Author Topic: A Primer on Dreams  (Read 5686 times)

Kafiri

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A Primer on Dreams
« on: May 31, 2007, 11:00:04 PM »
I wonder what the people who post in the Dream section think of this little primer:
http://www.thymos.com/tat/dreams.html#xxxxxx?  Do many Jungians over react in interpreting dreams?
"We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves."
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Sealchan

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Re: A Primer on Dreams
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2007, 02:28:32 PM »
I've read the first part so far...very interesting article.  I may have to check out the author's book!

I have long suspected that dreams arise from a physical cause that is fairly "down-to-earth" and not particularly intelligent.  Dreams are the byproduct of some evolutionary accident of brain behavior or due to some low level or indiscriminate brain maintenance routine. 

Based on the studies that I have heard about, which I suspect this article will cover all of and then some, I like the idea that dreaming is a side effect of an evolutionary process that is, at best, indirectly concerned with man's spiritual development.

I do think that many Jungians who don't think seriously about the physical groundings of dreams do implicitly or explicitly think of dreams as of divine origin.  Really, dreams are incredibly intelligent, witty, clever, creative, etc.  There is no denying that really.  Any one who sees dreams as nonsense simply hasn't learned to interpret them.  I think Jung really "brought home" a true language for doing so.  Looking at the archetypal motifs of dreams and even crossing over into myths with the same motifs, you realize that there is a fairly concise language of dream design that repeats over and over and over in the psyches of individuals.  Furthermore, understanding this language gives one a profoundly useful road map for understanding one's own spiritual place in the world.  The full content of any given dream lies somewhere between the universal archetypal patterns and the particular details of the dreamer's everyday sensory experience.  By linking the personal with the universal, one can derive meaningful (whether good or bad) understandings of the value of one's personal existence.

But the divinity of dreams I think comes out of the most sophisticated cultural interpretations of these dream stories.  It is the mapping of our ego consciousness back onto the dream that gives rise to the divine or, alternately, allows the divine to be revealed to our awareness. 

I suspect that certain universal aspects of mind or archetypal motifs are actually a kind of "reflection" of brain function and structure.  Like looking at the world through "brain-colored glasses", how we perceive, how we categorize, how we tell stories is intimately a function of how the brain is structured and how it works.  When we begin to recognize recurring motifs in such brain reconstructions of reality, I think we begin to see the insides of our own minds as if looking from without. 

In my dream interpretations I use the term "mapping" a lot because I am ever mindful of how the cerebral cortex is a series of "maps" with mutual, coordinated interconnections that help preserve a sense of the world and its organization.  Neurons that respond to certain sensory information on one part of the body transmit signals (though moderated by neighbors and from the "top down") to corresponding locations in maps in the cerebral cortex.  This is the rule rather than the exception.  So the whole concept of analogy or association is profoundly supported by brain organization.

I have been contemplating the image of the tree in dreams as a metaphor of the part of the nervous system that is active when the dreamer is not sleeping.  I have found that the tree is often present at the periphery of a central space in a dream and is a quite presense in most dream activities.  When not just significant background a tree may also eminate great power or be a source of fear.  Furthermore, trees may transform into personalites in dreams. 

This leads me to believe that in a dream, when the sensory nervous system is "asleep" of "off" the tree comes to represent that high energy source of libido that the world provides through the stimulation of sensory neurons.  The ego is an adaptive psychic structure which must be able to survive amid the flow of energy in the nervous system while the dreamer is awake and so the ego is in close relationship to the "tree".  When we approach wakefulness from the dream state then it is the tree that is transforming into the ego-personality or the energy of the tree is activating and filling out the ego's sources of power over the rest of the psyche.  I say this because I suspect that flying, which is often associated with lucid dreaming, has a close association in my dreams with trees.  Climbing the tree in stories and myths is like climbing up into one's own psyche and disconnecting from the earthly grounding of the waking state.

Anyway these are the kinds of musings I have when thinking about the nature of dreams and their basis in the physical brain-world.

