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Name: Tyler
Location: Mountain View, California, United States

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Becca's River

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Monday, April 02, 2007

how to tell if you're dreaming ?

I'm remember once having something really great happen in my life, and I wanted to check to see if I was dreaming or not. So, I did what I had always heard of doing as a young child, which is to pinch myself to check if that hurt. Indeed it did. You can imagine my consternation when I woke up. Pinching yourself is not a valid way to determine if you are awake or not!

I have also heard it recommended that one tries to read something written, such as the face of a digital clock or a sign. In a dream, you will often find it either very hard to read, or that the words change, or that they don't really make sense.

Discussing this idea with a few friends, these clues came up: it seems to be night dark during the daytime; you're in a place you've never been before; you're with people you haven't seen in a long time (including people who have died! that's a big clue); in general if you find yourself in a very strange situation.

For me, the biggest problem with noticing that you're dreaming is simply to think to ask yourself if you're dreaming or not. It seems to me that, while dreaming, things that would normally seem impossible or incredibly strange, seem perfectly normal whilst asleep. How many times during a normal waking day do you think to yourself: "hey, am I dreaming?" For most people, I guess it is not very often. So why would you expect to think of that question in an actual dream?

My guess is that certain parts of our brain are simply not operating normally during dreams. Suppose our brain contains a model of what we expect the world to be like. Perhaps it has two parts: a positive / constructive future expectation generator, and a negative / constraining naysayer to possibilities which we may think of yet are unrealistic. If that is how the brain works, then it seems that our negative / constraining part is inhibited during dreams. We are simply less prone to notice that something is wrong or impossible. Maybe in some way, inhibiting this part allows us to modify our world model by adding new possibilities to it, or deal with learned memes which we fit into our model in a round-about and symbolic manner.

Do you know of any excellent ways to check if you're dreaming? Any thoughts in reaction to the positive / negative world model idea?

Thanks for useful check-if-you're-dreaming clues from my friends Stacey and Becca