Dr. Kelly Neff, The Lucid Planet
Sometimes people spontaneously generate creative solutions to difficult problems through non-traditional methods, such as through epiphanies, intuitions or dreams. Psychologists use the term Eureka! Effect to describe the process in problem solving when a previously unsolvable puzzle becomes suddenly clear and obvious.
While these types of Aha! moments do happen during conscious waking states, the ones that occur in dreams are particularly fascinating. While we sleep, we become connected to the unconscious creative aspects of ourselves. The dream state is an important, vital time where expressions of the self can come through without judgment and flow with clarity and honesty. By gaining access to the unconscious mind, we can begin to pull heavily from intuition and our deeper self-knowledge that might be concealed or suppressed during our day-to-day life.
Indeed, research has shown that dreaming makes you smarter and more creative . While there is no official consensus from scientists about why dreams can lead to such profound moments of inspiration and creativity, or where these moments are localized in the brain, psychologists have argued that sleeping facilitates insight by allowing time for the brain to restructure information and consolidate memories, changing their representational structure.
Throughout history there have been a fascinating breakthroughs in science, medicine, art, literature and even sports that were inspired by dreams. Here are some of my favorite Eureka! dream moments:
- The Sewing Machine
In the 1840’s Elias Howe had invented the first sewing machine, but he struggled and struggled with the design of the needle. One night, he had a dream where he was kidnapped by cannibals and told that he must design the needle to his machine correctly, or be murdered. In the dream, he looked at the cannibal’s spears and noticed that each point had a tiny hole inside of it. He woke up with the epiphany that by putting a hole at the front of the needle, his invention would work. And in 1845, the sewing machine was born.
- The Molecular Structure of Benzene
Friedrich August Kekule von Stradonitz’s discovered of the molecular structure for benzene in a dream. Scientists had spent years trying to figure out the molecular structure of benzene with no success, but during von Stradonitz’s fireside nap one afternoon, he dreamed he was surrounded by snakes eating their own tails, thus forming themselves into hexagonal shapes. He woke up with an Aha! moment realizing this was the exact shape of the molecule he had been trying to crack. And he was right.
- Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity
Albert Einstein was always huge supporter of creativity, famously saying that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Perhaps he felt this way because he dreamed the Special Theory of Relativity when he was only a teenager. In the dream, he watched a farmer turn on an electric fence next to a herd of cows, and all of the cows appeared to jump backwards in shock at the same time. When he recounted what he had seen to the farmer, who had been standing on the opposite side of the field, the farmer explained that he had seen something different: The cows had jumped back one-by-one in order, not all at the same time. The message was clear: Events look different depending upon an individual’s position, because of the time it takes light to reach the eyes. And poof! Inspiration for the Special Theory of Relativity was found.
- James Cameron’s The Terminator
It is important to note that it is not only scientific inventions and solutions that can appear in dreams. James Cameron famously describes how the concept for the Terminator came to him in a dream during a severe bout of fever. Thought he is today considered one of the world’s greatest all-time directors, at the time of this dream, Cameron was working on the post-production of Piranahas II in Rome. Always desiring to one day make an action film, he was inspired when during a 102 fever he dreamed of a robot cut in half, armed with kitchen knives and crawling along the ground towards a frightened, fleeing female. When he woke up, he drew a sketch of the robot, and hammered out a script to a movie about it when he returned back to Los Angeles. And one of the most popular film series of all time was born.
- More Examples of Eureka Dreaming
Several other authors, philosophers, artists and musicians have also credited dreams with some of their greatest ideas: Renee Descartes’ dreamed about his quest for understanding human thought, Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein in a dream, Paul McCartney dreamed the tune to Yesterday, Stephen King dreamed up Misery, and even Jack Nicklaus famously said in 1964 he came up with his golf swing in a dream. I suppose it’s fitting then that the idea for my first textbook, Teaching Psychology Online, also came to me in a dream. Have you ever had a dream that led you towards a creative breakthrough?
Is there a way to have more Eureka! Dreams?
