Dreaming and Fiction

Some scientists suggest that dreams are a side effect of your brain’s processing of daily memories.  Others compare dreams to jumbled thoughts of an unconscious mind.  This reminds me of studies done on people put into sensory deprivation tanks where they would hallucinate.  Are dreams just unconscious hallucinations?   I’m also reminded of several brain books I read this year that suggest that our conscious mind might not be the only mind in the brain.  I don’t know what dreams are, but my dreams are sometimes very weird.

In recent years, since I’ve been studying fiction, I’ve notice that my dreams sometimes have the structure of fiction – they tell a story with an involved plot and are more than random events.  Last night’s dream was one of these.  In this dream I was part of a group of people that for some reason beyond our knowledge was forced out of our normal reality into another universe.   The group, maybe thirty people, were scattered in this new reality and we all struggled to understand what was happening.  The whole dream was intense and I woke up a couple times during the dreaming – which is probably why I remember some of it.

In this other reality there were powerful beings that watched people.  If these beings were around people had to cower, bow or hide from their sight.  I was with a woman from our universe and we wanted to escape this new reality, so we always ran from these beings.  We didn’t like being watched, but the local people from the new reality accepted their position without fear or question.  The reason I say my dreams use forms of fiction in their telling was the point of view shifted.  Sometimes I was the woman.  Sometimes I was watching the other people in other places trying to cope with the new reality but I wasn’t one of them.  Who I was in the dreams shifted several times.  This is like the authorial omniscient point of view.  After awhile the group started finding each other and we began planning our escape.  We wanted to find out how to get back to our reality.  This is like a plot.  One of our group, suggested a theory that we might not be able to get back to where we came from but might be able to move on to another reality, one without the watching beings.

We didn’t know how to shift reality.  In the dreams we were always running trying to find the edge of the world, or the top of buildings.  For some reason the edge of things were important.  At one point I discovered how to fly and I and my woman companion started flying away.  Then some of the others started flying with us and we flew to the end of the sky and broke into a new universe.  We were all scared by the new world, but I don’t remember why.  That’s when the dream ended.

I’ve had other dreams I wished I had written down because they were so well plotted that I thought I could turn them into a short story.  When we dream our bodies are shut down and we’re cut off from our senses.  I wonder if self-awareness or our conscious mind still functions in this sensory deprived state and needs to make sense of internal images.  Or is there another proto-mind in our brain, one that doesn’t have our identity, capable of taking on any identity, which is a universal character looking for a plot.  I’ve often wondered why we spend so much of our lives involved with fiction, either from reading books, watching television, movies and plays, daydreaming, playing role based games, etc.   Could it be we have a built in mechanism for creating fiction?

I tend to think animal minds don’t have this fiction mechanism.  I think animal awareness is of the “be here now” kind, and when they dream they see scenes of reality without fictional components.  I have always believed that self-awareness is dependent on language.  We divide reality up into parts and give each part a label and the side affect of that is the knowledge of that there is me and the rest of reality.  I think this fictional mechanism that exists within the brain is a mechanism for speculation, where it pictures me doing things other than being in the immediate reality.

For example, when we are young and want to go out on a date, we imagine a lot of possible date scenarios before we ever go out on a real date.  In the animal world, a male elephant would not think about a female elephant before he met her.  With elephants dating is running into another elephant unplanned, touching each other with their trunks and depending on other forces of biology, mating.  I don’t think male elephants sit around and imagine their version of babe elephants with long twisty trunks.

I wonder if this internal speculation brain function, combined with the sensory deprivation state of sleep, builds stories out of whatever images pop up in its view.  I also wonder if my speculation function has been beefed up because I study fiction and writing.

Do dreams mean anything?  I don’t know.  Does this dream of mine mean anything?  Well, I can tell you I’ve been reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and I’ve been thinking about religion.  When I think about religion I think about angels, gods and dead people watching me.  I find the thought of this otherworldly spying very creepy.  That could explain my dream.