Positive and negative dreams…REM and non-REM

 

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The Nightmare by- John Henry Fuseli (1780)

I’ve talked about REM sleep and dreams before, ad nauseam. But research has shown that we don’t just dream during REM, we also dream during non-REM (with its four stages leading up to (and from) REM with non-REM out performing REM by over 2.5:1). And it turns out that there’s a qualitative difference between the types of dreams!

Those who are awakened during a non-REM episode report generally positive dreams while those who are awakened from REM report mostly negative. What’s that about?

Well, during REM sleep the Amygdala (located deep within the medial temporal lobes of our brain) that deals with unpleasant emotions, aggression, and fear and modulates REM sleep, hence the negative vibes. Along that note, it’s interesting that people with depression jump into REM quickly by bypassing the non-REM stages–the positive stages. A dysfunctional Amygdala is also implicated. This rapid entering into REM and depletion of overall nonREM is a marker for depression and often precedes a depressive episode*.

Nightmares are also experienced during REM and are affected by a dysfunctional sleep cycle in that people with depression and/or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) tend to have a lot of them. There’s a movement afoot in the Psychiatric field to find ways of diminishing nightmares in those with chronic depression and PTSD. But nightmares are similar to ancestral dreams and may very well be rehearsals in the struggle to survive. They may be the brain’s way of aiding an individual to confront their fears and tensions head-on. Drugs may in the short term provide a respite for the insomnia of the depressed caused by nightmares, but if used over the long term what may they be doing to the process that nature uses to resolve and deal with fear? Do we really understand the functions of sleep and dreaming well enough to be interfering in this way? Might not it be better to develop a different way of therapeutically dealing with the darkness other than the popping of a pill to suppress it?

REM dreams tend to be dark and sometimes unpleasant and the Western culture tends to avoid these emotions in that it is believed that it’s best to leave them alone. But what is the consequence of this avoidance over time? What is the consequence of suppressing the natural negative? Perhaps in some of us it takes the form of chronic depression, or chronically unresolved fears and anxieties, especially those fears and anxieties that seem to be unattached to any stimulus, what psychologists call “Free-floating.”

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Both REM and non-REM have what appear to be important, perhaps even vital, functions to our survival and learning. It turns out that non-REM is our internal trainer–it mirrors past experience in a time-compressed manner. It literally is helping you in the present to relate to the future from the past. The REM dream, however, expands time and takes you into the future in order to practice it and to test various scenarios. This may explain why some dreams seem to be about what’s happened during your waking life the day before, while others seem more distant, or unrelated to waking life events, perhaps more internal in nature.

Dreams in both forms seem to be nature’s way of preparing us for whatever comes next. Basically it’s an ancient survival tool, the content is different, but the mechanics are pretty much the same.

Dreams seem to reinforce learning, creativity, and survival skills, provide a window to your emotional self, and open a space for life preparation, i.e. practice. They do this by providing a totally different point-of-view to that of our waking life i.e. they are intuitive and visual in contrast to the waking life’s linear and logical. What seem to be intractable problems in one’s waking life can be overcome through the highly creative, free-associating content of dreams.

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*Bypassing non-REM sleep also interrupts the body’s healing/repair/rejuvenation/immunization cycle that further reinforces the depression.

An encouraging conversation with the universe

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I’ve started to notice again how when I’m feeling really down, when I’m worried about whether I’ve made a difference or been foolish, whether I’m doing something right, some kind of encouragement comes my way usually in the form of an acknowledgement, “You really made me think” but sometimes it comes as simply as a vanity license plate, “U R OK”. I’ve always marveled at the timing and spot-on qualities of these synchronistic boosts, but have also not fully acknowledged their magical quality.

What do I mean by synchronicity? It’s what Carl Jung called “meaningful coincidences” or an “acausal connecting principle”. When causal connections seems to be impossible one might infer an acausal connection.

When my life seems a little too random in nature or when I start to feel as though it’s all meaningless chance these little encouragements seem to pop up. When I look back across my life I see that they’ve always been there though not recognized as such when experienced at the time. I don’t know where they come from though some have posited that they are expressions of the collective unconscious, a deeper psychic order or proof of a connection with everything, some have also thought them as sent by God.