Matt Koeske

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Re: A Primer on Dreams
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2007, 05:13:38 PM »
I wonder what the people who post in the Dream section think of this little primer:
http://www.thymos.com/tat/dreams.html#xxxxxx?  Do many Jungians over react in interpreting dreams?

Hi Kafiri,

You sent me this chapter from Scaruffi's book a while back and it has had a very strong influence on my evolving dream theory (many thanks again for that!).

For instance, Scaruffi writes:
Quote
at the end of the 19th century the British neurologist John Hughlings Jackson realized that a loss of a brain function almost always results in the gain in another brain function. Typically what is gained is heightened sensations and emotions. Jackson, virtually a contemporary of Darwin, explained this phenomenon with the view that the brain's functions have different evolutionary ages: newer ones took over older ones, but the older ones are still there, we just don't normally need to use them as the newer ones are more powerful. When we lose one of the newer features, then the older features of the brain regain their importance. Jackson had the powerful intuition that a single process was responsible for a "balance" of brain states.

This is not unlike the most recent installment of my growing theory that I have called the "super-adaptive instinct" (I wrote about this in the Anima Work forum).  Of course Jackson's notion is a more general and neurological one than my psychological adaptation of it.  With the super-adaptive instinct, I am proposing that "newer" brain functions (here, specifically I am thinking of an "instinct" for ego-development) don't so much "take over" older ones in an eclipsing sense, but in a coordinating sense.  So, the super-adaptive instinct is the coordinating instinct that organizes and utilizes the other, more archaic archetypal instincts (that Jung was mostly concerned with), putting them to use with the idea of adapting them to human social living (and the cognitive niche, our informational evolutionary environment).

It is therefore the super-adaptive instinct that is behind the "re-manufacture" of the ego when the ego's prevailing strategies have proved maladaptive (and a neurotic complex has formed).  The super-adaptive instinct is what the alchemists called, Mercurius, the transmutational spirit of the Work.  It is what "dissolves" the maladaptive ego (the Mercurial Bath).  But also what drives it to find a more conscious and functional connection to the Self.  Like Mercurius, it is the instinct behind all consciousness-making that wills the organism toward equilibrium/adaptivity with its environment.

Here is another bit from Scaruffi I found useful (and adopted):
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There is growing consensus among neurobiologists that remembering and forgetting occur during dreams, that REM sleep is important for consolidating long-term memories

In the past I referred to this as "making dreams into mandalas" . . . which is a process of contributing to the automatic long-term memory consolidation.  Such memories prove more useful to the organism when they are increasingly valued and connected with other memory-value constructs.  This process of organization/consolidation is always going on unconsciously whether we are awake or asleep.  But while awake, we have limited conscious input into it, as working memory is already heavily taxed with information streams.

I'm guessing that our dreams tried to reshuffle these memories into complexes that can then be variously valuated.  By working with our dreams, we become part of this process, and when our dream work "clicks" and we start to see how our psychic process is put together, how it relates its various parts to one another, we get a rush of numinous valuation.  We have found a piece of our personal mythology . . . and then what was once just a chaotic smattering of images becomes a mythic complex of valuated memory, and part of of core identity.

I also wrote about this more extensively not long ago in Dream Work for Cognitive Health.

The following idea of Jouvet was especially meaningful to me as well:
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Jouvet was also a pioneer of the theory that dreams have a function: to derive crucial action patterns from the genetic program of the individual. REM sleep provides a means to combine genetic instructions with experience. Sleep and dreaming are a survival strategy.

Jouvet thinks that a dream is the vehicle employed by an organism to cancel or archive the day's experiences on the basis of a genetic program. This explanation would also reconcile the dualism between hereditary and acquired features: how much of what we know is innate and how much is acquired by experience? In Jouvet’s scenario, an hereditary component is activated daily to decide how new data must be acquired.

In particular, Jouvet showed that psychological differences across individuals are maintained by a sort of continuous reprogramming that takes place during REM sleep. This process wipes out "certain aspects of what we have learned", while reinforcing the "unconscious reactions that are the basis of personality".

