Sunday, 12 January 2014

Dream Interpretation, Learning and Emotional Intelligence

Did you dream last night? What did you dream about? Was it a good dream? Did you ever have a dream that was so vivid that you were absolutely sure within the dream itself that it was real? And which dreams from your past do you still remember today? Which one’s made the greatest impression on you? Do you remember any that did?


Researching for this post, I read a wide range of research papers offering different theories on dreams proposed by many eminent personalities in the world of Psychology, none less than Sigmund Freud himself. The links to the articles and material containing these theories are provided at the end of this post.


Yet despite so much thought and philosophy on this subject, the study of dreams and their meanings remains as elusive today as the cure to the common cold. Clearly, dreams are complex and may continue to elude us for some time yet. However, amongst all the material (and do bear in mind that people have studied and hypothesized about dreams probably since the birth of mankind whilst today, the formal study of dreams is also at the cutting edge of modern psychology), I could nevertheless, find no study that formally links emotional intelligence with dreams.


Furthermore, I feel that very little, if any, material is available which links Emotional Intelligence to the idea of viewing the brain as a highly complex relational database or databases; which effectively creates its own dreams in order to improve its own effectivity and understanding of the world and of different complex situations. Similarly, I'm sure there has been limited or no study of the idea that dreams serve the purpose of allowing us to make new and complex neural connections whilst we are asleep, which we later need as an absolute necessity in order to operate and function normally whilst we are awake, during what we might call our ‘conscious’ hours. But, that’s a very important point, because I believe that dreams form the vital link between the conscious and the subconscious mind. I also believe that dreams go to the very heart of defining what the subconscious really is and its myriad of vital functions which keep our minds healthy and functioning optimally.

If such a study of the mind were performed (based on the idea that the brain is very much like a very complex relational database), then this study would involve an investigation of how dreams contribute to the creation of neural networks similar to the data connections between a complex relational database and this would involve a collaboration between technologists and neuroscientists which would be unlikely. Nevertheless, because of the complexity involved, I feel this is an area of research that could really value from further investigation. I also believe that no one has ever proposed a model based on the data / network model of the human brain, simply because no-one thought of it in this way. So because I have thought of it and as a data specialist, who can bring a special perspective to the subject, I decided to create this post, in order to share this unique perspective with others. I would be very interested hear the thoughts of researchers or others who have an opinion on this subject.


So let’s get to the point. What function do I believe do dreams have in our lives and how do they contribute to our waking life? This will also go some way towards explaining what dreams are, if we look at our minds from a relational database model perspective.


In one short paragraph, I believe that dreams are a way for our minds to create scenarios and situations which are not normally or physically possible in the real world, allowing us to visualize such scenarios so that we can ‘test’ our emotional responses or reactions to those scenarios and how we feel about them. In this way, I believe dreams allow us to make decisions by creating neural connections (supporting my theory of ‘Cloud Logic’) between disparate and abstract subjects. These decisions regarding how we ‘feel’ (hence the connection to emotional intelligence and the subconscious mind) allow our minds to verify whether or not a new connection is viable. Once the connection has been verified, in the same way that a relational database may check if data from different fields of a table is related and can be linked, the neural connection becomes ‘approved’ and is thus allowed to become a permanent connection. This then becomes part of whom we are (effectively, our personality) and impacts upon our outlook and opinions about related subjects when we encounter them in the real world. This in turn, affects how we respond to ‘real life’ situations and scenarios. In this simple way, neural connections formed during our dreams play an absolutely essential role in how the mind learns and retains information and forms the traits, ideas and opinions of the externally visible person, from within.


I believe that attempting to interpret the visual imagery of dreams as a set of predetermined images or topics, each with a singular universally applicable meaning (such as seeing yourself flying in a dream, often interpreted as someone who may have a general feeling of superiority over others) is completely the incorrect approach to gaining an understanding of the meaning of dreams. This is because not everyone’s emotional response to the idea of flying is always the same. Whilst some may view the idea of flying above the world or above others as a visual representation of being superior to, or above the petty affairs of other people, others, who may be absolutely terrified of flying may interpret that same dream image in the same way that a claustrophobic person would feel being trapped inside a small elevator or room – that is to say, with absolute abject terror. Meanwhile, someone else may interpret the same image as a visual depiction of freedom, elation or even an elevation to Heaven. And then again, the notion of Heaven itself is a completely subjective and personal matter, with each of us having a completely different view of what Heaven must be like, so the whole story changes again depending on the person experiencing the dream.  


