Why we have dreams
The evolution of man’s dreaming reaches way back into the evolutionary mammalian past. Researchers accept evidence that dogs have dreams. So why did this remarkable facility evolve? Let us imagine how it helped the earliest humans.
A carefree juvenile is being warned to stay away from the high grass but like any youngster the communication may be clear but the urgency is not there. It does not compete with his short attention span, and immersion in play. The focus of children at play is very narrow. Initially he does not even see the proximity of the high grass.
He hears a muffled grunt. He smells a meaty smell. He looks up and sees high grass very close. His parents have been acting concerned and motioning the young ones to stay closer. He notices the adults stiffen and sniff the air. Strange noises come from them and he can see the whites of their eyes. They begin to look like children he has seen that were frightened. Normally his troupe does not go near high grass. He wonders what all this means. He does not have an immediate, automatic reaction so he is frozen in place.
Suddenly everyone is screaming wildly. He has never seen every adult in the extreme of complete panic. A monstrous animal leaps from the tall grass and seizes one of the pack who screams piteously. – Blood and panic. His mother runs to him and grabs him, almost dislocating his shoulder as she yanks him and runs away. He is frozen and traumatized.
Rhetorical question: will this juvenile dream about this that night and on subsequent nights? Of course, he will have many, many nightmares. These nightmares are very common in young people? They are also almost inevitable after episodes of extreme stress at any age. Will not all these associations be cooked in at a low level in his consciousness? Memory, learning and association is known to be more effective, direct and intense by repetition. The research I see now, is emphatic on the role of repetition. This mechanism is necessary down to the biological chemical and synaptic level. The most effective system of association and priorities is dependent on repetition. It is like a system of game trails where the most trod path is dominant and there are many lesser branches. The alternative would be repetition of near-death experiences until the person is dead or more alert. This is not the best survival path. How do we get the repetition? Dreaming.
By the repetition in dreams,all these important associations and reactions are intensified. The next time he is carefree (maybe never to the same degree as before) and absorbed in the immediate but smells that meaty smell or sees the adults get still or sees that look or he hears those peculiar noises from them or gets too close to the high grass or hears that grunt, or adult alarm cries- will not his attention be automatically riveted and Adrenalin flow – a start and flight reaction? Won’t he start running towards the adults and safety? Is this not a survival trait? The trigger that acts past the state of immediate absorption is the hidden observer talked about by psychologists.
Most times the conscious mind (left-dominant) must be rooted in the expected and absorbed in the immediate, whether it is food gathering or even if it is play. The hidden observer can compare with past associations and trigger a mental tap on the shoulder. Dreaming sets up the associations after the remains of the day are relived and re-hashed. Things that the left brain USC is willing to ignore or deny are associated and relived with new intensity and re-tuned with the glandular responses. An ordinary memory string can be triggered by a connection starting point like a picture, a poem or a song. The above memory links are more like alarm triggers. I have received all of these pieces from others in articles. I just put them together in a good guess. I fail to see the harm and thank you for your indulgence.