Dreams, Reality and the Unconscious
How do you know, as you read this article that this is not a dream? You may think that “This is a play of words, I am aware that I am not asleep right now because I know that I am not sleeping.” However, do not hurry up in making a decision about this because right now, as you are reading these words, you may be dreaming… Did you feel the need to re-check if this is not right? It is impossible to disprove this at hundred percent because some of our dreams are more real than the real life. Do you remember a dream when you felt hurt?
This happens time to time because from the point of the brain, there is no difference between something is real or imagined, in the sense of perception. If you make up almost real fictions in your mind, your body will respond to these as they are literally real.
And at this point, the border between real and dream merge. Actually, everything real in our reality is only subjective, that is, inner perception.
How do we create reality?
Our sensory organs –eyes, ears, skin, nose, tongue- by processing the data they received from the external world, transmit electrical signals to our brain through nerves. And the brain interprets these received signals and “creates” the reality we experience. That is, we actually create the reality –which we assume external to us- as we perceive it. Our brain simulates reality by interpreting signals coming from the external world through our senses.
As the case it is, the reality external to us becomes questionable because we perceive and interpret reality within the limits of our senses and nervous system. If we could have other senses than the current ones, reality would be completely different for us.
Now please try this: Imagine that you are small as an ant. Imagine that you walk through the grass, stones and objects at the ground. How would your reality change in s situation like this? Now go further and imagine that you become much smaller, as much as you can go through subatomic particles. All around you, there are various particles and energy balls moving in enormous speeds. You can travel any place you like…
What did happen to solid objects as you imagine this? Now let us try this: Imagine that you are slowly growing and becoming so larger and vaster that you can cover the world, then the solar system and eventually a galaxy. When you become so vast, how the things happening on the world look like to you?
You may increase such experiments as much as you like. In short, reality to us is but some electrical and chemical events happening in our brain. If there is no such action, then there is no such thing as perception. In recent years, increasing number of sci-fi movies tackle with such topics. You watch the attempts of creating a virtual reality by inducing signals in the brain by various systems connected to it. One of the well-known is The Matrix series. In the fiction of the movie, a machine -which has an advanced artificial intelligence, controls the majority of humans by keeping them alive but unconscious in incubators and by making them live in a virtual reality through the signals sent to their brains via the computer. Within this fantastically written scenario, we watch that people actually live in a dream imposed on them by the computer as they go their business and have many experiences, assuming that they live a real life. And a group of people who could go out of this system fight with the machines in order to free humans from the grip of the machines. And the machines start a war against this group of people who live in the underground. And the movie goes on…
I think that this movie is a beautiful fiction which somewhat ironically tackles with the situation we live in. Actually, its intended message is –albeit, a little bit disturbing- what we call the normal life is similar to this. In the daily life all of us are in the pursuit of things, without knowing properly what we are doing, and we live on striving to keep the status quo and to survive. The interesting point is that it is impossible to disprove the reality we live in is not a dream.
Have you ever dreamed that you dream? You sleep at your bed or some other place then you wake up, remembering the dream you just had. Even you talk about it to someone. Then, you wake up once again. This time you are really awaken. (Are you? Or is this just another dream?) And you notice that you dreamed within a dream.
All of these examples show us that reality is highly questionable. We may find peace in thinking that our awaken state is more real and dreams are more imaginary because reality in our awakened state is rather more stable for us, and this is why we rather take it as a reference point. What we experience as we are awake is “real” and what we experience in sleep or in visualizing things is “imaginary” but actually the only difference between these two is that our “knowing”, that is, we know that when we visualize something, this is inner perception and what we experience in ordinary life is outer perception. Well, what would happen if we could not know it? That is, what if the dreams were real to us as the facts?
Imaginings and Facts
This is exactly what the schizophrenic experience. The cause of schizophrenia is such people have actually overly creative brains but have no strategy in their brains to discern between facts and imaginings. They mix up their imaginings with what actually happens and they believe their imaginings are real. Indeed, this is the upmost extreme of the line. Ordinary people is at somewhere along this line. And overly creative ones, by degrees, are near to schizophrenia.
