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Aryanna Reid Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English (1102) 2/8/2014

Exploration of an Unconscious Mind (Draft 2)

Dreaming is a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep (Oxford dictionaries 1). This usually occurs at night to most individuals but dreaming can occur at any time as long as the individual is unconscious. There are different stages of sleep, but dreaming happens to occur in the REM stage (rapid eye movement).In this stage, brain activity is relatively high and resembles that of a conscious individual where the eyes are constantly moving back and forth. Everyone has had dreams and everyone has had nightmares, regardless of people who claim that they dont dream. A nightmare is a bad dream that brings out strong feelings of fear, terror, distress, or anxiety. Dreaming is a complex field and why we dream is still one of the behavioral sciences' greatest unanswered questions. Many scientists have spent years delving deep into all aspects of dreaming and various controversial theories have been proposed. In Sigmund Freuds, The Unconscious (1891), he states that our assumption of the unconscious is necessary and legitimate, and that we possess numerous proofs of its existence. It is necessary because the data of consciousness have a very large number of gaps in them; both in healthy and in sick people psychical acts often occur which can be explained only by presupposing other acts, of which, nevertheless, consciousness affords no evidence." Some scientists, such as Freud, say dreaming influences our behavior and

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may give reason to why we do certain things. When exploring the unconscious mind, there may be much more to it than meets the eye. To understand the concept of dreaming, one must first understand the concept of sleep. According to think quest, the average human typically spends about six hundred eighty-eight hours a year sleeping. As I previously stated, dreaming occurs in the REM stage but there are four stages that occur before a dream sets in action. These four stages are said to be a part of SWS or slow wave sleep. According to Ann Obringer, Our brains cycle through four types of brain waves, referred to as delta, theta, alpha and beta. Each type of brain wave represents a different speed of oscillating electrical voltages in the brain. Delta is the slowest (zero to four cycles per second) and is present in deep sleep. Theta (four to seven cycles per second) is present in stage one when we're in light sleep. Alpha waves, operating at eight to 13 cycles per second, occur during REM sleep (as well as when we are awake). And beta waves, which represent the fastest cycles at 13 to 40 per second, are usually only seen in very stressful situations or situations that require very strong mental concentration and focus. These four brain waves make up the electroencephalogram (EEG) (Obringer 3). Stage one sleep involves our breathing slowing, our muscle tone decreasing, and our body relaxing, with slow and low-voltage EEG (electroencephalograms). Stages 2-4 are notable for the person not awakening by outside sources. These stages are marked by increasing frequency of delta waves, and the continued slowing of the body's functions. Then finally in REM, there are no delta waves, and the voltage activity is low and fast. There is almost a full clampdown of muscle responses of the body and it seems to be almost paralyzed. This paralysis is caused by the release of glycine, an amino acid, from the brain stem onto the motor neurons (neurons that conduct impulses outward from the brain or spinal cord). Because REM sleep is the sleep stage at which most dreaming takes place,

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this paralysis could be nature's way of making sure we don't act out our dreams such as kicking or swinging if the dream involved athletics. (Obringer 3)

(Picture above shows the active brain in REM vs the dormant brain in NREM) According to think quest, Humans usually enter REM ninety minutes into sleeping and go through Stages 1-4, plus REM, 5-6 times per night (Thinkquest 1). The first cycle starts out as short as three minutes, but the duration increases with each cycle, so by early morning, the last cycle can last up to 55 minutes. Ultimately, in one year, a human could have on average 1825 dreams but why is it that we only remember very few? The most well-known explanation for forgotten dreams is Freuds Theory of Repression. Freud theorized that we forget our dreams because they contain our repressed thoughts and wishes and so we shouldn't want to remember them anyway. In his book The Interpretation of Dreams, he argues that all dream content is a product of wish fulfillment. So when we dont

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remember certain aspects of a dream, its our brains way of blocking out wishes or longings that were not emotionally equipped to handle. Freud also believed that our brains dont want us remember certain content because its simply too traumatic. Some psychologists have followed in Freuds footsteps to propose their own theories regarding dream recall. Some suggests that dream content isnt organized enough for us to comprehend its events in waking life. Some such as L. Strumpell, a dream researcher of the same era as Freud, believe that our memories are formed through repetition and association, or finding connections to other parts of our lives. So when dreams are especially unique or too undefined to be relatable, its harder to tie them to reallife events and remember them (Santillano 1). It is somewhat peculiar that we easily recall dreams that cause us anxiety (nightmares) versus dreams in general. It makes one question if there is a link between memory and dreams that induce emotion. There is no definite answer as to why we dont remember dreams but the theories above have yet to be disproven. Over the years, scientists who study the field of oneirology, or the study of dreams, have conducted experiments to explain the purpose for dreaming. The results only leave them with more questions and more theories to explore. According to Ernest Hartmann, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Boston, Mass, he believes that there is a whole continuum in the making of connections that we subsequently experience as mental functioning. One end of the continuum is focused waking activity, while the other end is mental activity that becomes less focused, looser, more global and more imagistic. This is where dreaming comes into play. Dreaming is said to be a state in which we make connections most loosely. The scientists who believe loose making of connections to be a random process also believe that dreams have no meaning. The Contemporary Theory of Dreaming explains that the process is not random,

