Monday, 29 September 2014

HG Library: The APET model: emotions come first

Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell introduce a biologically-based theory which explains the shortcomings of purely cognitive approaches and why effective therapies can work fast.

This article first appeared in Volume 8, No, 1 (2001) of the Human Givens journal and the APET model forms an integral part of all human givens therapy.


Denny was given a life sentence for murder when he battered his friend to death on a freezing cold night for no reason that he could articulate. He and his best friend Nick were 'down and out'. Having failed to get jobs which they had travelled to a specific town in search of, they had both hitchhiked and trudged, cold and hungry, the 90 miles back to their home town.

On arrival, they huddled in a derelict building, desperately burning any wood they could tear down to make fires for warmth. Nick quite reasonably suggested that they go to Denny's mother's house, which was only 500 yards away, and sleep on her front room floor. Denny wouldn't hear of it. When he ran out of arguments against Nick's pleadings, he battered and killed him.

Why? All Denny could say in explanation was, "I just went too far". Denny had no idea why he felt compelled to kill his best friend, only that the 'need' was overwhelming. It subsequently emerged, through psychiatrist Dr Bob Johnson's work with him in Parkhurst Prison [1], that Denny had felt driven to murder because he was still frozen in a state of terror of his mother who had battered him cruelly as a boy. That he was now adult and a strapping six feet three and a half inches and she was 85 and five feet two did not impinge as a reason not to fear her any more.

This famous case serves to epitomise, in stark form, the shortcomings of the basic idea underlying cognitive therapy — that it is beliefs and thoughts which give rise to emotions and behaviours. Denny's fear was powerfully reactivated by a pattern from the past. It was emotion which led to the belief that he must kill, not vice versa.

The case provides a highly graphic example of how extremely strong emotional reactions precede conscious understanding and reasoning. This can be explained in terms of what is now known about how the brain works and, we propose, has important ramifications for how we can carry out therapy most effectively.

New understandings 

Using new understandings about the functioning of the brain, we have developed a theory we have called the APET model. It is, in effect, a necessary updating and enlarging of the model underlying cognitive therapy, which was first developed well before the current explosion of knowledge about brain function.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Why Freud and Jung were wrong about dreaming: The seminal dreams of Freud and Jung reinterpreted

Freud’s whole system of psychoanalysis, which for a hundred years dominated people’s thinking about psychotherapy, is based upon his dream theory. Not only that, much cultural thinking, fiction and poetry in the Western world has been deeply influenced by psychoanalytical ideas. So, if Freud’s interpretation of this dream is not correct, the whole of psychoanalysis disintegrates and so do many of the Western cultural studies of the past hundred years. As we shall see, Freud’s interpretation was hopelessly wrong.

The dream known as ‘The dream of Irma’s injection’ is the key dream sequence in Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams.[1] Freud had this dream on the night of 23rd–24th July 1895. He regarded it, and his interpretation of it, as so significant that he called it his ‘specimen dream’ and devoted some fourteen pages to its analysis. He even wrote to his close friend Wilhelm Fliess on 12th June 1900, “Do you suppose that some day a marble tablet will be placed on the house, inscribed with these words: ‘In this house, on July 24th 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr Sigmund Freud’?[2] 

Sigmund Freud & Wilhelm Fliess
It has been possible to unravel Freud’s dream because, fortunately, the relevant historical evidence about the traumatic events in his life during the months preceding it, and the reactivation of concerns about these events by the remarks of a visiting friend on the evening before, are available to us. This evidence provides the key to understanding his dream in the light of Joe’s findings about the purpose of dreams. And, as we shall see, this explanation is far removed from the one arrived at by Freud himself. His dream was, in fact, a precise metaphorical re-enactment of specific historical events in his life that were still troubling him greatly. The dream was described by him as follows:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 4 - Consolidation of learning during sleep

Here is the final part of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams
Part 2 - Stages in the creative process
Part 3 - Invention and dreams

Part 4: Consolidation of learning during sleep

Many studies have, however, shown that there is a connection between REM sleep and the effectiveness of memory recall for new learning, and some researchers believe that dreaming is primarily concerned with this. Much recently published work still reflects this stance.

However, the dreaming and learning effect is most notable in types of learning that involve ‘false starts’, such as memory for routine procedures, as demonstrated by Professor Peretz Lavie when he set rats to learn the path through a maze. More recently, Erin Wamsley and colleagues taught students to find their way through a complex computer maze. After learning to navigate the maze, half the students enjoyed a 90-minute nap while the rest watched videos. Five hours later, all tried the maze again. Those who had not slept showed no improvement; those who had slept but not reported dreaming about the maze showed slight improvement whereas those who dreamed about the maze performed 10 times better than the other sleepers. However, the dreams were not exact replays of navigating the maze – one sleeper even reported images of a bat cave he had once visited, mixed up with maze images.

