Debbie D. Hendley, Psy.D., is a 2019 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara.

Dissertation Committee

Daniel Schwartz, Ph.D., Committee Chair

Brett Kia-Keating, Ed.D., Committee Member

Kimberly Finney, Psy.D., Committee Member


Preference for Consistency, Residual Effects, Cognitive Dissonance, Intergenerational Trauma, Phenomenology, non-Hispanic White American, African American, Insomnia, Sleep, Heidegger, Hermeneutics, Chattel Slavery

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This phenomenological study examines the experiences of insomnia among sixteen Americans who are descendants of people who lived in the United States during chattel slavery. The investigation is guided by the following two central questions: Is the lived experience of insomnia among African Americans the same as the experience among non-Hispanic White Americans? In addition, what is the lived experience of sleep among African Americans and Non-Hispanic White Americans? Each participant met individually with the researcher and privately reflected on their experience with insomnia defined here as a condition in which individuals have difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep that furthermore affects their daytime functioning. As the investigation unfolded, the researcher studied the experiences of the participants through a multimodal lens informed primarily by Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory and Heidegger’s Hermeneutics. As participants of this research investigation reflect on their experience, we observe the interplay between insomnia, race, and mental wellness coming into focus. Emotional experiences are captured, and the reflective experience allows for a re-examination of the legacies and effects of American history. Findings in this study support the notion that people tend to use cognitive dissonance when their beliefs are challenged, and those participants with a preference for consistency also experienced insomnia more frequently. No evidence was uncovered of the participants’ insomnia being a direct effect of the inter-generational transmission of the trauma associated with chattel slavery. However, many African American families continue to report being severely negatively impacted by their ancestors’ experiences during slavery and its aftermath. Insomnia, a common symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder can credibly be considered one likely sequela of the traumatic impact of slavery on the lives of African Americans. This Dissertation is available in Open Access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLink ETD Center,


ORCID 0000-0002-4850-7025