While it would be wonderful to recommend a method for dreaming that would lead to people to more of these Eureka moments, this is difficult since for the most part we have so little control over our dreams. It always helps to keep a dream journal, and to set intentions or ask for answers to specific questions before you go to bed. Proponents of lucid dreaming (which is a different phenomenon from Eureka! dreaming) recommend taking B6 supplements (that convert tryptophan to serotonin) to have more vivid dreams, especially if you eat tryptophan-rich foods with B6 supplements a few hours before bed. But, it is unclear if this will also lead to more creative breakthroughs during sleep. No matter what you try, be open to whatever dreams you might have and always try to look for the symbolism within them.
It is possible that the key to more insightful dreaming lies in getting more in touch with your intuition in your conscious waking life as well. As you begin to listen to your feelings and trust your gut, you will make stronger connections between the unconscious and conscious mind, bridging the gap between dreams and reality. Stay tuned next week for part 2, on how to get more in touch with your intuition!
Photo Credit: Jade Amazon Art & Design
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Kelly Neff is a renowned psychologist, author, founder of The Lucid Planet and the host of the hit new show, Lucid Planet Radio. She has reached millions of people with her articles on psychology, transformation, and wellness, which have been featured on websites like The Mind Unleashed, Mind Body Green, My Tiny Secrets, and now, The Lucid Planet. Before she became a full-time author, Dr. Neff spent seven years as a psychology professor where she helped thousands of students learn about health, relationships, love and sexuality, and co-authored the groundbreaking manual in her field, Teaching Psychology Online. She has a B.A. in Psychology from Georgetown University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Neff is an avid participant in the visionary art, music and culture scene in her home state of Colorado and beyond. You might find her traveling the globe to give workshops, speeches and do research at transformational festivals. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Light and Love!
Physicists Suggest All Matter Could Be Made Up of Energy ‘Fragments’
Matter is what makes up the Universe, but what makes up matter? This question has long been tricky for those who think about it – especially for the physicists.
Reflecting recent trends in physics, my colleague Jeffrey Eischen and I have described an updated way to think about matter. We propose that matter is not made of particles or waves, as was long thought, but – more fundamentally – that matter is made of fragments of energy.
From Five to One
The ancient Greeks conceived of five building blocks of matter – from bottom to top: earth, water, air, fire and aether. Aether was the matter that filled the heavens and explained the rotation of the stars, as observed from the Earth vantage point.
These were the first most basic elements from which one could build up a world. Their conceptions of the physical elements did not change dramatically for nearly 2,000 years.
Then, about 300 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton introduced the idea that all matter exists at points called particles. One hundred fifty years after that, James Clerk Maxwell introduced the electromagnetic wave – the underlying and often invisible form of magnetism, electricity and light.
The particle served as the building block for mechanics and the wave for electromagnetism – and the public settled on the particle and the wave as the two building blocks of matter. Together, the particles and waves became the building blocks of all kinds of matter.
This was a vast improvement over the ancient Greeks’ five elements but was still flawed. In a famous series of experiments, known as the double-slit experiments, light sometimes acts like a particle and at other times acts like a wave. And while the theories and math of waves and particles allow scientists to make incredibly accurate predictions about the Universe, the rules break down at the largest and tiniest scales.
Einstein proposed a remedy in his theory of general relativity. Using the mathematical tools available to him at the time, Einstein was able to better explain certain physical phenomena and also resolve a longstanding paradox relating to inertia and gravity.
But instead of improving on particles or waves, he eliminated them as he proposed the warping of space and time.
Using newer mathematical tools, my colleague and I have demonstrated a new theory that may accurately describe the Universe. Instead of basing the theory on the warping of space and time, we considered that there could be a building block that is more fundamental than the particle and the wave.
Scientists understand that particles and waves are existential opposites: A particle is a source of matter that exists at a single point, and waves exist everywhere except at the points that create them.
My colleague and I thought it made logical sense for there to be an underlying connection between them.
Flow and Fragments of Energy
Our theory begins with a new fundamental idea – that energy always “flows” through regions of space and time.
Think of energy as made up of lines that fill up a region of space and time, flowing into and out of that region, never beginning, never ending and never crossing one another.
