Is life as we know it real or some illusionary dream reality? Can we exist in two waking/dream dimensions simultaneously? These are some deeper philosophical questions to ponder, and I don’t hold all the answers, but they certainly intrigue me.
This question always brings to mind a 9-year old client I once treated for seizure disorder. Audra developed nocturnal seizures after a bad vaccination reaction when she was five. At school she was in special education classes for learning disabilities. Her behavior was often slow and lethargic–almost like someone going through life sleepwalking. The epileptic seizures didn’t happen every night and rarely ever happened during the daytime, but the damage had taken its toll in all aspects of her life due to her lack of energy. Her mother brought her into my office for neurofeedback brainwave training to help reduce and regulate her daughter’s sleep onset seizures, which were causing a sleep disorder.
While hooked up to an EEG monitor, Audra’s frontal lobe (the executive function of the brain) displayed high amplitude slow wave theta/delta activity. This is the type of activity our brain makes when drifting off to sleep or in an altered state of consciousness. Audra had an abundance of this activity. Consequently, I had to adjust visual and auditory Neurofeedback training rewards to make it easier for her or frustration would quickly set in and she would give up. It was usually a struggle.
Then one day, while Audra was doing a training session, I suddenly heard faster beeps signaling she was racking up points and doing outstanding. I glanced over at Audra and she was sound asleep in her chair. I looked at the EEG monitor and saw she was making consistent wide-awake beta activity without even trying. I’d never seen this pattern before with her and she was clearly not in the throes of a seizure. Her closed eyelids showed no indication of rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, either. I was perplexed. Most people show faster beta activity while awake, and the slow theta/delta activity while sleeping. Audra was just the opposite. I’d never seen anything like it. Intuition kicked in and I knew I was witnessing an anomaly.
I had the clear thought at the time, however unproven, that Audra’s real waking world might very well be what we call the sleep state. Then when she transitioned upon waking, her brain would slip into what looked like an abnormal dream-like state. I tried to get her to talk about her “dream” experiences while sleeping, but she wouldn’t open up. It was if she had a secret she was not going to share.
Which comes back to the point–what do we understand about reality anyway? Is a dream/wake reversal state even possible? Perhaps. Later, I would learn from researchers studying Alzheimer’s disease, that these patients seem to be able to transverse both dimensional worlds as they deteriorate and become more communicatively unreachable. Some patients were able to later reveal how the other world seemed more real at times than this world. Consequently, they began spending more time in this other world until the body’s life energies eventually withdrew and they exited this plane. This is fascinating stuff.
The closest you can get to understanding this duo-dimensional world is through the practice of lucid dreaming—knowing you’re dreaming while in a dream state. If you’ve ever experienced a lucid dream, then you can probably attest to how real that other world can feel. The trick to staying in a lucid state is to not let yourself get too emotional (i.e. excitement, laughing, fear, etc.) or it will wake you right up. I once tried opening a refrigerator in a lucid dream to see if I could eat veggies while in that state. The second I put the dream carrot in my mouth, I woke right up. It’s hard to master. But perhaps for some it’s not at all. Which leads us right back to where we started—what is the true nature of reality?
Dr. Kathy Forti is a clinical psychologist, inventor, and author of the new book, Fractals of God. amazon.com/author/kathyforti