Sunday, February 19, 2006

Outsmarted by my own subconscious

I dreamed last night I was in Norway. Now, I've never been to Norway, but in my dream my mind managed to have everyone speaking a language that was enough like Danish* that I got the gist of it, but different enough that I kept having to ask people to repeat themselves, as well as generating a dialect form (for the hunch-backed elderly train-conductor character) that, while it sounded nominally Danish-like, I couldn't understand at all.

How does a brain do that?

Geekman would say it doesn't, since he adheres to the theory that you don't experience dreams as you remember them anyway. He claims to have read studies that show that people woken up after less than two seconds of REM sleep will recite a long complicated narrative that they couldn't possibly have dreamed in that amount of time. He argues that this shows we just dream in rapid unconnected snapshots that we unconsciously piece together into a coherent whole after waking. I always reply that if our brains can piece these into a narrative in the second between waking and "remembering" the dream, then they could have created these narratives in the few seconds of REM sleep too. But I usually lose this argument.

Anyway, on waking, I could actually remember word for word the question a fellow passenger in this Norwegian train had just asked me, so I know my mind really was using actual Danish and Swedish words. But somehow it was generating sentences that I was finding hard to understand.

Outsmarted by my own brain first thing in the... um... morning.** Grumble.

*My day-time brain knows that spoken Norwegian is more like Swedish than Danish, but since my Danish is much better than my Swedish, I guess my brain went for the easy option. Lazy even in sleep :)

**I only just woke up, hence it
must be morning. And you are on the other side of the world anyway and won't realise what a decadent time of day it is here, you internet, you.


Lucy said...

And you are on the other side of the world anyway and won't realise what a decadent time of day it is here

except for the helpful time stamp right below those words, of course :) At least it actually was still morning, if only just, unlike when I woke up this afternoon...

StyleyGeek said...

Yeah, I'm not sure what's going on with that time stamp. It was actually more like 12.42 when I posted that. Maybe it isn't accounting for daylight saving or something? I don't think it took me a whole hour to write, so it can't be that it stamps the time the post was begun...

shrinkykitten said...

As a shrink, I believe very strongly in dreams as being a "window to the subconscious." Research be damned, it has led to many a powerful insight in therapy.

I've had dreams in which I speak languages I don't know (like sign langauge!) or have composed music ... I think they are super cool. I have some fantasy that it shows me what my brain is capable of, but isn't allowed to do :)

StyleyGeek said...

That is very cool. I'd love to dream I was composing music. I don't think I've ever dreamed I was speaking a language I didn't know, either. You have cooler dreams than me :(

But I love the ones where you know you're dreaming inside the dream, so allow yourself to do all sorts of things you'd never do in real life (like break into a cake shop and stuff your face full of cakes).