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Dreams FAQ Pt.2/4: Nightmares, OOBEs, paranormal issues

Dreams FAQ Pt.2/4: Nightmares, OOBEs, paranormal issues

Posted-By: auto-faq 3.1.1.2
Archive-name: dreams-faq/part2
Revision: version 1.4,  last changed 1994/09/18 23:59:48
Posting-Frequency: biweekly

This is the second  in a series of four  postings of  Frequently Asked
Questions for  the  alt.dreams and   alt.dreams.lucid newsgroups.   It
contains stuff  on nightmares and  related topics, and something about
OOBEs and "paranormal" issues.

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3. Sleep paralysis, night terrors, nightmares

3.1. What causes sleep paralysis?

A.  Conventional wisdom: REM atonia is  a normal function of the body.
The muscles   that move the  body  are "turned  off" during REM sleep,
which prevents   you from acting   out  dreamed actions   in  reality.
Non-REM  sleep paralysis after  waking up  ("old hag") is  caused by a
failure   to   re-activate the  muscles   immediately.   Normally this
condition lasts only a few   seconds, but sometimes it   can go for  a
minute, which causes  a very scary  feeling.  You are damn sure you're
awake  now  but you  can't move. This  is  extremely unpleasant but at
least not dangerous.

3.2. What causes nightmares?

A.  There is  the dark side  of dreams -  nightmares,  dreams of fear,
pain,  irrational bad feelings that often  cannot  be explained. These
can  become a serious  peoblem when you  often wake up terrified, when
you even don't sleep because of fear of nightmares... Nightmares occur
mostly  because   some   problem   disturbs  you  unconsciously    but
seriously. Some nightmares  carry  obvious symbols that may   indicate
where your problems are, but often it is not that easy. Sometimes they
can indicate really  serious problems like depressions, sometimes just
an inadequacy of getting along with yourself. It's difficult.

3.3. How can I relieve myself of these?

A.  It's  really hard  to  give an answer,  since  so much depends  on
yourself. Moreover, it's always risky to give or follow advice on what
could be a serious problem from far away, and it's ultimately  you who
has to decide whether it is just a nuisance you want to get rid of, or
if  you really  suffer from depressions or  health problems  and it is
necessary to consult professional help.

The common "light" nightmares of permanently missing exams, falling or
being chased can often be  overcome with learning lucid dreaming  (see
section 6). Basically, if you learn to  deal with them, they are not a
problem  anymore. Or, from  a slightly different point of view, you're
facing the problems that cause your dreams and thus overcoming them.

3.4. What is a myoclonic jerk?

This term denotes a common experience with  sudden contractions of the
big body muscles while falling asleep. This mostly causes a feeling of
stumbling,  falling or similar and subsequently  waking up again.  The
exact  cause  is not  known, it probably  is   some disturbance in the
brain's functions  in the first  stage of sleep.  Surely it is common,
and does not cause serious problems unless it  stops you from sleeping
(but then you have general sleeping problems as well).

[From: Corey Thompson <COREYT@vax1.mankato.msus.edu>]
In  my Psycology   class,  the professor    said something  to   like:
"...you're  heart rate gets  very slow, and  and  your breathing slows
down quicker than normal.   You brain may interpret  this as your body
dying, so it sends  an electrical pulse  to your muscles.  Like a jump
start.  This is similar to a Night Terror, when you wake up absolutely
terrified about something, but have no idea why...."

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4. Out-of-body experiences

4.1. What are out-of-body experiences?

A.  [This is a section of Jouni Smed' alt.out-of-body FAQ]

Out-of-the-body  experiences  (OBEs) are   those  curious, and usually
brief, experiences in which person seems to himself  to leave his body
and to observe the world from a point of view other than that which he
would have  were he still 'in' his  body. In some cases the experients
claim that  they 'saw' and  'heard' things (objects  which were really
there, events  and conversations which  really took place) which could
not have seen or heard from the actual positions of their bodies.

OBEs are surprisingly common; different surveys have yielded some what
different results, but  all in all one would  not be too  far wrong if
one said  that somewhere between  one person in  ten and one person in
twenty   is   likely  to  have  had    such  an  experience   at least
once. Furthermore it seems that OBEs can occur to anyone in almost any
circumstances.   They   are   most   frequent  during  sleep,   during
unconsciousness   following anaesthesia or  a  bang  on  the head, and
during stress. Not all OBEs occur spontaneously.  Some people have, by
various  techniques, cultivated the faculty of   inducing them more or
less as desired,  and number have written  detailed  accounts of their
experiences. These accounts do not  always in all respects square with
accounts given by persons who have undergone spontaneous OBEs.

