At around age 30 I started to seriously forget things, like where I dropped my keys, or last set down my glasses, or put my checkbook. When I complained to my friend Pete about the problem, he put the idea of an electronic Key Finder out into the Meme-o-sphere. Within a year someone else had one out on the market. So instead of using a keyfinder, I developed a free, almost foolproof way of locating misplaced keys and glasses and such: Dream Incubation. Once I got familiar with the protocol, it rarely failed. Dreams seemed to provide ready access to procedural or implicit memory, and they are happy to answer easy, Lost Item Questions – provided however, that I am able to accurately recall and interpret the images they send me during the night.
Yale neurosurgeon, Katrina Firlik, in her book Another Day In The Frontal Lobe, describes my brain much “like tofu, the soft kind, which, when caught in suction during surgery, slurps into the tube.” Scientists are now able to wire up that slurpy tofu while I’m sleeping and TIVO my dreams! And soon they will send them wirelessly to be stored on the Internet for easy downloading onto my personal computer’s hard drive! How amazing is that? It won’t be long before frustrated mornings of awakening with no memory of my lost keys dream imagery will become a forgotten thing of the past.
I can see lots of positive possibilities for this technology. Psychotherapists have long used dreams to help facilitate their work with clients. Historically, therapists are limited by what clients remember or feel safe enough to disclose. Assuming that dream images arise from deep in the unconscious, and that their fleeting, ephemeral nature makes them difficult to retain, this technology will allow us to capture and preserve even the smallest, seemingly insignificant details. That little Doodlebug crawling along the top of the bed rail – what meaning might that hold for you? Or the Jungian Scarab trapped in your toilet bowl – what secrets might it be trying to flush down the drain?
Being able to Tivo our dreams could also be a great way to introduce kids to the three components of creativity that Nancy Andreasen outlines in her book,The Creating Brain – originality, utility and production. By being easily able to access dream imagery and being encouraged to make sense of the esoteric connections between different dream elements, kids and parents can begin to get comfortable with anxious-making originality. They can get practice in giving voice to what attachment researchers call “the unthought known”– those images and experiences we all have stored in implicit memory without any language connected to them.
In order for creations to have “legs,” kids also need to learn how to think in terms of utility. Utility may be something as concrete and obvious (after it’s on the market) as a gyroscoped, electric people mover (Segway), or something like a song that fires up the resonance circuitry in others, and also answers The Big Brain Question “Yes!” (Stand by Me – watch this video. You won’t be sorry). Which leads inevitably to production – something creative must be produced by a person through a process that results in a product – picture, song, poem or object. Tivo itself is one such example. Tivo for your tofu brain is another.
I can easily imagine that working with such a device would help develop and encourage traits in kids that are often found in creative individuals: openness to experience, adventuresomeness, rebelliousness, individualism, playfulness, persistence, curiosity, sensitivity and simplicity. Of course, it helps if parents have a few of these traits well-developed in themselves as well.
A Dream Tivo might also encourage further investigation and experimentation with other forms of creativity. Parents and kids could be inspired to play creativity games like Idea Quota: the deliberate generation of a designated number of ideas; or Absurdity Days: days when we’re permitted and encouraged to be silly and outrageous; or using the SCAMPER Creativity Checklist: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Magnify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Rearrange/Reverse. Creativity expert Michael Michalko, in his book, Cracking Creativity, claims that concentrated thinking in creative ways, increases neural connectivity. Based upon how these kinds of things feel to me in my own body and brain, I strongly suspect he is right. If I could, I would incubate a dream regarding this possibility and Tivo the answer tonight!