A Physical and General Theory of Dreams
Last Revised in May, 2023
By Bruce McKeithan
In the past people have removed the mystery and strangeness from dreams by claiming that dreams help us to deal with life better. They have at different times assumed that dreams contain messages from deities, foretell future disasters or problems, enhance learning, suppress our desires so that we may sleep sounder, provide insight as to our desires and wishes. We want dreams to be constructive and to provide us with direction.
Perhaps though there is a simpler, more general explanation of dreams, one which does not provide us with any particular action to take upon waking. We may merely want to deal with new energy and its effects internally. The base of the brain releases energy that flows into the brain’s central area (presumably the limbic system), causing a disruption or disturbance, which can harm the brain.. An expansion of energy, such as occurs with a hot-air balloon or a combustion engine, normally provides relief from entropy, which is what thermodynamics calls disorder or disorganization. In the case of dreams, the limbic system seems to contain that energy temporarily rather than immediately allowing a further expansion. This seems necessary to allow a sufficient buildup of energy to produce consciousness and real activity. But something must be done about the contained energy in the interim.
In physics, higher energy implies a combination of greater mass and greater velocity. In dreams, the containment and the immediacy of the situation makes the increase in mass the major change. Large groups of objects or people may embody the new energy. But the limited area constrains velocity so that mass frustrates or disallows our activity. We also try to escape from internal energy by taking or using some vehicle to return to deep sleep, which home represents. But again the massive objects predominate and prevent this.
Two structures in the limbic system aid in this entire process. The stimulation of the amygdala and the hippocampus provide a defensive reaction and a recall of people and objects from the past respectively. But really the only way to avoid or prevent excessive internal energy is by an expansion of energy that results in activity. Again, since we have containment, our personal efforts in a dream are ineffectual and frustrated or blocked by the representations of mass.
Once the accumulation of energy peaks or ripens, the release of energy is imminent, and we must awake to avoid the danger that it poses. As energy in the system grows, there is an increase in pressure which at some point reaches a limit. Thus we finally awake.
Stage 1 Initiation
Initially, we must avoid internal energy and relieve pressure at the base of the brain. Transferring energy into the lower, central part of the brain where memory and emotion exists accomplishes this task. As a result, we see ourselves at a location away from home. We may be at the beach or some other resort or in the mountains, or in another region of the country, or even in another country. We are no longer in deep sleep.
Having done that though we wish to escape from the new disturbance and to return to the peace and quiet of home, but we have trouble doing so. We are unable to get our belongings together, or the route home out of the mountains is unclear, or there is difficulty in getting an airplane flight, or we cannot find our room in a hotel which has become larger and has many more hallways and elevators. These enlargements represent the containment of energy, which is not yet adequate for it to be translated into action. But the amount of new energy is too great to allow us to return to deep sleep.
Stage 2 Our Efforts
Since any increase in internal energy as heat can do some damage to this area of the brain, we wish to offset or fix any problem by work. We may see ourselves wanting to cure a sick parent or another relative. We may need to repair or fix an old car, or a coal burning furnace, or an overgrown garden. We may be a part of an office reorganization or change in office procedures. We may also try to offset or reduce internal energy by imagining some activity that we have previously enjoyed such as sports, or a card tournament, or a job, or school. We may see ourselves visiting people or places that we have known, which again puts us in a restorative mode. Of course at times, sexual activity also serves to try to neutralize internal energy.
Work by definition involves an increase in velocity, which as discussed earlier is one of the components engendered by an increase in energy. For example forcefully kicking a football, or punting, in an enclosed area, only to have it brought back to the line of scrimmage.
The storage of energy takes the form of various large objects or groups of people. There may be crowds or gatherings of people in various venues. A number of houses or other buildings, or a single large structure, or a large number of tables or desks in some setting, or some natural phenomenon such as a forest or high hills may appear. We may even see a large display and variety of food set before us. As mentioned, we can refer to these large groups by the physic’s term “mass”, which additional energy causes when there is little opportunity for an increase in activity (velocity).
An interaction and sometimes a competition between mass and our personal attempts to accomplish something occurs. The growth in mass predominates and frustrates our actions, blocking our efforts to offset entropy and to reduce internal energy. For example. in golf there are too many trees, hills or rocks to achieve success. In tennis the court is too large to hit a ball satisfactorily; or the indoor tennis club has moved in a busy downtown, and there is a long line to get in. We are turned down for a large loan to start a business. Sexual activity is frustrated in some way as well.
The storage of energy simply takes up room and passively interferes and blocks our personal efforts. The only effective way to avoid or prevent internal energy is for there to be an expansion of the system and the undertaking of true activity. Since this cannot happen so long as energy is contained, our actions are inferior to the mass of images. Imagine two ships colliding at sea, or two ships at harbor one smaller than the other.
Occasionally though we may find success at some endeavor, e.g. we may be able to hit a golf ball up a steep hill and have it go in the hole, or we may win a lawsuit. So by the end of a dream the whole self can sometimes combine or entwine the two methods: the massing and the combating of internal energy. Another example is a large group of people running for the sake of running, thus combining mass and velocity. This tends to happen after one has woken several times and gone back to sleep.
At the end of a dream the increase in mass and pressure reaches a peak, and our frustration is often clearly present. At this time, the storage of energy threatens to act like a large waterfall spilling over a dam, or a stream rushing down a mountain towards a town, or water going rapidly through a culvert, or a flood. These two things (a very large mass and utmost frustration or difficulty) are coincident at this critical point. They tell us that we must awake to avoid the danger from new excess internal energy. This release or discharge of gathered energy is very powerful.
Trying to fix something in one way or another is desirable, but prolonging sleep thereby makes it almost criminal. The release of internal energy may actually occur, e.g. a hard baseball line drive passing close to one. Elements in a dream become hostile toward one, such as some police or military force or enemy even threatening us with execution or death. An adverse, deadly condition or situation affecting someone else may also occasion wakening.
Stage 3 Consciousness
It then becomes imperative that we extend energy into the brain’s upper and outer regions, which results in consciousness. This enables us to expend energy and finally to use enough energy to allow us to go back home. We finally realize that it is essential to wake up and commit ourselves to some task, profession, activity, or person in order to expend energy. Waking means that we agree to take such action, including developing and resolving ideas. How this goes, of course, depends on a favorable environment and our own cleverness or wits.
Philosophically speaking, the need to act upon awakening is compulsory, and as such predetermined. It even seems as if it is incumbent upon us to take advantage of the energy that we produce. This theory benefits us in that we know that at some critical point we must act physically and mentally. It also may desensitize us to the frustration or lack of success that occurs in dreams. We must accept this underlying natural situation.
Physiologists or neuroscientists may be able to explain the herein discussed situation from their point of view. After all, the transmission of signals within the brain involve neurons, electrically charged chemical elements (called ions), spaces between neurons (called synapses), and the actions between them.
Thanks to Dr. John P. Ralston, professor of physics at Kansas University, for helping me in various ways in the writing of this paper.
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