The expectation fulfilment theory would predict these findings. It suggests that REM sleep allows the introspected false starts that were not acted upon to be deactivated. Once the metaphorical acting out of the introspected false starts has taken place, the autonomic arousal is switched off, allowing the ‘correct’ memory to be consolidated – hence the improvement in memory for certain types of learning after REM sleep.

Even the finding that, when rats are in REM sleep after learning a maze, the pattern of brain activity is almost identical to that experienced while learning the maze can be explained by our dream theory. Co-author of the study Matthew Wilson, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Learning and Memory, infers from his findings that, during sleep, the brain rein- forces skills learned during the day by repeating and consolidating memories. We, however, would suggest, that the equivalent brain patterns are likely to be indicators that the unexpressed emotional arousal (likely to be high anxiety) experienced while trying to learn a maze is now being discharged in a dream.

That dreaming is not primarily concerned with memory consolidation would seem to be evidenced by the fact that animals and humans denied REM sleep do not show deficits in task learning. As the brain is in a non-memory encoding state during sleep, consolidation at that time is unlikely. Other researchers have suggested that, as the hippocampus is reactivated during sleep after a learning task, and performance on the task is improved afterwards, dreams are a side-effect of the reactivation of this area, explaining why dream content is not directly related to the learned material. All this is more easily and economically explained by the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming.

The REM state is the repository of our stored instinctive knowledge templates, and all new understandings are the result of a process of refinement and integration of our existing knowledge and new learning. That, in essence, is what the creative process is about, but we have more to say about it in the next chapter....


Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 3 - Invention and dreams

Here is the third of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams 
Part 2 - Stages in the creative process 

Invention and dreams

The development of the technique for making lead shot is a good example of a solution becoming incorporated into the surface structure of a dream metaphor which is expressing an ongoing concern of the dreamer. In 1782 William Watts invented the process that enabled lead shot to be made in regular shapes and sizes. One night, coming home from a drinking session, he decided to sleep it off in the porch of the church near his home. During the night it rained heavily and he had the following dream. He dreamed that his wife was pouring drops of molten lead on top of him from the roof of the church. No doubt he was apprehensive of the scolding (scalding) his wife would give him when he got home, and this provided the metaphor of his wife (who was not actually seen in the dream) expressing her hostility by pouring molten lead on him. In other words, his dream expressed the feeling that he would get ‘shot’ when his wife got her hands on him.

 Watts was an observant plumber who was well used to working with lead and familiar with the way molten lead behaves. He already knew that molten lead dropped through the air would form perfect spherical lead balls. He was also aware of the problems involved in making lead shot. Therefore, it is highly possible that his unconscious could have already solved the problem before he had the dream. Although the solution had ‘incubated’, the ‘illumination’ had yet to take place. The solution is incorporated into the surface structure of the dream metaphor.

When Watts woke up he immediately saw that he had a means of making lead shot of a regular shape and size. He carried out an experiment to test the illumination. With the help of his wife (who had presumably cooled down by then) he dropped molten lead from a considerable height – in fact from the very church roof he had dreamt about – and it did indeed form perfect lead shot as it fell through the air and cooled. This very same process is still used today.

A further example is the invention, in 1846, of the first practical sewing machine. For years an inventor called Elias Howe had been trying to build a sewing machine but, like everyone else who was trying to do the same thing at that time, he couldn’t make his designs work. But he was desperate to succeed because he was being hard pressed for money by his creditors. A solution eluded him and his struggle seemed fruitless. Then, one night, he dreamed that he was chased and captured by a savage tribe who told him they would spear him to death within 24 hours if he didn’t solve the problem. They tied him to a stake and began dancing wildly round him, waving their spears and getting closer all the time. As they got closer and closer he got more and more desperate and, when they seemed on the point of killing him, he suddenly noticed that all of their spears had an eye hole near the point. He woke with a start, remembered the dream, and realised at once that this was the solution to his problem. The eye in the needle needed to be on the opposite end from that on a hand-held needle. The model of the hand-held needle may have conditioned his conscious mind, making it difficult for him to see that the functional elements of a needle would have to be rearranged if it was to work on a sewing machine.

The solution ‘hitched a ride’ up to consciousness, as it were, by being incorporated into the surface imagery of the dream metaphor that was expressing his frustration at being pressurised by his creditors (the savages in the dream). This one dream changed the working lives of millions.

