Adrian Morrison at the University of Pennsylvania, investigating narcolepsy, a condition producing sleep in the middle of activity, found that a small area of the brain, the pons, suppresses full muscular movement while we dream.
If this area is damaged or suppressed, humans or animals make full muscular movements in connection with what is dreamt. He observed that cats would stalk, crouch and spring at imaginary prey. These very imponant findings suggest a number of things.
The unconscious process behind dreaming, apan from creating a non-volitional fantasy, can also reproduce movements we have not consciously decided upon. This shows we have at least two centres of will which can direct body and mental processes. Christopher Evans, linking with the work of Nicholas Humphrey at Cambridge University, sees the movements of dreaming cats as expressions of survival ‘programs’ in the biological computer. These ‘programs’ or strategies for survival need to be replayed in order not only to keep in practice, but also to modify them in connection with the influx of extra experience and information. In the human realm, our survival strategies and the way we relate to our social, sexual, marriage and work roles may also be replayed and modified in our dreaming.
Such movements are not linked simply to survival or social programs’.
An important aspect of dreaming is releasing painful emotions or trauma, and moving toward psychological growth. Also, the process producing these movements does not keep strictly to the realm of sleep. It is observable that many muscular spasms, ticks, or unwilled waking movements arise from this source—the will’ of the unconscious—attempting to release trauma or initiate a necessary programme of psychological growth. That such dream’ activities as spontaneous movement or verbalisation should occur during waking would appear to suggest that a dream must occur with them. Research shows this is unlikely. It does however show that a dream may be imagery produced to express this mental, muscular, emotional ‘self regulation’.
The imagery may not be necessary if the process is consciously experienced.
Because the self-regulatory process produces spontaneous movements, emotions and verbalisation, it is likely there is a connection between it and many ancient religious practices such as pentecostalism, shaktipat in India, subud in Indonesia and seitai in Japan. These are forms of psychotherapy practised by other cultures. They create an environment in which practitioners can allow spontaneous movement and fantasy while awake. Because consciousness is then involved, and can co-operate with the self-regulating or healing activities of the unconscious, such practice can lead to better health and utilisation of unconscious functions.
The older religious forms of this practice relied on belief systems of spirits or gods. Once the connection between these practices and the dream is realised, much in them which was obscure becomes understandable. In my book Mind and Movement I explain the connection between the dream process, self regulatory healing, extended perception and waking consciousness. See abreaction; sleep walking; dream as therapist and healer. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences