Dreaming – Interval

Friday, June 5th, 2009 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Half way through our trip around our arbitrary map of the mind, it’s time for a short interval. This month we won’t be tacking one of the topics from the The Transcendence Spiral. Instead, in anticipation of the third lap, we’ll spend the month focusing on dreaming.

Some people rarely remember dreams. However research shows that even those whose dreams are this ethereal on waking still in fact have them, they’re just as deeply involved in their night time adventures at the time they’re happening as those who describe their visions over breakfast each morning. They just forget more quickly.

Dreaming isn’t even a uniquely human phenomenon. As any dog owner will tell you, animals too spend half their sleeping time cavorting around in their imaginations, presumably chasing imaginary rabbits or torturing imaginary mice.

What are dreams for?

The truth is that, although we have many clues, there’s still no single outstanding theory of why people and animals dream. Most likely, dreams fill more than one function. Certainly it would appear to be important for survival, since dreams are so extremely widespread through the animal kingdom.


What happens when you deprive a person of dreams? As you probably know, sleep researchers have shown that dreaming occurs during a stage of sleep known as REM sleep, named for Rapid Eye Moment, the most obvious characteristic of that sleep phase. This offers us a simple test: To find out what dreams are for, wake someone up every time they go into REM sleep and watch what happens.

As you can imagine, this certainly doesn’t make your experimental subject very happy. Indeed, it’s no doubt very annoying to be woken up every few hours.

As well as the obvious effects on mood, it turns out that depriving people of dreams quite drastically effects their behaviour in waking life. They behave erractically, overly emotional, and most importantly for our analysis, they find it hard to remember things, and perform much worse in test of memory capacity.


Further evidence comes from what’s known as the Tetris Effect. Tetris is a simple computer game in which blocks various shapes have to be tessellated, packed together to completely fill a given space. When intensively learning to play this game, many players report dreaming about the game at night. They dream of those blocks, slotting into place, sliding around the screen, the constant and increasing pressure to move each block to it’s proper position.

The more people dream about those shapes, the way they interact, the way they fit together, the more quickly they get better at the game. It seems that playing Tetris in your sleep is better for learning how to play the game than playing it for real!

While it’s true that modern science is still confused at exactly how the sleep and dreaming process work, or even all the functions of your dreams, it’s clear that your dreams are an important part of cognitive functioning. The Transcendence Institute believes that concious understanding and manipulation of any part of cognitive functioning will lead to improvements in its efficiency and ability.

Thus, the meditation at the end of this little interval will help you to explore your dreams. You’ll learn to remember them more clearly, to understand their purpose, meaning and function. You’ll learn how to influence the subjects of your dreams. You’ll even increase the chances that you’ll dream lucidly, knowing as you dream that you are in fact dreaming, giving you more direct and immediate conscious control over the content of your dreams than you dreamed possible.

Dreaming Is Fun!

Plus, most entertainingly, you’ll enjoy your dreams, even the scary ones. You’ll learn to treat them as free TV, free theatre, an entertaining distraction and source of pleasure.

You’ll start, next week, by learning a little more about the symbolism in dreams, the way they are built and presented to your conscious mind.

After that you’ll learn how to influence your dreams. Perhaps to ponder a particular problem, find an artistic solution. You’ll learn some techniques for increasing the chance that you’ll become aware of the fact you’re dreaming and so start lucid dreaming, able to take direct conscious control of the content of your night-time wondering.

Next you’ll think about the virtual world of your dreams, and compare it to waking life

Finally, at the end of the month, we’ll present a meditation designed to remind you of all these things, and to help you to recall the things you have been dreaming about, to judge the results of your endeavour.