michael mendizzaDreams Are Real (while we are dreaming)
Michael Mendizza
A new bumper sticker reads: "Don't believe everything you think."
That's very good advice and we are going to explore why.

Consider, among other things, that the human brain and nervous system is a dream machine pumping out a near constant flow of images that are so real that we think they are real!

Dr. Keith Buzzell suggests that one of the unique characteristics that defines a brain is its ability to generate ‘resonate representations,’ what we experience as inner images, of our external and internal world. And the display of these images provides the foundation for what we experience as consciousness. Each major brain system produces a unique type of image.

The ancient sensory motor brain produces images that correspond to our external senses, sight, sound, etc. Our mid-mammalian-limbic brain creates resonate representations of the way we feel inside as we experience the sensory images outside, what we call emotions. And the new brain creates abstract symbolic images that represent our interpretation of both earlier brain centers and a great deal more. All are images and, at least for this exploration, images are dreams.

The difference between waking consciousness and what we call dreaming is that we are more or less awake. Awake of course is relative. We can be really awake hearing a rattlesnake on the path next to us or we might be sort-of-awake slipping out of bed before that ritual shot of caffeine.

brain wave graphAwake is relative and the relative states of awakens is represented as various brain wave frequencies, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta, etc. The important point is this: the content of our conscious consciousness, being image based, is a dream, not just while sleeping and sleep walking, but while thinking, imagining, calculating, planning, remembering and acting on the feelings these fantasies and re-memberings of past experiences produce. Simply stated - dreams are real – when we are dreaming.

Consider, just before waking up in the morning, being late for an important meeting, and this dream is so strong it literally wakes us up, heart pounding. The thoughts and feelings generated by the dream carry over into the new awake state. We jump out of bed and rush, hoping it is not too late. Clearly the inner image we call a dream is there, just as real and powerful while we are awake. Dreams are Real.

Or the opposite, we are anxious about tomorrow’s IRS audit as we slip into the arms of Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep, and dream that shredded newspaper fills our tax receipt folders. In one case you argue that the image is real, or at least closely represents so called real events, being late for a meeting.

Shredded newspaper is clearly imagined, a fantasy. While we are dreaming, that is, in a relatively low state of attention, both images excite the same physical, emotional and physiological responses. In low states of attention, which most of us are in most of the time, thousands of so called real and imagined images pop in and out of the system every day. At low levels of attention we simply don’t have the capacity to discern the difference. The body, emotions and psyche respond reflexively, mechanically, to the near constant flood of percolating images assuming all to be more or less equally real. As we said, dreams are real while we are dreaming - even when we think we are awake.

Then the question arises – what are we dreaming while we are awake? I’m an American, a catholic, a carpenter, teacher, Ph.D., a mother, smart, not so smart, I’m old, retired, beautiful, too fat, a member of this club, gang, professional association, believe in equal rights, equal pay for men and women, pro life, pro choice, a Yale graduate, a high school dropout, the list goes on and on.

Looking closely we discover that all these categories, which shape our behavior, create the lens through which we look and very often the mirror we see ourselves reflected in. Like the tailor and the king’s new clothes – these shared dreams are ever so real while we are dreaming. But are they really – real? Am I really a Democrat, a Buddhist, a Republican or even conservative?

Don’t each of these categories, which I have accepted about myself and imposed on others, filter my perceptions, limit to a great degree, predetermine what I see and how I respond?

When a right wing conservative looks at a Buddhist what does he or she see? When a Native American looks at a red-neck what does he or she see? When a woman, sexually abused as a child and raped as a teen looks at the male culture what does she see? When an adult male – placed in an orphanage by his mother at age two - looks at women – what does he see? Dreams are very real while we are dreaming and we are dreaming most of the time.

Most often we simply accept the dreams we dream, identify ourselves completely with this category or that and behave accordingly – hoping no one will notice or question our dream reality.

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