Dreaming Our Lives Away

Posted on March 20, 2023


Life in the Boomer Lane goes through periods of time when, if someone were to ask her what she dreamt about the previous night, her answer would be “Huh?” At other times, her dreams accompany her throughout her day. It is then that she wonders why that man she knew many years ago, who she knew to be 6’3″, was actually about 5″6″. How did she miss that? And why was her client flirting with her when his wife was standing right next to him?

She turned to science for answers. Science responded by telling her that dreams are equal parts psychological and neurological, developing in response to heightened activity in the outer layer of the brain, called the cortex. 

According to psychologist and Hope for Depression Research Foundation media advisor Michele Goldman, Psy.D, the cortex deals with thought processing and higher-order functioning. When we sleep, Goldman says, the cortex “creates a conscious-like experience,” that often contains people, places, or things from our real life that we are familiar with. These experiences can translate to images, thoughts, emotions, and even sensations. Depending on what stage of sleep the dream takes place, the dream can be vivid, memorable, or in very rare circumstances, lucid. When dreams occur during lighter stages of sleep, we can be aware that we are dreaming. LBL remembers one dream in which she spent all of her time trying to convince everyone in the dream that they were part of her dream, and not real. All that happened was that they all looked at her as though she had just purchased and advance copy of “Letters to Trump”, then ignored her and went about their business.

There are several theories about why we dream.

Dreams are your brain’s way of sorting through information.

Think of your dreams in the same way you think about your filing cabinet. Your life is filled with stuff. You toss some of it, you save some of it. What is saved is put in a folder with a title, then stored in a file cabinet for easy retrieval. In the event you have no file cabinet at home and keep a lot of junk you don’t have to and then mix the junk up with what is actually important and the piles keep getting bigger and bigger around you, LBL believes you are having the dream version of the film “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” which LBL firmly believes won the Oscar and had people falling out of their seats in admiration because people think that, because the film is so nonsensically frenetic, that it must operate at a higher level than human intelligence can decipher. This last sentence is not only entirely too long, it is an invitation for irate readers to send LBL scathing comments about her inability to appreciate fine film-making. LBL’s response is to say “Send your comments to her. She is tough. And besides, she is really glad that Jamie Leigh Curtis won an Oscar. She’s a good actress and she doesn’t fall for all that Hollywood shit.

Dreams reflect your innermost desires and struggles

Freud theorized that dreams are a “roadmap to the unconscious,” and that they reflect “our deepest desires and wishes. The American Psychoanalytic Association has debunked Freud’s theory that all dreams stem from desire. Instead, dreams may be a byproduct of the sleeping brain’s information processing and self-organization, whether stemming from something positive or from something traumatic. So it’s organization, not desire. This is a great relief to desire. LBL, who is absolutely certain that she never had a sexual interest in her grandfather, no matter what her dream said, is a bit relieved.

Dreams are meant to sharpen your problem-solving skills.

Finnish cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist, Antti Revonsuo, Ph.D. proposed what is now known as the Threat Simulation Theory (TST) of Dreaming3, that dreams are our brain’s way of rehearsing survival strategies, without having to defend against an actual threat. The dream is a “consequence-free zone” for the brain to practice social and behavioral strategies, that will help us navigate life in our waking hours.

LBL had to think about this for awhile. She has spend countless sleeping hours trying to navigate through the same house, in which getting from one room to another necessitated the use of precarious ladders and stairways and crawling through tiny, claustrophobic openings. This has in no way prepared her for navigating through her own home or through the homes of anyone she knows. While she has, on occasion, gotten lost getting from the rest room to her table in various restaurants, she has never had to cross a horizontal ladder , nor had to crawl through a restaurant vent pipe to, be able to navigate herself.

Revonnsuo believes the brain, in effect, is playing a virtual reality game with us, requiring us to go through behavior that would be too risky to go through in real life. LBL’s question is, why would our brains require us to do that? What’s the point? Or maybe there are some microscopic teens living in some other part of our bodies, or Teen Other Beings in space, manipulating our brains like a video screen. LBL needs to think about this, all of humanity being part of some version of a mall arcade. It would actually explain some things going on in Congress now, the result being that whoever is controlling us has confused the waking and sleeping states of various unnamed Congress people.

Dreams help you feel emotions you might be suppressing.

Before she goes any further, LBL asserts one again that She. Has. Never. Looked . At. Her. Grandfather. In. A. Sexual. Way. Moving on from this, there are some theorists who believe that we dream in order to process our emotions most optimally. We can take them in, digest them, release them, without threat of a real life “food poisoning.” In other words, the things we have to process are generally bad ones, not good ones.

This would explain why some of the events of LBL’s life that are absolutely no business whatsoever of her readers, and events that she’d be very grateful to experience over and over in her sleep, never seem to appear there. Except for maybe once or twice, which she is eternally grateful for.

Some scientists believe nightmares are a perfect example of fear not being able to be digested. They are, in affect, a stomach flu and food poisoning all wrapped up together. Except you don’t lose any weight, which sucks.

Dream interpretation.

Many of you have been either slogging through or skimming this post in order to get to the critical question: So what, then is the meaning of dreams? That’s the beef, right?

This is where science is quick to leap in and get everyone really confused. “The dream is a mirror, reflecting the personality traits and characteristics of a person as well as how they feel about their experience and self-identity.” “It’s a mask of what a person is going through in their lives.” So, is it a mirror or a mask? Forgive LBL for saying this, but aren’t those two things completely the opposite?

Some scientists see dreams as simply accidental by-products of sleep. It’s like all of our thoughts, experiences and visual/auditory stimulation during the day, just sort of spill out into Dream World and then disappear by morning, along with hair, skin cells and saliva. ejected during the night onto our pillows. Other scientists are quick to point out that dreams are not memories. They are brand new configurations of what we have taken in during the day. Like Woody Allen, we are taking a car apart and, in trying to reconstruct it, turning it into a washer/dryer.

Scientists also tell us, in the attempt to give us real clear meaning about all this, to “simply write down your dreams each morning, in order to notice patterns, etc, to help you highlight areas of improvement.” Hahahahahaha, LBL responds. Right. Keep a dream diary. Hahahahahaha. Tell others about your dreams. LBL doesn’t know about your friends, but hers would be walking rapidly backward out the door if she started telling them about her dreams. Seriously, what is more boring than someone else’s dream? Maybe hearing about someone else’s dental appointment, but not much else.

But scientists continue to science along, trying to figure out why we sleep, why we dream, what our dreams mean, why all those Other Beings are using our brains as video games, and why LBL’s hair looks electrified every morning when she wakes up.

It’s a lot to ponder.

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