Monday, 10 February 2014

Dreams of a Different Kind

Lucid Dreaming is considered by many to be a desirable skill or hobby which is acquired through rigorous implementation of certain techniques, such as regular ‘reality checks’ (an act which distinguishes concretely whether one is dreaming or awake) or the daily recording of the events and themes of the previous nights dreams in a dedicated dream journal. It is described commonly as the act of dreaming while being fully aware that one is in a dream, with claims that this conscious state within the dream allows the dreamer to exert a degree of control over the dream itself. One of the most important facts for our purposes is that these dreams are said to be remembered as much as any normal experience the dreamer has when awake.

Putting aside the common criticism of this area, the fact that many believe that lucid dreams do not actually exist, and taking fully on board the idea that a person can have a fully conscious and memorable experience while completely asleep, we can ask direct our attentions towards embodiment, and the problem it is faced with by lucid dreamers.

When inside of a conscious dream, the experiences being had are said to be similar to that of experiences which are had when awake. There are visual aspects, tactile perceptions, olfactory experiences, and anything else that normally constitutes events in the waking world. The difference in the dream is that these perceptions do not seem to be coming through the normal perceptual channels of the body; in fact they do not seem to involve the body at all. But all the same they are experiences which the person is fully aware of, and to varying extents in control of.

Are these occurrences of cognition fully abstracted from the physical domain? Most likely not, but they are an interesting example of how cognition can operate in ways not as grounded or embodied as some claim all cognitive processes must be. In the case of regular dreams and nightmares, an argument of remembered conscious experiences involving the body and the real-world environment being played back does much to dismiss their potential to trouble an entrenched supporter of embodiment, but the idea of a conscious dream, in which new experiences and memories are made, almost entirely  aloof from physical sensory input, that is a whole new nightmare….   

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