Abstract

It has been claimed that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious mind. The present work argues that dreams and associated brain states such as memory, attention, flow, and perhaps even consciousness itself arise from diverse conflicts over control of time in the brain. Dreams are the brain’s offline efforts to distill projections of the future, while memory represents the vestiges of the past successes and survived failures of those and other conscious projections. Memory thus acts to inform and improve the prediction of possible future states through the use of conscious prospects (planning) and unconscious prospective memory (dreams). When successful, these prospects result in states of flow for conscious planning and déjà vu for its unconscious comparator. In consequence, and contrary to normal expectation, memory is overwhelmingly oriented to deal with the future. Consciousness is the comparable process operating in the present moment. Thus past, present, and future are homeomorphic with the parts of memory (episodic and autobiographical) that recall a personal past, consciousness, and the differing dimensions of prospective memory to plan for future circumstances, respectively. Dreaming (i.e., unconscious prospective memory), has the luxury to run multiple “what if” simulations of many possible futures, essentially offline. I explicate these propositions and their relations to allied constructs such as déjà vu and flow. More generally, I propose that what appear to us as a range of normal psychological experiences are actually manifestations of an ongoing pathological battle for control within the brain. The landscape of this conflict is time. I suggest that there are at least 3 general systems bidding for this control, and in the process of evolution, each system has individually conferred a sequentially increasing survival advantage, but only at the expense of a still incomplete functional integration. Through juxtaposition of these respective brain systems, I endeavor to resolve some fundamental paradoxes and conundrums expressed in the basic psychological and behavioral processes of sleep, consciousness, and memory. The implication

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