Working from the idea of a universe of flowing energy lines, we looked for a single building block for the flowing energy. If we could find and define such a thing, we hoped we could use it to accurately make predictions about the Universe at the largest and tiniest scales.
There were many building blocks to choose from mathematically, but we sought one that had the features of both the particle and wave – concentrated like the particle but also spread out over space and time like the wave.
The answer was a building block that looks like a concentration of energy – kind of like a star – having energy that is highest at the center, and that gets smaller farther away from the center.
Much to our surprise, we discovered that there were only a limited number of ways to describe a concentration of energy that flows. Of those, we found just one that works in accordance with our mathematical definition of flow.
We named it a fragment of energy. For the math and physics aficionados, it is defined as A = -⍺/r where ⍺ is intensity and r is the distance function.
Using the fragment of energy as a building block of matter, we then constructed the math necessary to solve physics problems. The final step was to test it out.
Back to Einstein, Adding Universality
More than 100 ago, Einstein had turned to two legendary problems in physics to validate general relativity: the ever-so-slight yearly shift – or precession – in Mercury’s orbit, and the tiny bending of light as it passes the Sun.
These problems were at the two extremes of the size spectrum. Neither wave nor particle theories of matter could solve them, but general relativity did.
The theory of general relativity warped space and time in such way as to cause the trajectory of Mercury to shift and light to bend in precisely the amounts seen in astronomical observations.
If our new theory was to have a chance at replacing the particle and the wave with the presumably more fundamental fragment, we would have to be able to solve these problems with our theory, too.
For the precession-of-Mercury problem, we modeled the Sun as an enormous stationary fragment of energy and Mercury as a smaller but still enormous slow-moving fragment of energy. For the bending-of-light problem, the Sun was modeled the same way, but the photon was modeled as a minuscule fragment of energy moving at the speed of light.
In both problems, we calculated the trajectories of the moving fragments and got the same answers as those predicted by the theory of general relativity. We were stunned.
Our initial work demonstrated how a new building block is capable of accurately modeling bodies from the enormous to the minuscule. Where particles and waves break down, the fragment of energy building block held strong.
The fragment could be a single potentially universal building block from which to model reality mathematically – and update the way people think about the building blocks of the Universe.
Republished from TheConversation.com under Creative Commons
Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field
A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.
The study published last month in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness is entirely based off a theory absent of tangible evidence. However, the author of the research Johnjoe McFadden said that his hypothesis could offer a way forward for robots that think and feel emotions.
McFadden believes that neuron waves of electrical activity get sent out and as they propagate across the brain, they help compose our entire conscious experience.
Johnjoe McFadden, is a molecular geneticist and director of quantum biology at the University of Surrey. McFadden points to flaws in other models of consciousness as the reason that we don’t have sentient artificial intelligence or robots capable of achieving consciousness.
McFadden’s hypothesis swerves away from most traditional neuroscientists, who generally see consciousness as a narrative that our brain constructs out of our senses, perceptions, and actions. Instead, McFadden returns to a more empirical version of dualism — the idea that consciousness stems from something other than our brain matter.
McFadden’s theory adapts the idea of “dualism,” which is the belief that consciousness is a supernatural force. Dualism has long been rejected by scientists and ruled pseudo-science, but McFadden has attempted to apply a scientific explanation for the idea, which hasn’t been done before.
Neuroscience news reports that the theory is based on scientific fact:
“The theory is based on scientific fact: when neurons in the brain and nervous system fire, they not only send the familiar electrical signal down the wire-like nerve fibres, but they also send a pulse of electromagnetic energy into the surrounding tissue. Such energy is usually disregarded, yet it carries the same information as nerve firings, but as an immaterial wave of energy, rather than a flow of atoms in and out of the nerves.”
It’s also a fact we have an electromagnetic field surrounding our brain is well-known and is detected by brain-scanning techniques such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) but has previously been dismissed as irrelevant to brain function and supernatural. Instead, McFadden contends that the brain’s information-rich electromagnetic field is, in fact, itself the seat of consciousness, driving the ‘free will’ of an individual.