With so much room for subjectivity, how then can we say that all dream images could possibly have the same meaning for all? It is simply not possible, because our emotional selves are made up of the billions and trillions of neural connections that have formed in our minds over our lifetimes and each of these in turn, has been formed as a result of billions and trillions of other factors, such as our upbringing, our religious views, our parents, our friends, our work, our environment, our interests, where we live, what we eat, what we don’t eat, our fears, our likes, our dislikes, our relationships with others, which interactions we had with the opposite sex, what we did last Tuesday, and so on and so on……….the list is virtually infinite.


It is this incredible complexity and almost infinite diversity in the specific individual lives of each and every one of us, that explains why each of us has a different reaction to every situation and that dreams, instead of giving us the same meaning for the same image every time, in fact are more a way for our minds to test our emotional response to unique images created by our minds, which are personal just to us. A simple analogy of this is a bit like the cravings that pregnant women get. Whilst one woman may suddenly crave a banana pizza with anchovies and pickles, another may fancy chicken wings dipped in raspberry jam (a bit extreme I know, I am just a man after all). The possible reason for these bizarre cravings is that each woman’s body is telling her – without her consciously realizing it – exactly what her body needs to meet her nutritional requirements at that specific time. So maybe there is something in the bananas or the raspberry jam that the woman needs to keep her body in nutritional balance at that specific time. Similarly, with dreams, I believe we create very personal images that are specific to us, based on billions of factors, again each specific to us and then, based on our existing emotional framework, we assess our emotional response to the dream image, in order to accept or reject the formation of new neural connections and just like the cravings of pregnant women, dreams serve to give us images which are very specific to us and our lives at any particular point in time, which we need and apply exclusively to our specific needs and circumstances. And so becometh the man. 


Dreams allow us to test our emotional reactions to scenarios which, if for no reason other than the simple laws of physics, are not normally possible in reality. The dream serves the purpose of creating these scenarios, these impossible worlds for us to view as a third party and to then reflect upon our emotional reaction to them, basically by acting as an emotional processing center. The truth is that for the proper functioning of the brain and for it to understand the outside world, it needs to ‘step’ out of itself and see things as an outsider, effectively, as a third party. Our minds need that third party reaction, because we cannot possibly convey every thought, every feeling, every nuance of emotion externally, to another person or to an external source for processing and reflection, so nature provides us this mechanism for us to be able to do it within ourselves. (It’s not too dissimilar to other autonomous bodily capabilities, which we can perform without the need of others, if you know what mean). In this way, we can say that dreams allow us the ultimate capability for self-reflection. Even if we designed such a capability, we could not come up with something better than what has simply been given to us naturally and for free by God or through the process of evolution (depending on your belief system). In fact, one of the reasons that some people talk to themselves is a visible symptom of this type of ‘third party’ reflection, where the person steps out of themselves to seek an objective opinion from one no other than themselves. It’s a funny notion, but true.  


Based on this, it would be a very interesting study to see if those people who have very deep, highly intuitive and highly communicative relationships, where emotions are often and easily shared, tend to dream less frequently and less vividly than people who don’t have such relationships. Because clearly, those who do have such relationships, would already have the third party reflection available to them, hence reducing the need for them to dream so much in order to self-reflect, thus rendering them ‘lazy dreamers’ as I like to call them J


An interesting point to note here is that there are also some people who say they never dream. So how do these people form new neural connections? Well firstly, I believe that it is unlikely that they do not dream at all. More likely is that they are not able to remember having dreamt, but nevertheless, having dreamt anyway. The emotional centres of the brain controlled by the subconscious need some way to analyse the vast amounts of information that enters the mind every microsecond of every day, and I believe one of the absolutely essential roles that sleep plays in our lives is to give the mind a period of complete external sensory shut down, so that no more data or information can get in, thus allowing the mind time to process the data which has already been assimilated during the day or in the past (hence, why we dream about past events or people too). Dreams, which occur during sleep, work together with sleep in deciding how that data is to be interpreted, understood and whether or not it needs to be retained in the form of a neural connection or connections. Hence those who claim not to have any dreams may still be dreaming, so that they have a way of assessing and interpreting disparate and abstract information streams via emotional reactions, however, they simply may not be dreaming in the conventional way that most of us understand and recognise. Thus, instead of having the conventional visual images, which we all know to be dreams, those who don’t dream may have other ways of assessing emotional responses instead. These could be audible dreams for example, or dreams based on other sensory attributes other than visual ones. As these are not visual dreams they may not be as easy to remember (because visual images are a very powerful memory tool). Hence, such people are still able to process information and generate emotional responses to the information, without the need for visual images to prompt the reaction.


