Last night I had a dream. It wasn’t a nightmare, and it really scared me. It didn’t frighten me, it scared me because it made me realize there is absolutely no way to know whether you are dreaming or not.
My dreams are very vivid, I create entire complete worlds in my dreams. In my dreams, I have been to a Rome-like place on another planet, and traveled the universe. I have been to ancient civilizations and I have constructed entire dystopias and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Usually the dreams are good. I sometimes have a recurring dream that I lose my car and then I spend the majority of the dream going back and forth trying to find it.
In this dream, I was in a massive mansion, many times larger than a palace of the grandest size. I was on my way to a big event. I parked my car and walked some length of it take a look, and then went back to my car. My car wasn’t there, and I couldn’t remember if that was where I left it.
So I began walking back and forth of the entire length of the place. There were some places that were very dark and I had to use my phone light. There were vagabonds and creeps living there in the dark. But that wasn’t what frightened me. What frightened me is that, in the dream I actually said, “this is what I usually dream about”. and then I rationalized, subconsciously, the nature of the reality I was in, and the reality was so complete that I actually concluded, “I know this is not a dream, but I have dreamed about this same thing happening before”. I was 100% convinced that I was not dreaming.
I mean I literally rationalized whether I was dreaming or not and concluded that no I was not dreaming. The reality was so complete, that upon waking I realized, there would be no way whatsoever for a person to know whether everything they know is just a dream or not. There is no way to know whether you are awake. No way at all. As smart as I am, I still rationalized that the dream I was living in was complete reality. Or, maybe I am just too smart and my dreams are too real.
If one with a weaker mind would have had this dream, it was enough to cause a psychotic break. Upon waking up, I almost lost the ability to discern what is real. I came close to doubting whether real life is a dream or not. It does however beg the following questions:
Is a dream really a dream? Or, is it an existence in and of itself? Perhaps it could be really happening on another plane of existence? Or another dimension? I am far from the type to believe in any sort of mysticism, but if I cannot know what is real from what is not within a dream, then perhaps it isn’t just a dream after all?
Secondly, how do we know if our own reality is not also a dream – or should I say, an illusion? It’s not like there were pieces missing and I thought that it could be a dream. In the dream I compared what was occurring to dreams I had had in the past – but was unaware of reality as we know it. Perhaps we really are stuck in a matrix in the future with the world being controlled by intelligent machines like in the movie, The Matrix.
Thirdly, perhaps the entire wold is not real but an illusion placed here by God as a test. There is no way to know otherwise. Even when in the dream I remembered I had had dreams about the same event, not once did I think that the world I existed in within the dream was not actually real. It was wholly complete. The mind rationalized every aspect of reality to be a real part of the existing reality. Even for the brightest mind on Earth, there could be no way to know what is truly a dream.
The only thing I suppose you could consider, would be that in the dream that is not a dream such as reality, perhaps one would not be aware of the other reality in the one that is a dream. However, if at some point I have another dream that escalates, I could conceive the possibility that within the dream I could remember reality, and think of it as being a dream.
Something interesting about me, is that I must get a full night’s sleep if I have any hope of getting up in the morning. But not because of what you might think. You see, my mind sometimes tricks me if I have not had enough sleep. My mind will literally dream that I woke up, turned off my alarm, made breakfast, and went to work. It will feel as real as if I had done it. Then, hours later, I really wake up to realize that it was all a dream. Without someone else there to wake me from my dream, I cannot wake up from my dream of reality itself. This has happened to me several times. As a result, I learned that if I will be getting less than 6 hours of sleep and must wake up in the morning, then I have no choice but to stay up the entire night.
But this is the first time ever that within the dream I actually considered the possibility that it was a dream – and concluded it was not. It is scary to know that even upon considering the possibility, I, as rationally as if at this moment, think, well I know this is not a dream. While I am dreaming I rationalized that. Not for a moment did I think it might really be a dream. In the dream, it was a real as me standing here today saying that I know this is not a dream as I write this blog post. I can’t express how real it is.