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however, and that it is instead guided by the emotions of the dreamer. This theory states that the function of dreaming is to weave in new material that evoke emotions, so that it becomes integrated and less disturbing. A new trauma for instance, will be less disturbing if a similar trauma has already been woven in. Aside from this basic function, the connection-making of dreaming can play a role in self-knowledge, in artistic and scientific creativity, and in therapy. Recent studies regarding the contemporary theory of dreaming have been conducted by individuals such as Robert Kunzendorf, PhD, Professor of Psychology at University of Massachusetts and Michael Zborovski, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York College in Buffalo who have contributed to the current propositions on the theory (The contemporary theory of dreaming 1). Some modern theories suggest that the purpose of dreaming relates to evolutionary adaptation. They say we dream in order to rehearse behaviors of self-defense in the safety of nighttime isolation. In turn, get better at fight-or-flight in the real world. According to Llana Simons, Ph.D. in The Literary Mind, studies were conducted by Antti Revonsuo, a Finnish cognitive scientist, that has shown that our amygdala (the fight-or-flight piece of the brain) fires more than normal when we're in REM sleep (the time in sleep when we dream). In REM sleep, the brain fires in similar ways as it does when it's specifically threatened for survival. In addition to that, the part of the brain that practices motor activity (running, punching) fires increasingly during REM sleep, even though the limbs are still (Simons 1). Psychologists have proposed that dreams are a link into the subconscious and that our unconscious mind is often showing itself in dreams. To explain this theory, one must first understand the four stimuli for dreams created by Freud. According to Digital information world, the first is the external stimulus which states that when we go to sleep we are not totally

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cut off, to the outside world and there are external things which stimulate us into seeing dreams. For instance, a friend may enter the room while you are sleeping and make some noise but you may dream that a thief entered your house and you are trying to protect yourself. The second stimulus is the internal organic stimulus which states that when the parts in our body that usually work automatically, slows down, we see dreams that are related to illness or deficiency. These types of dreams are easy to interpret and one can accurately know what these dreams mean. The third stimulus is the internal sensory stimulus which states that our five senses work normally during sleep periods. For example, placing a red light in front of someones eyes while sleeping may cause them to dream about something red such as blood. The last stimulus is called the psychological stimuli. This suggests that we think about things every day in common life that are both charming and repulsive, some of these thoughts are transferred and stored in the unconscious mind and later come out in the form of dreams. All four stimuli show that there are various types of dreams, some purely physiological and some due to physical disturbance, but there are some dreams, according to Freud, that are used for wish fulfillment. He says that this occurs because some time it so happens that we can't fulfill our desires in our waking life due to certain unavoidable circumstances so we express this at night in the form of dreams. This could be an old man dreaming hes a child again or a beggar dreaming hes a prince (Ahmad 1). Another modern theory suggests that dreaming is like defragmenting your hard drive because it is a reordering of connections/data that gets rid of the pathways that are not useful to us. In other words, Dreaming is a shuffling of old connections that allows us to keep the important connections and erase the inefficient links. According to llana Simons, this creates wisdom because it changes a flood of daily information into memory that can help us make better decisions for future situations. An experiment that supports this theory was conducted by

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Matt Wilson, at MIT's Center for Learning and Memory. He put rats in mazes during the day, and recorded what neurons fired in what patterns as the rats negotiated the maze. When he watched the rats enter REM sleep, he saw that the same neuron patterns fired that had fired at choice turning points in the maze which means, he saw that the rats were dreaming of important junctures in their day (Simons 1).

(Example of a rat-maze experiment) Some scientists, as I stated earlier, believe dreaming to be random firings of a brain that doesn't happen to be conscious at that time. This means that there is an absence of a theory and these scientists believe dreaming carries no function. According to llana Simons, Scientists say the images produced have no conscious sense and perhaps it's only consciousness itself that wants to see some deep meaning in our brains at all times. As time passes, scientists continue to conduct experiments that explore the purpose for dreaming. Although we have accumulated much information on the process of dreaming, it still isnt enough to break the barrier of the unconscious which is the reason why, why we dream?,

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is still one of sciences greatest unanswered questions. Theories evolve, new theories are created but the continuous search for a purpose remains.

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"How Do We Dream." ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.

DreamsCloud. "Theories Abound to Age-Old Question: Why Do We Dream?" The Huffington Post., 25 Dec. 2013. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.

Obringer, Lee Ann. "How Dreams Work." HowStuffWorks., 27 Jan. 2005. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.

Santillano, Vicki. "Sleep Amnesia: Why Do We Forget Our Dreams?" Divine Caroline. N.p., 25 Oct. 2010. Web. 07 Feb. 2014.

"Why Do We Dream?" Scientific American Global RSS. N.p., 10 July 2006. Web. 05 Feb. 2014.

Oxford Dictionaries."Definition of Dream in English:." Dream: Definition of Dream in Oxford Dictionary (British & World English). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.

"Nightmares: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.

Image (REM V NREM): "Bio Alarms SPB Time Pocket PC Software SPB Software." SPB Software News. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.

"The Contemporary Theory of Dreaming: Recent Studies - Various." The Contemporary Theory of Dreaming: Recent Studies - Various. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

Simons, Llana. "The Literary Mind." Why Do We Dream? Sussex, 11 Nov. 2009. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

Ahmad, Irfan. "Digital Information World." Digital Information World. N.p., 1 Oct. 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

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