Friday, 14 August 2015

Dream or paranormal?

Crows in a treeRegular readers will be familiar with my acquaintance (MA) who experiences microsleep with REM (MWR). Essentially, it is a rare experience, affecting a tiny proportion of the population, who go straight into a dream state when they have a microsleep. Some of the experiences feel paranormal, despite their normal cause. Someone unaware of the phenomenon of MWR who experiences them regularly might think themselves psychic. But, surely, these experiences are just dreams and simple to distinguish from ordinary real life, aren't they?

So, how do know if you are dreaming? Unless it is a lucid dream, you don't, at the time. One obvious test for dreaming would be whether it is an experience you have just prior waking up. There is usually a definite boundary between dreaming and being conscious while we wake up. Let's call it the 'waking up test'. It is generally reliable but not always. There is the false awakening phenomenon to consider, though that ought to recognisable once you know what to look out for. I've had false awakenings and they are disconcerting!

There is another test of whether you are dreaming which we might call the 'blind acceptance test'. Although strange things happen routinely in dreams, we just accept them without question. It appears that whatever part of our brain would normally raise the alarm at odd goings-on is switched off during dreaming. Once we wake up and review the dream content it becomes obvious that it contained absurdities or fiction that would never have been blindly accepted had we been awake. So, can these tests be applied to MWR experiences?

MWR experiences differ from 'long sleep' dreams in several ways. Obviously they are short, typically seconds long. And with MWRs the dream starts straight away, producing a continuous experience, straight after conscious reality, which can be hard to spot straight away. When a MWR ends there is a feeling of waking up but it is, for MA at least, less pronounced than the 'long sleep' version.

So do the tests for dreaming still work? They do but not always. Suppose MA is sitting in a chair at home and then suddenly is apparently in a desert talking to a large lizard and finally back at home again, all in a few seconds, it is quite obviously a MWR. It triggers the 'blind acceptance test' whereby MA did not consider it remarkable, at the time, to be chatting to a lizard or, indeed, suddenly teleported to a desert. But what if MA had gone from home to being suddenly aboard an alien space craft? This is similar to some reported alien abduction cases and, to some people, it would not appear unlikely at all. MA has never had that experience, so far, but it could happen.

There is another experience with MWRs that MA has had several times where it can be difficult to tell if it is a dream. What happens is that the MWR consists of the scene around MA just before going into the microsleep. It looks as if MA's brain takes a visual snapshot of the scene and turns it into a dream. Usually there is, however, something slightly different about the dream version. It is generally the presence of a human figure that was not there before, or after. Also, any changes in the real scene that occur during the MWR are not noticed, as you might expect. There is an example here on a train. Such an experience could easily be interpreted as a ghost. MA can only detect such events through the 'waking up test'.

To summarize, MWRs typically form a continuous experience with waking conscious reality which can make them feel real. They can even use an image of reality, taken just before the dream started, making it difficult to notice the MWR. Of course, if others with MWR have similar experiences to MA, some of the dreams will be more easily noticed by their unrealistic content. But someone unaware of the existence of MWRs could interpret the 'unrealistic' MWRs as psychic visions or even astral travel.

On a unrelated topic, I recently was astonished to see a packet falling off a high supermarket shelf right in front of me, with one else nearby. While it COULD have been paranormal there is a more obvious theory to consider. It is possible that someone took the packet off the shelf, to look at it, and then replaced it. However, they did not put it back in a stable position and the packet slowly slid down to eventually fall off the shelf just as I walked by. The fact that it was a high shelf tends to back this idea up as the person involved may have not noticed, because they couldn't see the shelf from above, that they'd left the bag in an unstable position.

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