imagining new versions of the troubling dreams.

Dr. Mahr speculates that one of the purposes of dreaming is to encourage us to talk about our traumas and that they help us develop a narrative about the event. We take a question from Amy about how to bring up the topic of nightmares with a doctor and end by talking about post-traumatic growth and the idea that dreams are messages from ourselves.

BIO: Greg Mahr MD is a psychiatrist, a teacher and a writer. He is director of Consultation Liaison Psychiatry at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and is on faculty at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dream work and Jungian depth psychology have been long standing passions for Greg, and at over 5000 dreams, he has one of the most extensive collection of personal dreams in the world.

Find our guest at:

Show aired on August 26, 2023.

Intro music is Water over Stones and outro music is Everything both by Mood Science. Ambient music is created new every week by Rick Kleffel. The audio can be found at Many thanks to Rick Kleffel for also engineering the show, to Tony Russomano for answering the phones and to Ewa Malady for audio editing.


Contact Katherine Bell with feedback or suggestions for future shows at Follow her on FB and IG @ExperientialDreamwork to find out about upcoming shows. To learn more or to inquire about exploring your own dreams with her go to

The Dream Journal is produced at and airs on KSQD Santa Cruz, 90.7 FM. Catch it streaming LIVE at 10-11am Saturday mornings Pacific Time. Call or text with your dreams or questions at 831-900-5773 or email at Podcasts are available on all major podcast platforms and are released the Monday following the live show. The complete KSQD Dream Journal podcast page can be found at

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