If we consider the above ideas as possible explanations for the almost infinite variances in dreams and dream types for different individuals, then clearly, one cannot say that objects in dreams mean the same to all people. Furthermore, one cannot even define what a dream is by applying the same definition to all people. So where does that leave us? Well, in fact, the only thing we can say with any degree of surety, is that the process of formation of neural connections requires a subconscious rearranging of the mind during a period when all sensory perception is switched off (or at its minimal operation). This ‘special time’ allows the individual’s brain to sort and organise existing data by assessing one’s emotional responses to it and it is this whole process which we call a dream, in whichever form that the dream may manifest itself. So in some way we can define a dream as an inner self-assessment and organisation process, not too dissimilar to a relational database defrag operation, only far more complex.


I read recently (see ‘You Are Not So Smart’ by David McRaney) that the human brain is effectively two brains in one. The left brain takes in information as does the right brain. At some point, that information is then exchanged and re-processed and re-assessed by the opposite hemisphere, almost like an information verification process. It’s a bit like two accountants doing the accounts for a company. One accountant uses ‘Sage’ accounting software whilst the other uses ‘Excel’. They are both doing the accounts for the same company. Then, the accountants exchange their results with each other to see if the other accountant gets the same results using his accounting package. By doing this, they effectively consolidate and reconcile the accounts. Similarly, I believe the two sides (hemispheres) of the human mind work in the same way. Physiologically speaking, the connections between the two are clearly visible and well documented, so this is a hypothesis based on solid evidence. However, what is a pure hypothesis, which I believe could value immensely from further study and investigation, is that during the dream state, one of the essential functions of the dream is to carry out the left / right reconciliation, whereby the left side with its particular infrastructure and specialist anatomy takes information from the right side to understand and interpret that information in its own ‘special way, whilst the right side does exactly the same, taking information processed initially by the left side and then re-interpreting and re-assessing that information with its specialist perception and structure and anatomy, the two sides thus forming a complete and holistic view of the world over time. A sleep study to see if there is significantly increased neurotransmitter activity between the specific neurons that connect the left and right brain during dream sleep would go some way towards proving this hypothesis as valid. Furthermore, I believe this may go some way towards explaining why dreams are so very unusual and show us images and realities that are so different to real life, because somewhere in the middle, the two sides create a reality directly within the mind which cannot possibly exist in the real world and then carry out an ‘emotional’ reconciliation to make that reality fit within the infrastructure of the mind. All of this of course, also goes a very long way towards explaining my theory of ‘Cloud Logic’ and the ‘Relational Data Model of theHuman Brain’. And this is where I really want to go with this whole study of dreams. (See other Blogs and YouTube).


Thus in conclusion, In order to understand the meaning of an object in a dream (dreaming of an animal, a place, a specific person or group of people, a situation, a building, or a concept or idea which one might have ‘seen’ in a dream) one has to understand what that object means specifically to the person who dreams it just like a field in a database. That field is linked to billions of other fields each specific to the individual, just like a very complex relational database. I firmly believe that in our minds, these connections are verified by our emotional responses to the object or set of objects as represented by the images presented to the dreamer within the dream. In this way, the mind is constantly asking questions such as ‘what is my emotional or subconscious connection with the object? How do I feel about it, relate to it and respond to it?’ This question-response behaviour of our ‘internal’ relational database forms the basis, I believe, of emotional intelligence’. Once we see a dream in this way, only then can one 'translate' the dream correctly and accurately. Furthermore, I believe that such a way of looking at our minds gives us a deep insight into neuroplasticity, or the flexibility of our minds to learn and change as a result of experience. (Please see the link).