It was after reading this that I decided to talk about identity and the ego in terms of "strategies".  This seems to be the most accurate and useful term for what is happening with "consciousness" . . . and it makes perfect evolutionary sense.

More on this:
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The American neurobiologist Jonathan Winson expressed this concept in a more general way: dreams represent "practice sessions" in which animals (not only humans) refine their survival skills.

...

From this evidence, Winson deduced that REM sleep must be involved in survival-critical behavior. Early mammals had to perform all their "reasoning" on the spot ("on-line"). In particular they had to integrate new information (sensory data) with old information (memories) immediately to work out their strategies. Winson speculates that at some point in evolution brains invented a way to "postpone" processing sensory information by taking advantage of the hippocampus: REM sleep. Theta rhythm is the pace at which that ("off-line") processing is carried out. Instead of taking input from the sensory system, the brain takes input from memory. Instead of directing behavior, the brain inhibits movement. But the kind of processing during REM sleep is the same as during the waking state. Winson speculates that this off-line processing is merging new information with old memories to produre strategies for future behavior.

Theta rhythm disappeared in primates, but REM sleep remained as a fundamental process of brains. In humans, therefore, REM sleep, i.e., dreams corresponds to an off-line process of integration of old information with new information.

My intuitive disagreement (or simply revisioning) of Winson's idea holds that we should remember that survival strategies (adaptations to our evolutionary niche) for humans are not as simple as flight/fight or hunting/mating, etc.  These are strategies for the information-rich environment we evolved to adapt to.  I think that our strategies are thus more abstract and complicated . . . and that this demands the sense of self we call the ego as a kind of coherence of strategies, a hierarchy or interrelation of ego-strategies.

The instinct (super-adaptive instinct) behind the formation of this "non-local" ego consciousness is on one hand self-preserving (a survival instinct), but also highly flexible and of necessity "super-adaptive", because it has to deal with such a complex flux of abstract, interrelated strategies.  The complexity of the informational environment.

This leap I disagree with:
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Dreaming is an accidental feature that let us "see" some of the processing, although only some: a dream is not a story but a more or less blind processing of the day's experience.

Our observation of dreams may be "accidental", but a commitment to dream work proves that the dreaming process (including our reflection on it) is quite useful.  I'm not certain how "intentioned" the dreaming process is by the Self (or whatever neuroscientists might prefer to call it).  I don't think the Self is specifically proposing new strategies to replace old ones.  I suspect it is closer to trying to find ways to fit old and new strategies together in potentially valuable ways.  I don't think it is completely random.  That is, I think there is some kind of intelligence to how such valuated relationships between memory complexes are proposed.  But there is a little bit of a feeling of "trial and error" to it.  That is, I don't think the Self has the One Answer proposed as a dream, or that it is a magic puzzle we have to solve in order to become enlightened.

I get the feeling it's more like a proposal: "How does this sound to you?  Can we fit X to Y and Y to Z like so?"  If the connection is reinforced with valuation, the the answer is "yes".

Quote
Dreams help eliminate useless memories. Therefore, according to Crick, we dream what is worth forgetting.

I understand what Crick is getting at, and I do think dreaming is long-term memory maintenance of a kind, but I disagree with the statement above.


There are a lot of other interesting things in this chapter, but I have to run for now.  I'll just mention one thing worth chewing on.

Since we know animals (like dogs, for instance) dream/experience REM sleep, what can this tell us about the functioning of our own dreams?  Re-strategizing or consolidating long-term memories could work pretty much the same way for us as for other dreaming animals.  But this also suggested (if my theories proposed above and detailed elsewhere have any validity) that dreaming animals have something like an ego.  That is, their waking consciousness doesn't do all of the memory consolidating they need in order to function adaptively . . . suggesting that they have a selective working memory structure much like we do . . . a focus (and therefore a compensating "unconscious").  Does this focus "cohere" into a sense of self?  I don't know.

Thanks again, Kafiri!

