Woman Who Dreams of Stress

Case Study 1

The Case of Arlene Amarosi, the Woman Who Dreams of Stress

Arlene Amarosi, a working mother, has been under a lot of stress this year. She has been having difficulty getting to sleep, and often lies in bed starting at the ceiling while worrying about her problems. As a result, she’s often tired throughout her workday and relies on coffee and caffeinated energy drinks to keep her going. Lately Arlene’s sleep has been disturbed even more often than usual. Several times over the past week she has been awakened by disturbing dreams. In these dreams she is always at work, struggling to keep up with an impossible workload. She is struggling with the new software that her company recently trained her to use, but no matter how fast she goes, she can’t keep up with the workflow. The dream ends when Arlene wakes up in a panic. It often takes Arlene hours to get back to sleep, and she has been feeling even more tired than usual during work.


1. Arlene is worried that her recent dream experiences indicate that something is wrong with her. If you were Arlene’s friend and wanted to reassure her, how would you help her to understand the normal experience of sleep and dreams?

2. Which theory of dreaming seems to best explain Arlene’s disturbing dreams, and why?
3. How might meditation help Arlene?

4 If you were Arlene´s health care provider, how would you advise her to overcome her insomnia?
5. What are some effects on Arlene of her high caffeine intake

Case Study 2

John Buckingham, The New Guy On The Job

When John Buckingham moved across the country to take a new job, he didn’t expect to run into much difficulty. He would be doing the same kind of work he was used to doing, just for a new company. But when he arrived on his first day, he realized there was more for him to adjust to than he had realized.

Clearly, John had moved to a region where the culture was much more laid back and casual than he was used to. He showed up for his first day in his usual business suit only to find that almost all the other employees wore jeans, Western shirts, and cowboy boots. Many of them merely stared awkwardly when they first saw John, and then hurriedly tried to look busy while avoiding eye contact.

John got the message. On his second day at work John also wore jeans and a casual shirt, although he didn’t yet own a pair own cowboy boots. He found that people seemed more relaxed around him, but that they continued to treat him warily. It would be several weeks—after he’d gone out and bought boots and started wearing them to work—before certain people warmed up to John enough to even talk to him.


  1. What does the behavior of John’s co-workers toward John suggest about their attributions for his initial manner of dress?
  2. Describe the kinds of biases that might have affected John’s co-workers as they formed impressions of him on his first day. Could they have been using a faulty schema to understand him? Is there evidence of the halo effect?
  3. Explain why John changed his manner of dress so soon after starting his new job? What processes were likely involved in his decision to do so?
  4. John’s co-workers seemed very hesitant to “warm up” to John. How would you explain to John their initial reluctance to like him very much?
  5. If you were the human resources director for this company, what strategies would you employ to prevent experiences like John’s? How would you justify the implementation of these strategies to the company president?


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