Don’t we, “normal people” experience the same thing in dreams? Haven’t you had nightmares that you said “Thank God, it was only a dream!” when you woke up? Or dreams that you said “Wish it was true!”? You do not know this is a dream as you experience it and you experience it as real. This reality is sometimes in harmony with the real world you live in but sometimes it is not. Sometimes you experience some things belonging to the “parallel realities” which do not exist in the world and when you wake up, you are amazed, thinking “And where did it come from?” Sometimes you experience going beyond the known laws of physics in your dreams; you fly. Sometimes you experience sexuality and this, again, feels real, so real that you may have an orgasm in a dream. All of these are indeed the situations indicating that dreams are not imaginary.
Dreams in the past cultures
There have been many studies on dreams and dreaming throughout the history. Today, the dreaming phenomenon is extensively studied –scientifically and psychologically. In various sleep labs, physiological mechanisms creating dreams and the psycho-physiological factors behind these are studied and the conclusion is dreams are important in many aspects. Detailing on these experiments is beyond the scope of this article, which is why we have to leave it to another article, so let us ponder on the place and importance of dreams throughout the history.
When we look back to the past communities of the world, it is easy to see that dreams have a significant and crucial role especially in tribal cultures. In such communities, dreams are an important means which had been used and utilized for many different functions. In some tribes, in the mornings members sit together to share and talk about their dreams. This was important for them because they believed that a dream of a member could be a source of information and guidance for the rest of the tribe. Also through dreams they could gather information about hunting sources, future of the tribe, natural events, members who went away and approaching dangers. To these cultures, dreams were not imaginings made up by the brain but the messages containing some important knowledge and warnings regarding the actual living. Elders, more experienced ones of the tribe could arrive at some conclusions by interpreting these dreams, and utilize these outputs for the integrity and continuity of the tribe. Sharing dreams in this way indicates some kind of psychotherapy, as well. In this way, cleansing of tribe members in the subconscious level was achieved. In some of these dreams, they could contact some ancestors and some spiritual guides of the tribe. So they could get in touch with a source of higher knowledge –superior than theirs- to receive wisdom and guidance.
In the past, there have innumerable records indicating the important role dreams play in all societies. Likewise, in our own culture, too. In all civilizations once existed in the land we live in today, it is an historical fact that dreams had such importance. Ancient Greek, Mesopotamia, Turks and eventually in Ottoman era, it is possible to find many examples pointing to the significance of dreams. In these eras, dreams even gave direction to many historical developments. Especially various dreams of the leaders and of the persons in their close circles had influenced their decisions in a great extent.
How dreams happen?
From the various observations on dreams, it is not wrong to assume that as we dream, we go beyond the limits of our psyche and step into a much vaster collective field by delving into depths of the unconscious.
However, the point we need to consider here is that not every dream has such a quality.
Each and every dream we experience do not get triggered by same mechanisms. In a nutshell, usually four main triggering mechanism work behind our dreams.
First one is the dreams triggered by the various physical and chemical states in our bodies. Many physical changes in our bodies may make us dream and some irritation or hormonal changes may reveal themselves as a symbolic dream.
Second one is the dreams originated from the traces of our daily perceptions in the unconscious. What we experience, read, listen and see in our daily lives create such traces. As we sleep, things we experienced and learned are routed to the unconscious. These routings occasionally may cause some dreams.
Third one is the dreams that come out as the result of exchange of influences happening telepathically in the unconscious level. There are people we feel close whether we know them in physical or not. Occasionally we can enter in telepathic interactions with them. This interaction happens in the unconscious level and its surfacing into the conscious occurs in dreams. That is, some of our dreams are the result of the telepathic interactions occurring in the unconscious level. Despite the fact that you cannot distinguish them all the time, if you closely keep track of your dreams you can notice this type of dreams.
Fourth one is the dreams that come out as a result of our interactions with the beings who are in a higher level of consciousness compared to us. Such dreams may contain some signs regarding future. These have a different quality than the rest, in the sense that they are profound and vivid. If such dreams can be noticed and remembered, it may be possible to receive guidance and some knowledge from this source.
Majority of the dreams are the result of the interaction between the individual psyche and the collective psyche. Dreams are the unconscious’ most important and natural way of expressing itself.
There are many ways of utilizing dreams in our daily lives but I would like to discuss these in another article and I leave you with this question:
Imagine that your actual life in the awakened state is a dream and the dreams you have are the actual life, and please tell me: Which one is more real?
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