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The evolution of man’s dreaming reaches way back into the evolutionary mammalian past. Researchers accept evidence that dogs have dreams. Any explanation of the evolutionary, initial ratification and benefit must have, at base, a simple justification. So why did this remarkable facility evolve? Let us imagine how it helped the earliest humans.
Disclaimer – When I first formulated this theory, I fell into the self-centered trap of “if this theory is true then other conjectures must be false”. On reflection, I realized this is a completely, arbitrary A OR B trap/falacy as opposed to A AND B. I think my theory is very basic in terms of early development and evolutionary ratification of survival benefit. It can even be applied to other mammals like dogs. When I later thought about other dream effects/motifs like broad, non-specific anxiety, I have to admit it does not directly fit my model presented below of specific danger-avoidance and attraction to better opportunity. I should know enough to understand that the Evolutionary System ratifies on the basis of the sum total of all outcomes that are supportive.
Dreams and nightmares as a necessary repetition mechanism to establish deep association for avoidance of danger.
This is my explanation of the initial, basic, and continuing, mechanism. I see an explanation that is the explanation for the evolutionary ratification . I think the easiest explanation can be seen in a scenario:
.A carefree juvenile is being warned to stay away from the high grass but like any youngster the communication may be clear but the urgency is not there. It does not compete with his short attention span, and immersion in play. The focus of juveniles at play is very narrow. Initially, he does not even see the proximity of the high grass.
He hears a muffled grunt. He smells a meaty smell. He looks up and sees high grass very close. His parents have been acting concerned and motioning and verbalizing the young ones to stay closer. He notices the adults stiffen and sniff the air. Strange, escalating verbalizations come from them and he can see the whites of their eyes. They begin to look like children that he has seen when frightened. Normally his group does not go near high grass. He wonders what all this means. He does not have an immediate, automatic reaction so he is frozen in place.
Suddenly everyone is screaming wildly. He has never seen every adult in the extreme of complete panic – this is terrifying. A monstrous animal leaps from the tall grass and seizes another child of the group who screams piteously. – Blood and panic. His mother runs to him and grabs him, almost dislocating his shoulder as she yanks him and runs away. He is frozen and traumatized.
Rhetorical question: Will this juvenile dream about this that night and on subsequent nights? Of course – he will have many, many nightmares. These nightmares are very common in young people. They are also almost inevitable after episodes of extreme stress at any age. Will not all these associations be cooked in at a low level in his consciousness?
Why constant dreams/nightmares? Memory, learning and deep association can only be effected by direct and intense repetition. The research I see now, is emphatic on the role of repetition. This mechanism is necessary down to the biological/chemical processes at the synaptic level. The most effective system of association and priorities is dependent on repetition. It has been explained to me that it is like a system of game trails where the most trod path is dominant and there are many lesser branches. The alternative would be real-world, sporadic repetition of near-death experiences until the person is dead or more alert. This is not the best survival path. How do we get the repetition? Dreaming.
By the repetition in dreams, all these important associations and reactions are intensified. The next time he is carefree (maybe never to the same degree as before) and absorbed in the immediate, but smells that meaty smell, or sees the adults get still, or sees that look, or he hears those peculiar noises from them, or gets too close to the high grass, or hears that grunt, or adult alarm cries- will not his attention be automatically riveted and Adrenalin flow . This is a fight or flight reaction? Won’t he start running towards the adults and safety? Is this not a survival trait? The trigger that acts past the state of immediate absorption is a monitor – the hidden observer. This would be the main ratification and driver of the unique dream state that is, otherwise, a drain on energy resources. I think it is the main reason for dreaming to evolve going way back to other mammals that dream. This does not exclude other theories.
Most times the conscious mind (left-dominant) must be rooted in the expected and absorbed in the immediate, whether it is food gathering or play. The hidden observer can compare with past associations and trigger a mental tap on the shoulder.
Dreaming sets up the associations after the remains of the day are relived and re-hashed. Things that the left brain in the Usual State of Consciousness is willing to forget or deny are associated and relived with new intensity and re-tuned with the glandular responses. The chemical process of deepening synaptic paths continues. An ordinary memory string can be triggered by a connection starting point like a picture, a poem or a song. The above memory links are more like alarm triggers.
We could consider Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a more extreme and sometimes excessive effect of this mechanism. I think many therapist know that these patterns evolved to deal with short term, immediate threats and that reactionary patterns resulting from juvenile input are dysfunctional in later life. I think that hypnotist therapist are using part of the dream mechanism to reverse these effects and I think they know or sense this.
The Hidden Observer
The question of the Hilgard’s Hidden Observer in relation to my dream theory has been raised by an expert hypnotherapist. My reference in this write-up, logically, seems to be the same mechanism in a different setting. I have not read much about his theory but one point is that it basically says that the hypnotic subject, in trance, is not completely dominated and unware past suggested bounds even when commanded to sleep or to not remember. There are experimental results that say there is a hidden observer function operative in the subject that monitors, records and sometimes intercedes in some parts of there reaction or overrides.
I will relate Hilgard’s Hidden Observer to the dream mechanism: The operation of a hidden observer was to complete the dream induced trigger in the usual state of consciousness. This is more basic and prior to the hidden observer appearing in hypnotic trance. The economy of evolution and brain functions in human are allowed to consume a large portion of our energy budget. Evolution would not allow such a basic function to develop and improve at this cost for no reason or in preparation for hypnotic sessions late in our high culture evolution. Without this we could just rest at night. To say nothing of the astounding and sophisticated reversal – the awake reality that continuously perceives – – compared to dreaming – internal perception becomes reality to the dream observer. This has always astounded me and always will. I am a conceptual person.
It occurs to me that, in addition to setting up this monitor/alarm function, – it is also known that we need brain activity at night to support long term memory. This latter would be the precursor to dreams in evolution and continued.
.This made me think at a deeper level about this function/ability. Chronologically as a total system:
First we have daily experience and this function would have to monitor and retain (input) extracted content related to danger (negative) or opportunity (food, sex) – with its own priority .
Second comes the Dream Director in sleep/dreaming that will impose needed evaluation of importance, driving repetition to deepen association. Our dreams, even hated nightmares, will associate environmental clues to danger night after night. repetition is physiologically necessary to deepen association and fast access. This is a high cost in the economy of energy use. There are many other negatives/costs.
Third – In the future – near or far – we can be absorbed, as described above, in food gathering, socialization or play. This is not a good state to monitor and be aware of clues to danger(major) or missed opportunity (minor).
Fourth the facility of this hidden observer in the future will monitor past our absorption and give us “a tap on the shoulder” to get ready for fight or flight when the associated trigger perception is detected, consciously or subliminal . This is the part that relates to Hilgard’s Hidden Observer.
There is no reason to exclude this facility in the hypnotic trance state.
I have received all of these pieces from others in articles. I just put them together in a good guess. I fail to see the harm and thank you for your indulgence.
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