This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.
2006 Second Web Paper
Human existence thrives off of the very concept that all humans are fixated on the knowledge of their significance. Most people spend a generous portion of their lives with the overcastting question of the meaning of life, and as a result we are aware of our behavior and ourselves. The I-function serves to be the "self" of which an individual is aware, and consequently our lives are governed by the I-function. But if in sleep we are fully conscious, what is it then that governs dreams and dreaming? And how does that change, if at all, for lucid dreams?
Donald J. Degracia writes, "Dreams are a form of conscious awareness during sleep. When we dream, we are consciously aware of visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic and emotional content, as well as thought (both cognitive and metacognitive) and to lesser extents smells, taste and pain"(4) In effect, sleep is analogous to being awake during the day except for a few depressed senses. In terms of sensory perceptions during dreams, dreams are seemingly hallucinations, but they are still conscious experiences. The issue to consider in the discussion of consciousness and sleep is the fact that "conscious" is different from "aware," and that one does not imply the other. In dreams, we are aware of ourselves in the dream but not of ourselves in reality outside of the dream. We know that we are, in fact, conscious because we are aware of ourselves in our dreams, but the fact that we cannot control what happens in our dreams makes it evident that we are not actually, physically, aware of ourselves. (4)
In analyzing the different types of conscious dreaming, we see that there is potential for the I-function in each type. In sleep terrors, an individual becomes intensely afraid and anxious, sweats, and their heart beat speeds up, but because we are consciously aware of this fear, we live out its reaction. We interpret our fear, and then we become aware of our fear. Another type of conscious dreaming is sleep paralysis, which typically is seemingly a hallucinatory perception in that the dreamer is sleeping in an environment in which the person has an inability to move even despite "intense efforts to do so." In this sleep paralysis state, many dreamers believe that they are awake and are lucid.
In both sleep paralysis and sleep terrors, the dreamer is consciously sleeping, but neither is aware of what is really going on in reality, the physical world. In terms of the I-function, The I-function allows the dreamer to be aware of their own aware selves, which seems to be absent in the behaviors of people in the sleep paralysis and sleep terror states. Unlike sleep paralysis and sleep terrors, lucid dreams allow the dreamer complete awareness and consciousness: having the ability to know that one is dreaming and be able to control your dreams as a result of this knowledge. This one major difference between lucid dreams and regular dreams is vital, as lucid dreams become an incredible tool for the I-function, and regular dreams seem to be "typically mundane, realistic experiences in which the dreamer has modest feelings." (2) Lucid dreams allow for the I-function to loosen up and create new and unique situations where the dreamer's fantasies can actively be lived out. Lucid dreams become more vivid and memorable as the I-function becomes increasingly able to add more interesting situations to the dream. And because the lucid dream is being controlled through the I-function, the dreamer is able to anything they want or have ever wanted to do, seemingly at their own command. The I-function also uses lucid dreams as a tool to prepare the dreamer for situations that may actually arise in reality. The I-function may serve as reassurance, or a reminder, in a nightmare that it's not real, as well as help the dreamer walk through a real life situation with confidence, or some quality, that they wish they could have in order to prepare the dreamer for a similar situation in reality. (1) also (2)
Ultimately, it becomes obvious that in lucid dreaming, the I-function and the nervous system work hand-in-hand, as the I-function creates the idea and the nervous system brings it to life. Ironically enough, the nervous system seems to take the "back seat" in lucid dreaming, as it obeys the I-function producing whatever the I-function pleases. The I-function has so much power that it can bring forth a response to an input that doesn't exist. In analyzing the I-function, one can easily see the potential that it holds. As rare as lucid dreaming occurs, only one instance is needed to convince one that the I-function is what seemingly determines everything that an individual chooses to do in their lives; free will. This opens the path for an infinitum of new questions about the I-function and its ability, potential, and function in life outside of sleep. As lucid dreams are almost euphoric in their power and ability, it is really the I-function that most people are forgetting to credit. The complete role of the I-function, like most concepts, cannot be certain, but its ability is known through the small window of knowledge about the I-function through sleep, dream sleep, and lucid dreaming.
1)Neurobiology and behavior 2004 Class forum, a great place for multiple perspectives.
2)Does the I-function control dreaming?paper about dreaming and the I-function.
3)current ideas about REM Sleep, Dreams and Dreaminga good and quick reference about sleeping.
4)Paradigms of consciousness during sleep a good reference.
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