Thursday, December 13, 2012

Continuity of Dream Settings

waterfall (Photo credit: 3sth3r)
A recent dream...

       I seem to be on vacation perhaps with a tour group.  Some of the people in the group I know, while there are others who are not familiar to me.   We are traveling in a bus or some similarly large vehicle.  

       Where my clearer memory of the dream begins, our group stops at a small town where we disembark and begin a walking tour.  At first I think we are in Kansas, but the very large mountains not too far away indicate otherwise.  I am sure this is not Kansas.  I am puzzled as to why I was convinced that it was and try to figure out where we are.

       The town is very quiet and very few townspeople can be seen.  Our tour group walks through the town.  The place seems familiar to me.   We suddenly come to a huge opening in the ground which I first think is a canyon.  A sort of waterfall cascades below into the depths of this place.  As I study the scene I note that the waterfall and the entire opening appears to be man-made as though it had once been a massive open pit mine.  There is much lush greenery in this chasm and this makes me think that if it were an open-pit mine, it has been out of use for quite some time.  To get a better few of the "waterfall" I go to another part of the chasm rim which is very grassy and wet.   The ground looks very unstable so I back away so as not to fall into the chasm.  I realize that despite the beauty of the appearance, this place is very hazardous.

         Our group now begins to return to the town and the tour vehicle.  We now seem to be in the hallway of my mothers house making our way to our destination.   At first the hallway seems to be very normal, but then it seems to be quite long.    There are rooms with open doors to my left.  I look in the first room and see  that there is an older person in a bed.   As I continue I don't look directly into any of the other rooms, but out of the corner of my field of vision I can see all of the rooms have old people in beds.  This seems to be a hospital or a retirement home.   To my right, the wall is opened to the outside where I can see the chasm and the distant mountains which tower against a blue sky with wintry white cloud puffs hanging over snow-capped peaks.

          We are suddenly in the town again walking toward the tour vehicle.  

          At this point I awaken, puzzled by the dream.  For some reason a country song is running through my mind.  It seems to be related to the dream or inspired by it.   It's almost like I was hearing the song in the dream as I was waking up.  Since it's a good sounding song I intend to write it down, but I don't and soon it is lost to me.   I realize this dream seemed to jump from scene to scene rather than have a logical continuity of movement.  

Sudden Dream Setting Changes:  Why Do They Occur?

          The sudden shift in setting is a common occurrence among dreamers.  What I refer to is the effect of being in one place and then suddenly another without any apparent reason for the change in location.  Often the dreamer may notice the change, but accept it to be something normal.  Sometimes the dreamer's mind may wonder about the scene shift, but rarely does the dreamer make note of the change or protest the change in any way.  The occurrence is merely an accepted part of the dream environment.

           Typically this scene shift will happen as the dreamer is en route from one location to another.  In this case it may be an abbreviation of dream time of sorts in order to move the transition more rapidly within the dream events.   At other occasions the dreamer may be in a place and the scene will just suddenly change without any sort of act of travel.

           Why would this shift occur?   As stated above, this may be an abbreviation of time within the dream to move the action along at a quicker pace.  Then again, considering that the dream is most likely a form of subconscious thought, the shift may be nothing more than a distraction in the sense of changing one's train of thought, free association, or being misdirected by stimuli from another source.  It may be the mind working as it normally does.

             On the other hand, the shift could be an illusion of memory.  Perhaps after waking we only think there were sudden shifts because we are remembering with a fault.  We vividly recall the highlights, but the details have faded.   Compare the dream experience to a sequence of events in waking life--a vacation say, or a day at work.   While we were actually experiencing the time our minds would focus on things of greater interest while minimizing the data that seemed unimportant or of little interest to us.  Later, upon recollection or recounting the events to another, we would draw only upon highlights and in doing so the timeline might sometimes appear to jump from one scene or circumstance to another.

            For me the latter explanation is credible.  However, I would tend to believe the theory of the dream as thought to be the better explanation.  Since dreaming seems to be primarily a mental process, it's seems logical that the mind would work in similar ways in sleep as it would in wakefulness.

           What do you think?   Why would dream scenes suddenly change during a dream?  Are our dreams like a magic and illusion show, full of smoke and mirrors and misdirection?    Have you had the time/scene shift experience in your dreams?   How about in real life?


