Dream Experiment: Non-Guided Verbal Test

So, right off the bat I’ll tell you that I’m no dream expert. I’ve read a bit about the subject, so I’m familiar with some of the basic concepts. However, I am unaware of the names of researchers and most terminology. All this means is that if you cite someone or refer to an established concept, a brief explanation for the uninitiated would be nice.

What I’m doing here are basic experiments, decidedly non-scientific in nature, to provide anecdotal evidence of different experiences I have while falling asleep.

So, on April 20, 2010, at around 11:00pm, I fell asleep while listening to A Bit of a Chat with Ken Plume and Caissie St. Onge.

I picked this for a reason. I once fell asleep while listening to a single person telling a story with a cohesive narrative, and found myself following the story when I entered the dreamstate. I wanted to see what would happen if I was listening to two people having a conversation that was not grounded in any one topic.

The results were interesting to me, and not what I expected.

At first, I found it impossible to drift off. The rapid switching between Ken and Caissie’s voices would almost startle me awake. After some time passed (I’m unsure how long), I found myself comfortably resting while still listening. Then, finally, the voices ceased.

I had the sensation of still being awake, but didn’t hear Ken and Caissie speaking any more. As soon as I would notice that, however, I would “actually” wake up, and I would hear them again. I would find myself in the middle of their conversation, with no bearing on it whatsoever. In fact, I found it confusing trying to make sense of what they were saying at first, almost as though I was listening to a foreign language. Then, eventually, I would be fully awake, and be able to follow what they were saying.

This continued until around 12:30am, at which point I stopped and just went to bed. At no time did I experience the sensation of incorporating their words into my dreams.

An interesting side effect of this is that I remembered my dreams much more vividly this morning than I have in a long time. I was able to make another observation, I can find definite links between my dreams last night and the activities of the day before.

1) While at Madison Market yesterday, I saw a cranberry buffalo bar, made “The Native American Way,” and I remember that it made me wonder if this marketing affected some people deeply. Was there was some guy out there who wasn’t a Native American, eating one of these saying to himself, “I understand them now, I really do,” and meaning it?

Last night I had a dream that I was visiting my nephew Jeb, and that he had tons of trophies from a national college “Native American” sporting event. The participants were in feathered headdresses, leather clothes, and performed feats like throwing axes and walking on tightropes. It was a weird, borderline offensive activity, but there were tons of pictures of my nephew with tribal leaders. This goes back to my thoughts about the bar, which were that it was probably a Native American owned and operated company, so who am I to criticize some imaginary dude for feeling a connection to Native Americans after eating one?

2) I had band practice with Ben yesterday. While I was leaving I tried out a joke on his roommate and it didn’t work. I desperately tried to find another joke that DID work, even though we were running late. Eventually, I did.

Also, someone on Facebook asked if anyone knew where to get poutine in Seattle. I had it once at The Steelhead Diner and liked it, but couldn’t think of the name, “The Steelhead Diner,” and substituted “The Blue Bistro” instead. Later, I realized my mistake and amended my recommendation.

I had a dream last night that I was at The Steelhead Diner with a band I wanted to work with. We were getting along, but there was one guy who didn’t think I was funny at all. I kept trying to impress him, but eventually he left. The rest of the band apologized.

I should also point out that there were several opportunities to realize I was dreaming that didn’t take:

1) I was staying in a hotel with some college kids. I left to go to a comic books store, and suddenly realized that *I never put on my shoes.* This seemed reasonable at the time, and I didn’t wake up.

2) I was giving someone an old Dungeons and Dragons Fiend Folio from the 80s as a present, and in the back was *the same book in CD-Rom format.*

I’ve noticed that both not wearing shoes and odd books figure largely into my dreams. I’m going to start looking at these things as clues.

That’s pretty much all I got out of this experiment, but it’s definitely the best work like this I’ve done in a while. I’m going to keep trying new things. I’ll let you know what happens.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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3 Responses to Dream Experiment: Non-Guided Verbal Test

  1. Malkah says:

    This is really interesting, and a really fun experiment you’re doing. I’m curious to read future posts about this. You should try books on tape. Choose someone with a soothing voice and listen to something you’ve always wanted to read but have not. See if the story bleeds into your dreams, and if you pick it up! Or something.

    When I was a teenager, I had lucid dreams all the time. I used to go where I wanted, fly around, and generally have fun. My dreams have always had a strong narrative bent to them, with foreshadowing, thematic elements, and the like. It’s led me to think that literature is the way it is because our subconscious and unconscious minds are all about the archetypes, narrative, metaphor, etc. This is not news, and a lot of work has already been done on the subject, but it’s neat to realize it first-hand.

  2. Sean says:

    That’s awesome. I dreamed last night about going shopping for shoes at a mall, and realized at some point that I had left the sandals I wore behind at one of the places I was shopping. It bothered me enough to go back and look for them a little bit, but not enough to keep looking until I was sure I found them.

    @Malkah—I often wonder about the “foreshadowing” in dreams. Is there a part of my mind that has things planned out in advance and presents them to the “dreamwatcher” part of the mind, such that the foreshadowed event was already planned when the foreshadowing took place, or are the foreshadowings random thoughts that the more rational part of the mind tries to confabulate “foreshadowed” justifications for. —experiments with post-hypnotic suggestion suggest the later, and the whole issue of a part of the mind that thinks up dream elements and another that views them brings up the problem of the theatre of consciousness.

    I’m sure that to a large degree literature is the way it is because of the “literary” nature of our subconscious, but I also think that the dream life of people like Paul, Sean, and Malkah is heavily influenced by the kinds of narrative we take in and produce. (I also suspect that the kind of people who take a serious interest in dreams overlaps greatly with the people who take a serious interest in narrative, though that does nothing to resolving the chicken-or-egg issue.) I think it’s much like language. I agree with Chomsky that language comes from hard-wired parts of the brain, but also with the Worf-Sapir hypothesis (at least in a “weak” form) that the language we use (whether that’s a “natural language” like French or Hindi, or specialized sub-languages like legalese, technical terminology, etc.) influences how we perceive reality.

    Let’s take, say, one of us. And someone who consumes little or no “serious” narrative—a life with no narrative is almost unimaginable, but let’s imagine someone who doesn’t read much beyond basic newspaper news, and only watches NASCAR and Cops. (Hard to avoid class-profiling in a thought-experiment like this, but so be it.) It’s possible that this person’s dreams has little or none of the foreshadowing and other “literary” elements that Paul, Malkah, and Sean (PMS, for short) report. It’s also possible that this person’s dreams have all those elements, perhaps even more of them, but that Johnny Nascar just doesn’t think about them in that way.

    Which also makes me think: if “literary” people might have more foreshadowing and metaphor in their dreams than non-literary people (leaving aside the fact that according to an interpretation of what Malkah said, all people are “literary” people because the literary derives from the very qualities that make us human) have, I wonder what other thought habits influence dreams. Like, would habitual gamers be more likely than non-gamers be more likely to have lucid dreams, because they are accustomed to controlling the images they see on a screen rather than watching passively?

  3. Pingback: Dream Experiment: Binaural Signal Test « Some Guy Named Paul’s Blog

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