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View Diary: It's going to snow soon (226 comments)

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  •  Oh, I'm with you. (none)
    Like I said, I've mentioned some of her president dreams before, but I haven't taken them very seriously. And I've had scary scenarios play out in my head and not have them come true, as well. Especially when there's a lot of anxiety like in flying.
    •  dreams, forecasts, theories (none)
      Yes, you should be taking these dreams seriously.  Neurologically, you're on-target when you say that dreams are a kind of "housecleaning," but that does not exclude the possibility that they contain valuable information.  

      Technically what's going on with dreams is, the neurons re-uptake neurotransmiter molecules that have accumulated during the higher stimulus and cognitive activity of the waking state.  When this occurs, spurious impulses are transmitted across the synapses.  You can think of this as a kind of "white noise," like the static on FM radio between stations, or the "snow" on a TV that's tuned to a blank broadcast channel.  

      However, the human brain is optimized for pattern recognition; and for detecting contrasts such as sudden motion, edges of objects, and logic violations.  The brain always seeks out patterns and the exceptions.

      So, where do you find patterns in white noise or visual snow?  The patterns come in from other sources of information or stimuli.  For example the ringing of the alarm clock in the physical room, becomes the ringing of a telephone in a dream.  The sound of a truck going by turns into a truck or other loud vehicle in a dream.  The issue you've been grappling with on and off over the last few days finds its way into the mix and gets represented as sensory stimuli, such as people in a story plot.

      Another source of information is what could be called "nonlocal perception," or what used to be called "extra-sensory perception."  I won't digress the topic by going into the theoretical basis of this in detail, but do a web search under "quantum entanglement" to understand the underlying physical mechanism, and another search for "Hameroff and Penrose" to find the papers that describe how this could apply to "ESP."  Bottom line is, information from "the future" can get into "the present," and the brain can detect it: at a very low level, intermittently, and imprecisely, but nonetheless.  It's a small effect, but it's persistent, like a constant trickle of water, and it can be another source of inputs to the brain that can be added to the overall mix of inputs that produce dreams.  

      Very often the story plots and other impressions in dreams are composed from entire lines of thinking that you have not pursued consciously but have been getting processed "subconsciously," i.e. by the massively parallel processing that goes on in the brain, but without enough "resources" devoted to them to make them conscious.  For example, you might be wondering, "why does that person act that way?" and you might have a hypothesis that you think explains their behavior.  But all along, your brain is also working on alternative hypotheses, at a low level, slowly, with limited resources.  The outputs of these processes can add to the mix of inputs to dreams, and be displayed in the characters and stories of dreams.  This can occur with respect to any thought, idea, perception, or feeling you have had: the brain works on alternative interpretations, and sometimes those come up during your waking state, and sometimes they come up in dreams.  

      The summary of all of this is:  Random physical and neurological processes provide the underlying basis for dreams.  The content of dreams comes from various forms of perception, cognition, and emotion (sensory input, thought, and feeling, respectively) including memories, sensory inputs from your physical surroundings while sleeping, nonlocal inputs, and subconscious processes.  The dream itself is the product of the pattern-seeking function of the brain, i.e. one of the core functions for which the brain is optimized.  And the result is presented in a manner that is immediately accessible during your waking state, as a source of information or input to your waking state decision making processes.  

      All of this has been fine-tuned by evolution over the entire history of our species.  It has obviously been of value to us in terms of surviving under hostile conditions.  Don't treat dreams as a source of "revealed truth," but don't treat them as nonsense.  Treat them as one source of potentially useful information among many, and give yourself the time to think about that information in relation to other things you know.  

      (I get the impression there's been a lot of people having interesting dreams around here, so I think I'll make a diary out of this...)

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