Friday, June 23, 2017

A dreamy post

NPR has a post up talking about the scientific understanding of dreams, and it opens noting that Freud is not doing well in science circles:
"For 100 years, we got stuck into that Freudian perspective on dreams, which turned out to be not scientifically very accurate," says Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "So it's only been in the last 15 to 20 years that we've really started making progress."
Yet further down, it has a peculiar claim:
A number of Freud's observations about dreams are still relevant, even if his interpretations of them are less than scientific.
For example, he observed that certain dream elements are common, if not universal. Teeth, for example.
"A particularly remarkable dream symbol is that of having one's teeth fall out, or having them pulled," Freud wrote in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. He goes on to say that's usually a symbol for castration "as a punishment for onanism." The castration explanation may be off base, Baird says. But problems with teeth are, indeed, something many people report in their dreams. "It's weird," he says. "What has that got to do with anything?" Baird suspects we share many dreams like this because we share the same nervous system design, and many of the same anxieties.
I say peculiar, because I don't recall ever having an odd tooth related dream.

I would have thought that the more useful common dreams to mention would have been:   being accidentally nude, or somehow exposed, in public;  the "what - I have no idea how to answer these exam questions"  dream; and the "I can levitate if I really concentrate" dream.   All of which I think are common.  (OK - not certain about the last one - I think flying dreams are pretty common, but I have found that some people claim never to have had one.   The run of odd levitation dreams I was having really ran for a long time - and oddly, some involved trying to prove to other people that I was not dreaming.  Hence, waking up from them was particularly annoying, because in the dream I thought I had the video proof that would satisfy everyone, including myself, that it was real.)

Anyway, I like how the article notes this:
Dreams may be so hard to pin down scientifically because they are so closely related to consciousness, a concept that has bedeviled scientists and philosophers for centuries.

We all somehow know we are conscious. But it's been difficult to define precisely what consciousness is, let alone determine how it is generated by the brain.

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