Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 266–289 | Cite as

The Nightmares of Puerto Ricans: An Embodied ‘Altered States of Consciousness’ Perspective

  • C. Jeffrey JacobsonJr.Email author
Special Section: Trauma and Dreams


This article examines nightmare narratives collected as part of a person-centered ethnographic study of altered states of consciousness (ASCs) and supernaturalism in a mainland Puerto Rican community in the late 1990s. Utilizing a descriptive backdrop informed by cross-cultural studies of ASCs and highlighting the relevance of recent insights from the cognitive sciences of religion and from the anthropology of embodiment or cultural phenomenology, I examine the lived experience and psychocultural elaboration of diverse Puerto Rican nightmare events. Taking the nightmare to be a trauma in its waking-nightmare sense (i.e., through the extreme fright caused by sleep paralysis) as well as an intrusive, traumatic memory in its posttraumatic sense (i.e., a reliving of trauma themes in dreams), I show how the perceptual and interpretive processes evoked by intensely affective ASCs both inform and are informed by Puerto Rican religious and spiritualistic orientations and values.


Nightmares Altered states of consciousness Puerto Ricans Dreams Spiritualism Embodiment 



The research reported here was supported by NIMH Grant 5 F31 MH11773-02. I would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their very thoughtful and constructive criticisms of an early draft. I would also like to express my gratitude to Devon Hinton for his editorial encouragement and helpful feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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