It made me realize that the nature of reality could be fluid, it could even be wholly constructed by your own mind as it does in dreams, and there would be no way to tell the difference. In the dream, I didn’t even feel the need to pinch myself to see if it was real – although I’m sure the next time this happens I will try that. However I am convinced that there is nothing I could have done that could have convinced me I was not dreaming.
In fact, in the dream I remember wishing it were a dream so I could get my car back. I remember in past dreams where I lost my car, wishing it were a dream so I could get my car back. But the “wishing” felt in the dream exactly the same as perhaps me saying now, I wish I was the ruler of the world and could fly. The former is unlikely and the latter is impossible, but that is only within the bounds of the reality I know. It was the same thing in the dream when I wished it was a dream, but knew it was reality. Even though I was wrong. Or was I wrong? Was it a dream? Or is this really the dream?
What if, while you are awake it is actually the escape from the horror that is reality, the dreams? And not the other way around? I am one of the most rational persons you will ever meet, and it was very scary (scary from a psychological point of view, but not emotionally frightening) to realize upon awakening, that within the dream I was 100%, not 99% but 100% convinced that the dream I was dreaming was not a dream. It’s scary to know that you cannot know whether the reality in which you live is real or not, because we are bound to know only what our consciousness allows – whether dreaming, awake, or even perhaps there is no state of being awake and it is all an illusion.
Contemplate on that. I just hope my post doesn’t cause someone to really have a psychotic break – unless that is, a psychotic break is only a release from the reality that we live in that is really only a dream. 😉
UPDATE 02-20-2016: A couple weeks ago I had a similar dream; the environment was different, but contained the same plot – I lose my car and could not find it. This one I was sure that I was not dreaming, and in fact I actively sought to recognize whether I was dreaming but I concluded, no, I am definitely not dreaming, I wish I was but I am not. But yet I was in fact dreaming.
This time or the one a couple weeks ago, I was not really shocked upon awakening. The more it happens, the more upon wakening I am just like “yeah, of course, it was just a dream, it’s just so amazing how I was convinced it wasn’t a dream inside the dream”. Of course I really was dreaming. But in the dream I was so certain that my reality was real because my mind fills in the gaps, gaps that are only evident AFTER awakening. It is so real and so conclusive that it is absolutely and conclusively evident that it is completely impossible to know if your awake hours, even you reading this post, are actually a dream as well.
Now, the interesting fact is that I know I’m real and if you are reading this then either I am a figment of your dream (or you are a figment of my dream) or you cannot be dreaming, but from your perspective it’s truly impossible to know that. In fact, it’s truly impossible for me to know for certain that I am not dreaming as I type this post update.
Last night I had one as well, but it was not so vivid as the others. This one I remember vaguely , and it differed slightly from the others. In this dream my car was wrecked because someone had hit it. I remember I was parked next to an M3 that was also awesome, I remember thinking it was so cool we parked next to each other. I remember seeing that my car had been hit from the front. Not wrecked but damaged. I remember thinking, in the dream, I wish this were a dream so I could wake up and then my car wouldn’t be damaged, but alas this is not a dream. But alas, upon awakening it WAS a dream!
On retrospect, I can construe the elements of this dream and extrapolate the derivations of these dream elements. I remember seeing a couple cool M3s the previous days, and thinking they were cool. Hence the M3 element. I remember seeing some damaged vehicles including a car similar to mine which had been in an accident, and cringing at it. Hence the car damage element in my dream. And of course, my passion for my car is why my car is an important element, and although I’ve never raced in real life I know I’d love to which is why I was also racing in that dream.
At this point with this recurring dream of my car being lost or damaged, which as in fact happened a good many other times also with more vague dreams, I am almost at the point that if my car is ever lost or damaged then I must conclude that I am dreaming and try to wake up. However, each time the dream is so real and environment so conclusive that I am bound by my own perceptions and mental construct so greatly that the next time I will most certainly conclude that I am not dreaming, even if I am.