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  1. I do have some weird dream settings for sure. When I was consciously writing them down, I would struggle to describe the settings b/c they made zero sense yet in the dream they made perfect sense. I was having a recurring dream about a lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that was so real that I began to think I'd actually been there. But I hadn't, other than Tahoe and that's not what this lake was. One day a friend emailed me some pics of her vacation and I was stunned to see the exact setting of that dream. I had never laid eyes on this place before seeing her vacation photos.

  2. I don't really think dreaming can be dismissed as a mere mental process. Studying the major psychologists and psychiatrists of the 19th and 20th century, I was taught that a dream message comes from much further depths. Science, nowadays, consider those older theories surpassed and obsolete, but it seems to me that science, in this sense, has taken a step backwards instead.
    Setting shift: I often wondered what the cause of it can be. I guess each and everyone of us will find a different answer according also to the field of knowledge they're more familiar with. Literature is mine, narration, literary theory, acting, plots. I've always viewed dreams, according to mainly Jung's and Freud's theories, as messages; warning, or announcements. The inability of our unconscious to speak to us in a conventional language, forces it to express a message in narration form. Right? Well, it is a common feature of all types of narration to present shifts in time and space for the sake of a conveying a certain meaning in the most proper way.
    If our conscious mind works this way, why shouldn't our unconscious be run by some similar mechanisms?

  3. JoJo -- A lot of really absurd things make sense in dreams even though sometimes in the dream I know they're absurd, I still accept them. Your story is pretty strange. I've heard of such things. A possible explanation is that you'd seen the picture of the place before but just didn't remember it, and now coincidentally you're seeing it again in your friends pics. But I'd never deny the paranormal explanation.

    Jay -- I was hesitant to say what I did about dreams being a though process, but for simplicity sake I did anyway. I did state that dreaming "seems" to be a thought process, but I'm inclined to believe the possibilities that you state. I do think in your final question you are somewhat concurring with what I am proposing in my stated theory. Subconscious thinking by habit should logically work similarly to conscious thought. But the idea of dreams coming to us from somewhere beyond and not in our control is an intriguing idea.


  4. BOIDMAN ~
    Yep, I have had dreams of all types, including what you have described here - sudden setting changes.

    I'm not too inclined to believe that perhaps we have remembered only the highlights and have thus simply failed to remember how we got to the new location, giving us the "sense" of a sudden scene change. Because too often I (the dreamer) am AWARE of the drastic change in the dream.

    I suppose one could come up with a number of different theories as to the reason for sudden, dramatic setting changes in a dream, and perhaps there is no ONE reason for it. Perhaps it occurs at different times for different reasons.

    But for the most part, I believe that there is probably something we can learn from the scene changes if we really ponder them. In other words, I suspect that most if not all of the time there is some "reasonable connection" that we are supposed to discern.

    It's as if our minds are sometimes juxtaposing different images, just as a filmmaker will do, in order for us to find the similarity or perhaps make note of the discrepancy. Is there some symbolic connection to be made? Or maybe we are supposed to see how one image is "apples" and the other "oranges".

    Is there a relationship there that we're meant to discover? Or are we being prompted to note some dissociation? Regardless, I believe most of our dreams are attempting to teach or show us something.

    There are so many interesting things about dreams to contemplate.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  5. You really have good recollection of your dreams. The only dreams I remember have constant settings. I don't know if that means I don't dream with changing settings, or if I just can't remember.

  6. StMc -- I'm inclined to believe like you, but still, could it be possible that in remembering the dream we only thought we aware of drastic changes? Unless a dreamer is absolutely certain of what is going on in the dream all the time, I would say that a selective memory process might be at work and later our mind puts things together as logically as it can. Since dreams often have a lack of logic according to waking life standards we may have a faulty recall. As you point out, perhaps we should look more closely at the shifts and what they might represent. I don't think it's just randomly there without purpose.

    Sherry -- Remembering dreams takes training, practice, and time. You usually have to work on the recall as soon as you wake up and it's a good idea to write down what you can remember. After a while you should be able to start remembering sequences in detail after a time of practicing this. Thinking about the dreams and trying to analyze them will call attention to symbols and motifs that may recur in future dreams. After a while remembering and recording your dreams can become quite easy. The problem is that it takes time and most of us can't devote the time necessary to honing the skill of dream memory. I did it well when I was in high school and college. Later with job and family responsibilities it becomes much more difficult.



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