OBEs, especially spontaneous ones, are  often very vivid, and resemble
everyday, waking  experiences rather than dreams,  and they may make a
considerable impression on those  who undergo  them. Such persons  may
find it hard to believe that they did not in  fact leave their bodies,
and may draw the conclusion that we possess  a separable soul, perhaps
linked  to  a second  body, which  will  survive  in  a state  of full
consciousness,  perhaps  even    of enhanced    consciousness,   after
death. Death would be, as it were, an OBE in which one did not succeed
in getting back into one's body.

Such conclusions present themselves even  more forcefully to the minds
of those who have undergone the variety of  OBE known as a 'near-death
experience' or NDE. It  is not uncommon  for persons who have  been to
the brink of death and returned -- following, say, a heart stoppage or
serious injuries from an accident -- to report an experience (commonly
of a  great vividness and impressiveness) as  of leaving their bodies,
and traveling (often in a duplicate  body) to the  border of a new and
wonderful  realm. Reports suggest  that the conscious self's awareness
outside the body  is not only  unimpaired  but enhanced: events  which
occurred  during    the period of     unconsciousness are described in
accurate detail and confirmed by those present.

4.2. How do I find out more about out-of-body experiences?

A.  There  is  a  newsgroup  dedicated  to   out-of-body  experiences,
alt.out-of-body.  jounsmed@polaris.utu.fi (Jouni  Smed)  maintains  an
extensive FAQ file.

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5. Paranormal issues

5.1. Do dreams predict the future?

A. This, like many other things  commonly referred to as "paranormal",
is to  be considered unknown.   There is much  evidence against it, it
would contradict the laws  of nature as  recognized by most scientists
today.  (Any information getting from   future to past would have   to
break the  speed of light, which is   impossible. More on this  can be
found in the  sci.physics FAQ postings.)   However, many people insist
on having experienced "deja-vu" like situations where they came into a
setting they  already had dreamed of.  Could  they prove it?  Probably
not   (cf.  section   5.3)  but  this  fact alone   doesn't  prove the
experiences invalid.    (Proving  a subjective  experience  *wrong* is
impossible.)

Now,  how  come the many  deja-vus?   A common  explanation is a small
misfunction of the brain. Some piece of information,  like the look of
a particular place where you haven't been before, gets from short-term
into long-term memory  via  some sort  of  "shortcut" rather than  the
usual rememberance mechanism. (How this exactly works is currently not
known in detail.)   Then,  when matching short-term against  long-term
memory, you  think that you  have  the piece in long-term  memory from
somewhere in the   past while  it has  entered   long-term memory just
recently.

This could explain  some of  the instances, but the possibility of the
mind  "travelling  in time"  (or place, cf. section  4.1)  can  not be
dismissed - many people claim they have done it and can do it again.

5.2. Can people share dreams?

A.   Again, an unanswered question.  Many people  believe that such  a
possibility  exists,  but  the   lack  of   a  sufficient   scientific
explanation  is  obvious. The  often claimed experiences of this kind,
like in  the above case, mostly are not  thoroughly enough  documented
and examined. It is rather plausible that people "meet in dreams" just
by dreaming *roughly* of similar  things,  and fuzzy  memory  does the
rest when they tell each other. (Write down your dreams!)

But again, whether actual telepathic interaction  is possible  remains
unanswered for now, and some  people are doing research about it under
lab conditions.   [There  has been  an institute for this  at Freiburg
University  in  Germany;  I've been told  that it doesn't operate  any
more, but perhaps I can collect some of their research, sometimes...]

One trivial case of interaction in dreams is  people who sleep in  the
same room talking to each other in their sleep. Yes, that does happen.

5.3. How can I tell actual paranormal experiences from self-delusion?

A. If  you plan to prove actual paranormal experiences, most important
is  that you are honest towards yourself.  All efforts to match dreams
against real occurences are  moot if they are reported after the fact,
since then it can't be proven any more that you actually dreamed this,
and  are vulnerable to the argument that the recall  of  the dream  is
just a self-delusion. So the most important thing is to write down all
of your dreams immediately. Make sure that no obvious external sources
of  information have had influence  on  your dreams  (i.e. don't sleep
with the radio on  if you  want to  match  dreams against news items.)
Don't interpret too much into your dreams in the moment you write them
down, log only what you really remember.  When matching the dream  log
against other things  use only  the log, not  anything you  think  you
would remember from  that particular dream.  Remember that recall of a
dream gets  worse with the time, not better.  If you want to  document
shared  dream experiences,  all  people involved should  follow  these
strict  standards. (Cf. question 7.3.)   Refer to  the sci.skeptic FAQ
for obvious traps you should not get caught in.

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To be continued...

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