Monday 12 October 2020

I am, apparently, always dreaming - unconsciously; a parallel dream self and world

Last night I was trying to write in my notebook; but couldn't stop myself from falling asleep for multiple brief micro-sleeps - with a longer period embedded. Meanwhile, I was writing notes! 

The record of the experience is nearly illegible; but it seems that I had a chunk of dream about my having-written a novel and submitted it to a publisher - to an editor who was some kind of friend. I did not remember having written the novel or why (when I know for sure, even in the dream, that I am incapable of doing so...). 

I got the novel typescript back in a large envelope which I opened, and I saw there were some detailed handwritten comments from the editor on the top-sheet. However, I was embarrassed about the whole thing, and unwilling to read exactly why this story (which I couldn't even remember having written or sent) had been rejected - so I put the thing onto my bedside table. 

At that point I woke; and decided to take a look at the comments after all, and rolled-over to find a notebook on my knees, and nothing on my bedside table - and after a second or so, I realised it had been a dream. 

So I started to write this into the notebook - but periodically kept on 'dropping' back into the same dream... rejoining it at various further points; having - in the dream world - forgotten how matters had reached this point, but recalling enough when I awoke to recognise some link. 

Periodically; I would wake, for a few tens of seconds, start writing (scrawling, rather) as the memories ebbed-away - and then drop off to sleep again. 

The dream was not really going anywhere specifically, but was meandering-along by some kind of free-associative process; all the while my memory was fading 'behind-me' so that I was continually puzzled and struggling about how I had gotten-into the current situation, although I knew that I used-to know. 

(This mood is what the old time psychiatrists called 'perplexity' and is characteristic of many pychoses.)


Anyway, not to labour the point; this is another of many confirmations I have had over the years that I seem to be dreaming all of the time; and by falling asleep I am able to 'sample' the ongoing dream. It is like dipping-into a fast running stream-of-consciousness that runs below my wake state. 

The ongoing dream crams a great deal more into clock time than does the awake state - something like a hundred times more stuff happens in a minute of sleep, than a minute of being awake. 

The dreaming mind has a very poor memory - it apparently has a working memory of some tens of seconds, but after that period, everything rapidly fades-away (like walking along a road that is always crumbling-away a couple of hundred yards behind, so that I cannot look-back any further than that) - in much the fashion seen with people suffering dementia or in a delirium. 

And the awake and dreaming states are kept apart by some kind of 'software incompatibility'; such that a dream may seem clear and comprehensible immediately upon awakening; but cannot be recalled, transcribed or 'translated'... There are exceptions, when I do remember chunks of a dream well, but these exceptions are exceptional - and may happen when my sleep is shallowest - as when I am at the end of the night's sleep and ready to wake fully. 


It is interesting to me that there is an unconscious dream life running through all of my waking life (and maybe also in deep sleep?); and further that this dream narrative crams in far more detail, emotion, and incident than does the waking state. 

In this sense; I have much more dream-experience in my life than I do waking experience - but this experience is not available to the waking mind. 

However, I think that it is available to the dreaming mind. In other words, while in a dream I seem to remember my other dreams - there seems to be a separate 'dream memory' store, inaccessible to my wakening mind. 

For instance, there are dream places that I inhabit, and recall, only in dreams; dream incidents; indeed I probably have a 'parallel but distinct' dream nature or personality, who has different aptitudes and has led (is leading) a different life. 

And - presumably, since it happens; this stuff is significant and important - in some unknown way.


TJ said...

Bruce, do you believe this ongoing dream world is dependent on the brain? Or is it a separate "astral realm", or something along those lines?

Jacob Gittes said...

Is it possible that it is literally true that there is another life and reality being lived? That our nervous system and bodies are simply interfaces to this lower, material realm?

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I read this post just after putting down a book I have been reading -- a firsthand account of someone who had a very strange experience where he could close his eyes and see a sort of parallel world, similar to but distinctly different from the world he saw when he opened them (the road was a bit narrower, there were more trees, the moon was a bit more gibbous and rose earlier, etc.) He could "look" at something in detail with his eyes closed, then open them, then close them again several minutes later, and all the details would be the same. This happened while he was a guest at an Indian reservation in South Dakota and continued the whole time he was there, several days.

The same author relates a lucid dream in which he seemed to be five different versions of himself simultaneously, living five different variations on his real life. (In one his wife was dead, in another he had never left his hometown, etc.)

I'm sure the synchronicity fairies had something to do with interlacing this post of yours with those strange stories.

Bruce Charlton said...

@TJ - I suppose the ongoing dream world depends on the brain, but that the process is not confined to the brain.

@JG - My assumption is that both are 'my' life, but that 'me' includes the dream-me. After all, the dream contents seem to derive from waking life, albeit distorted.

@Wm - I am not-at-all surprised.

TJ said...

There's a part of the mind that spontaneously generates a symbolic realm at lightspeed around the clock. Amazing. Since some animals dream, I'm assuming they also do this.

Bruce Charlton said...

@TJ - The thing is, from a Christian point of view, this is surely a part of our actual mortal lives; and a part of the reason why we are here. Since dreaming is non-identical with our waking life - but probably derived-from, and some kind of elaboration of it; this means that we may 'live' more in dreams than awake; and therefore the totality of our mortal experience is far greater - more detailed, and wider in scope - than would usually be suggested.