-Matt



You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]

Susanna

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Re: A Primer on Dreams
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2007, 01:36:33 AM »
Dreams are indeed mysterious. As the primer shows, there are many schools of thought regarding dreams. Some people delve into the biological process of dreaming while others concentrate on the psychological contents/effects of dreaming. I see all these approaches as individual boxes. They are man-made, square and limiting. Some people feel comfortable living and thinking from inside a particular box. I prefer to peek into these boxes but reside outside of them, to keep an open mind.

I have a different response to this thread. Because of my own spiritual pursuits, I tend not to look at things so biologically. I never liked Science in school. I am not driven to want to prove or have something proven. I don’t have to only use the 5 physical senses or have things explained in a logical manner to believe in something. To do so, I see as very confining. I like being a carefree explorer. To dabble is to be open and receptive.

Many of us desire to remain comfortable in the physical world and dismiss the spiritual aspect of ourselves because it is unknown or (supposedly) can’t be proven. Very few people regard dreams. This is probably the best personal access to our inner and outer selves on a daily basis that we all can utilize, and yet how many do? A free dose of self-help every morning. Most people are not willing to make an effort to see who they really are perhaps because they don’t know where to start.

Strephon Kaplan-Williams has a different approach to dreams in his book THE ELEMENTS OF DREAMWORK. He is not interested in dream interpretation but in gathering insights and meaning from the feeling energies contained within dreams and then taking some waking life action to honor each dream. This book caused me to own up to my continuing over-emphasis upon symbols. It also made me realize my lack of feeling regarding dreams which I am still resistant to honestly explore.

From Robert Moss’s book CONSCIOUS DREAMING, I learned that we deal with only pieces of dreams each night. Robert Moss is a dream shaman who can travel into dreams (with the dreamer) and reveal important pieces of a dream the dreamer was unaware of. At first, this was very disconcerting to me. Why then should we look at dreams if they are not whole? It is a matter of release and of expanding and strengthening our perception. I can see every dream as being a piece of our wholeness puzzle. The pieces of a puzzle are easier to fit as the puzzle becomes more and more complete.

To me, wholeness and healing are synonymous. They are spirit-driven.  I see our resistances stemming primarily from our attachments to the physical plane. By accessing the spiritual realms which attend to dreams, intuition, imagination, etc. we can overcome the obstacles (controlled by the ego) while on our Earth walk.

I would like to share a simplistic explanation of our dual nature from a famous spiritual healer’s book, SPIRIT HEALING by Harry Edwards:

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Man possesses a counterpart of the physical body which we call the “spirit body”. It is the perfect body, and acts as the vehicle for the spirit self in spirit life, just as our physical body is the vehicle for our material life.

In addition to the physical mind, each individual also possesses a spirit mind. This has been referred to in many terms, the psyche, the “I”, the soul, and so on. The physical mind has as its concern the sensing and appreciation of physical sensation, comfort, sexual expression, direction of the organic systems and gathering and garnering of earthly knowledge.

The spirit mind is concerned with the higher and baser motives of life, idealism and ambitions, emotions love, hatred, generosity, meanness, etc.

The consciousness is the meeting place for both minds. It is where the self becomes conscious of impressions, directives and experiences. The physical mind can influence the spirit mind for good and ill, otherwise there would be no progression; conversely the spirit mind can motivate the other.

Just as the physical mind is in intimate attunement with our bodily needs and sensations and is the reservoir of gathered knowledge, so the spirit mind can be in attunement with thought and guidance from spirit life.

So, I personally see dreams as messages to our spirit mind from the spirit realm. It is exactly how spiritual healing works. How we assimilate the meanings (energies) of those dreams into our physical being (physical mind and body) will determine our future well-being. 

Susanna
« Last Edit: June 02, 2007, 01:47:45 AM by Susanna »

Matt Koeske

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MOVED POSTED: Number as Archetype
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2007, 10:44:37 AM »

I put newyourknews2's post on number as archetype in its own thread.  Since there was an emphasis on numerology and astrology, I placed this thread in Alchemy and Mysticism rather than in Depth Psychology . . . but if anyone feels I made the wrong decision, please let me know.

-Matt
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way.

   [Bob Dylan,"Mississippi]