“How brain matter becomes aware and manages to think is a mystery that has been pondered by philosophers, theologians, mystics and ordinary people for millennia,” McFadden said in a press release published by Medical Xpress. “I believe this mystery has now been solved, and that consciousness is the experience of nerves plugging into the brain’s self-generated electromagnetic field to drive what we call ‘free will’ and our voluntary actions.”
Ann Arbor becomes latest city to decriminalize “magic” mushrooms and other natural psychedelics
(TMU) – The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has effectively decriminalized psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms along with other natural psychedelics in the latest sign that public opinion across the U.S. is continuing to turn against prohibitionist policies.
On Monday, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that would make it the city’s lowest-ranked law enforcement priority to the investigate or arrest anyone planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, using or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds.
The resolution applies to all psychedelics derived from plants and fungi, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote and other substances with hallucinogenic properties deemed illegal under state and federal law.
The council also requires the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to halt the prosecution of those involved in the use of entheogenic plants and plant compounds.
Ann Arbor now joins a growing list of cities including Denver, Colorado, and the California cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland that have decriminalized all entheogenic plants. Other cities including Chicago and Austin are considering similar measures. A ballot measure that would legalize the use of psilocybin in therapeutic settings will also be voted on in the state of Oregon this November.
The move to de-prioritize law enforcement around psychedelics was spearheaded by the efforts of local grassroots advocacy group Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor, or DNA2.
At the beginning of the year, councilmembers were skeptical about any move to decriminalize psychedelics. Since then, they’ve found themselves convinced by evidence of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of psychedelics, including for mental health treatment and treating addiction, reports MLive.
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman cited the opening of a $17 million psychedelic and consciousness research center by Johns Hopkins Medicine as proof of “the tremendous potential of these future medicines.” The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is currently conducting clinical trials to find out whether the drug is suitable as a prescription drug for the U.S. market.
Councilmember Jack Eaton described the council’s unanimous backing for the decriminalization resolution as carrying on the city’s legacy of backing the local decriminalization of marijuana during the 1970s, when the plant was still illegal under state and federal law.
The resolution doesn’t allow for the commission of crimes or any significant violation of state or federal law, and any use of entheogenic substances that pose a threat to public health and safety could require intervention by law enforcement bodies.
In the resolution, entheogenic plants are defined as the full spectrum of plants and fungi that contain indole amines, tryptamines and phenethylamines “that can benefit psychological and physical wellness, support and enhance religious and spiritual practices, and can reestablish human’s inalienable and direct relationship to nature.”
The resolution also states that psychedelic substances can be used to address substance abuse problems, addiction, recidivism, trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, grief, cluster headaches and other debilitating conditions.
“The use of entheogenic plants, which can catalyze profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth, have been shown by scientific and clinical studies and traditional practices to be beneficial to the health and well-being of individuals and communities in addressing these conditions,” it states.
Psilocybin mushrooms are currently considered a Schedule 1 narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
However, psilocybin – the main chemical component of the mushrooms – was designated as a “breakthrough therapy” by the FDA in 2019 due to the positive results of psilocybin in treating depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health problems.
Studies have also shown how a microdose of psilocybin—far from the level needed for a full-blown trip—actually increases the creativity and empathy of participants.
Other researchers have also found that psilocybin has provided effective help to patients struggling to quit other addictive substances such as cigarettes.
The newfound recognition of psilocybin therapy as a valid treatment has eroded old stereotypes of psilocybin as some intoxicating and hallucination-inducing party drug that drives its users insane – a reputation that largely grew out of the hippie counterculture of the 1960s when they were widely known as “psychedelic” or “magic” mushrooms.
The resolution further notes that entheogenic plants have been the basis of spiritual practices by human cultures for thousands of years, yet those who seek them for the sake of improving their health and wellbeing must risk arrest and prosecution to obtain them.
“Decriminalization of naturally occurring medicines is necessary for progress,” councilmember Jeff Hayner said in a press release from DNA2 last week, reports Detroit Metro Times. “We can no longer turn a blind eye towards the wisdom of indigenous peoples, and the bounty the earth provides. I have been moved by the testimonies of those who have found profound relief from the use of entheogenic plants.”
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