To draw an analogy, let’s consider horoscopes. It is impossible to group people by horoscope and generalise their behaviour traits simply by looking at their star sign. A more accurate interpretation would only be ascertained by analysing their exact date and time of birth down to the minute. Only then could you make a truly accurate prediction about the person’s future (assuming you believe in the ability of astrology to predict one’s future in the first place). So it is with dreams. We cannot possibly generalise about dream imagery without considering the specific person and what that imagery might mean to them in the first place. (Effectively, this means that we have to accurately map the fields in the person’s internal relational database first, before just generally considering what their database is outputting, because if we do this, the results will be completely nonsensical). Expanding on the subject of horoscopes, would it not be more accurate to take the exact time of conception rather than the exact time of birth? But I digress....... 


Moving further from what has been discussed above, the mind, in assimilating data and viewing possibilities, permutations, connections and probable outcomes creates its own ‘Logic Cloud’. This cloud is a fluid and constantly evolving entity, naturally seeking connections where logic dictates that there should be a connection. Again, the actual logic of whether or not a neural connection between two objects could and should be possible is completely dependent on the logic structure of the individual. And again, because each individual is completely different to another, so the logic, whilst having similarities with others, will also be completely unique and different to the logic of others. In this way, rather than simply describing the subconscious mind, the cloud is the subconscious mind. The cloud is fed by data assimilated by our senses which goes straight into the subconscious (as it may not even be usable by the conscious mind) and in most cases may not even be noticed by the person who thus may not even realize that their subconscious has assimilated any information or data. For example, how many times have you just ‘felt’ that something is right or wrong, without having any clue as to why you feel it and later on finding that your feelings were absolutely 100% correct? One might call this intuition. But I am convinced that not all of this intuition comes only from what we are born with. I believe that a lot of it comes from the information that has been assimilated and processed by the subconscious, then partly passed through the dream filter and other neural processing methods of the brain, only to eventually re-emerge as an intuitive instinct about something that ‘feels’ right or wrong when the real life situation arises. The processing of this ‘secret’ and hidden data is the basis of my ideas on dreams, which ultimately form one major constituent of how all information is processed and used by the subconscious mind, ultimately forming the person you are.  I believe the subconscious mind performs many of the above functions during dreaming and this might also explain pre-cognitive dreams, where disparate information is processed and one possible permutation, outcome or interpretation appears as a dream and once in a while, the prediction or the possible outcome is the same as what happens in reality and may even be perceived by the person as a feeling of deja-vu.


How could we use this understanding to improve our lives and the lives of others? Could we use it to improve the world of business for example? Or maybe we could improve the way we learn or memorise things. Maybe we could use this to somehow help solve major issues such as Global warming or to further fine tune our minds to solve major challenges such as the conquest of deep space or to find cures to major diseases. The possibilities are so many I cannot possibly list them all here, however for sure there is much to be achieved by considering how we may use our understanding of how we learn and form neural connections (through dreams and otherwise) to reverse the process from being a passive one to a pro-active one by actively inputting into our dreams and thus hyper-intensifying the speed with which the human race learns. I wonder, could we switch or reverse somehow the passivity of the subconscious by maybe creating scenarios and watching others’ reflection on them in gaming worlds, or simulated realities for example? Could we apply a technique or methodology perhaps from which we can value in wider spheres? I believe these ideas need serious consideration for the good of mankind, for we cannot possibly hope to overcome our challenges if our minds are simply not yet capable of it. We need to fast track it and make it less of a hit and miss approach.


It is the only way that we can fast track our civilization to become a super civilization envisaged by so many Sci-Fi writers and Visionaries. This of course, ties in closely with the idea that our existence is merely a creation of our perception, or put more simply, we create the world around us. Thus If we can change what we perceive and somehow make that a collective exercise across civilizations, we can change the world.

Here are some cool links:

Einstein: The Most Emotionally Intelligent Man in History.......

I Challenge Freud!!!! His interpretation of Dreams here is illogical....... Various theories on dreams, none with my explanation.......

Alan Lightman: Einstein's Dreams.......

Frontiers: Dreaming as mind wandering.......

Forbes: Intelligence is overrated......

UCS: The Emotionally Intelligent Robot.......

Michael Lazerow: Wierdo's Outperform Normals.......

Psycholawlogy: Emotional Intelligence in the Legal World.......

Above All, Be Extraordinary, Because it's Bloody Boring Being Ordinary!

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