Those who believe in only the rational and the concrete label these occurrences as delusional and merely as intellectual intuition with no meaningful connections and have applied several negative labels to explain away the phenomenon of synchronicity e.g. apophenia, patternicity, angenticity (many intellectuals love to use esoteric words to express what they don’t understand. It then makes it look like they have a handle on it). Some researchers such as Klaus Conrad suggested that the pattern emphasis of synchronicity was actually part of the early stages of schizophrenia (though this observation may have some merit not every synchronistic pattern emphasis leads to psychopathy. Psychopathy is often a matter of degree, intensity, and frequency so don’t worry.)

Crazy or not, for me they feel like the intervention of grace that nearly always comes when I most need them. I treat them as messages from the universe (God?) that are telling me something important about reality that I may be missing or am not currently in touch with. Over time I’ve learned to not discount them as merely meaningless and incidental coincidence and to treat them as a gift to my life.

The universe seems to talk to us in many ways if we could just slow down and listen. It’s subtle and so hard to hear through all the noise of our plans, arrogance, anxiety, judgments, fears, outrage, pain, self-criticisms, and worries. But learning to quiet ourselves so as to have a conversation with this phenomenal mystery might be the best thing we can do for ourselves and for each other.

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For more on synchronicity you might enjoy this link: http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/04/08/synchronicity-evolution-your-genes-part-2/

 

 

The void: We are looking for a light in the darkness of mere being.

 

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“I am an orphan, alone; nevertheless I am found everywhere. I am one, but opposed to myself. I am youth and old man at one and the same time. I have known neither father nor mother, because I have had to be fetched out of the deep like a fish, or fell like a white stone from heaven. In woods and mountains I roam, but I am hidden in the innermost soul of man. I am mortal for everyone, yet I am not touched by the cycle of aeons.”

 –C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections

 

When we recognize who and what we are we move toward fullness, toward completion and connection with everything. When we don’t there’s a void that settles just slightly above our gut and leaves us sighing and longing for something, we don’t know what, to fill the emptiness. But no thing can fill the void.

We are a consciousness that rests in the presence but that is informed and connected by what is past and through intuition able to project into the future. This consciousness is informed partly by the archetypes that inhabit the collective unconscious and by perceptions and intentions just below the surface of our awareness.

For me the emptiness seems to disappear just when I give up my time to give time to another or at the moment of forgiveness or when my point-of-view shifts then briefly I am filled. But it never lasts and the light flickers out as I fall back into protecting, resisting, judging, hiding and controlling and the experience folds back into the unconscious and the emptiness returns.

Our unconscious mind seems to surround our consciousness thus conditioning us to all sorts of behaviors and perceptions that may not be of our own making. To ignore our deeper selves, our intentional selves, makes us slaves to our darker energies and feel victim to our circumstances whether they are good or bad. I believe that it is incumbent upon every one of us to explore our hidden selves as best we are able so as to reveal the light that is often trapped within. To do less leaves us in a state of mere being, moving or growing neither forward nor back. A life of treading water is not for me

Fighting Dragons

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Sorry I’ve been off my feed lately, but you see I’ve been fighting dragons for the last few days. Dragons, that’s what I call the depression that sometimes charges from its cave and overwhelms me. He takes on a number of forms, right now he looks like the giant “I’m no good” dragon where everything is better than, smarter than, more creative than.

I’ll be walking the paths of the kingdom feeling pretty good about myself when suddenly I feel his blast of hot breath reducing my fragile armor to ashes. I stand there naked and vulnerable suffering blow after blow of his acid tongue, his maniacal laughter seeming to come from all around me as though the very universe is laughing at my insignificance.

Nothing I do is of any consequence– I pull out my “I am bigger than this” sword and it melts to the beasts fire. I wrap myself in “I am worthy’s” but these are easily stripped from my body and again I am naked before him.

I get so wrapped up in fighting this demon creature of the psychic world that I quite lose myself, and forget the wisdom of the inner wizard. Somewhere in the acrid clouds of smoke and burning ego a little voice struggles to be heard. “Create!” says he and the tears begin to flow, washing away the helplessness and fear. And I begin once again the acts of creation. There is where wholeness lay, there the spirit plays and the soul expresses itself freely.

When I am in the act of creating, the dragon vanishes and it matters not what smallish images of self have been conjured for the real self is engaged in the expansive act of creation– the soul freely expresses during the alchemical process of creating and the universe expands to infinity– no room is left for the little knight and his demons.

So what the hell am I talking about? When I have nothing else to do my mind will conjure up all kinds of stuff to grab my attention and that’s when I start feeling depressed and begin to beat myself up. My ego-self can swing radically between noble grandeur and street urchin, from self-love to self-loathing.

Continue reading Fighting Dragons