The evidence, therefore, suggests that there are two possible ways that dreams may provide solutions to problems. Firstly, if a person has worked on a problem for which he has not yet found a solution, then goes to bed expecting to dream one, he may just dream a metaphorical solution. However, according to the expectation fulfilment theory, this requires (a) that he has an emotionally arousing expectation that the solution to the problem will be revealed in a dream, (b) that his creative mind reaches a solution to the problem before he dreams, (c) that the solution does not reach consciousness before dreaming, and (d) that he recalls the dream in which the solution appears. We would suggest that this could only be successful for a short time. As soon as the person has experienced not dreaming the correct solution (which is bound to happen sooner or later), then it will no longer be possible to generate the necessary emotionally- arousing expectation that a dream is going to provide the answer.

A second and perhaps more likely possibility is that the surface structure of a dream whose metaphorical content expresses a different waking concern may, on occasion, provide the vehicle to express the solution to a particular problem. But this would only occur when the creative mind has incubated a solution and is looking for an opportunity to express it – as with the discovery of the ‘benzene ring’ and the invention of the sewing machine.

So dreams in which problems are solved do not present a difficulty for this new theory about why we dream. Indeed, such solutions emerge in a form that is in accordance with what the theory would predict.

Part 4: Consolidation of learning during sleep

Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 2 - Stages in the creative process

Here is the second part of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams 


Stages in the creative process

In 1926, the British philosopher Graham Wallace, in the The Art of Thought, concisely described the stages of the creative process in a way that we feel hasn’t been bettered. He called these stages: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.

We have probably all had experience of focusing our attention on a problem (preparation), then leaving it aside for a while, perhaps going for a walk (incubation), when suddenly a solution hits us (illumination). Then, of course, we must check that the solution is viable (verification). The characteristic way in which our cognitive unconscious works by ‘incubating’ the problem is nature’s way of enabling us to find solutions holistically (sometimes called lateral thinking). Creative solutions do not come from logical analysis, although such an analysis is necessary in the preparatory stage, but from rearranging the elements of a problem into a new pattern, or seeing the existing pattern from a different perspective.

You can clearly see this process at work yourself by applying to your own dreams the theory of dreams presented in this book. First, note all the elements of the dream, including your feelings about it. These are the feelings that you would have felt had you been able to enact the waking introspections that gave rise to your dreams. The feelings in the dream are actually more intense than the feelings you had when you were awake. (This is because, as you did not act on the feelings when you were awake, your dreaming brain concentrates completely on the aroused expectations associated with the feelings, in order to deactivate them.) Next, compare the dream elements to your waking experience of the previous day to see if you can find a matching template to the dream scenario. Remember, of course, that the match will not be between the ‘objective’ waking events and the dream but rather between the dream and your introspected view of those waking events. This can be regarded as the preparation phase of the dream analysis.

The corresponding waking situation doesn’t usually spring to mind immediately as the purpose of the dream in the first instance was to deactivate the feelings associated with the memory. Hence it usually requires a period of ‘incubation’ before the unconscious mind can trace the associative links to the waking introspection that gave rise to the dream. Ironically it is often easier, when we have adequate background information, to see the meaning of someone else’s dream, if we have an idea of what was preoccupying them the previous day. This is because the waking sequence has not, of course, been deactivated in our brains. Thus Joe’s wife, Liz, will often identify the meaning of one of his dreams before he does and vice versa. Once the meaning has been identified all of the elements in it can be matched up, which helps to verify it. Thus, real dream interpretation, especially interpreting our own dreams, clearly involves the four traditional phases of creative problem solving: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification.

Despite popular ideas to the contrary it appears that successful problem solving in dreams may be pretty rare. Dement has reported a research project in which 500 undergraduate students, over three consecutive classes, were given one of three problems to solve. They were told to study a problem for 15 minutes before going to sleep and to record any dreams they remembered from the night. If the problem had not been solved, they were to work on it for another 15 minutes in the morning. The total number of problem-solving attempts was 1,148. It was judged that 87 dreams related to the problem but that the problem was solved in a dream on only seven occasions.

One of the problems was as follows: “The letters OTTFF... form the beginning of an infinite sequence. Find a simple rule for determining any or all successive letters. According to your rule, what would be the next two letters of the sequence?” The next two letters are SS. The letters represent the first letters used in spelling out the numerical sequence one, two, three, four, five, six, seven etc.

The following dream is one of those in which the problem was solved.

The art gallery

I was standing in an art gallery looking at the paintings on the wall. As I walked down the hall, I began to count the paintings one, two, three, four, five. But as I came to the sixth and seventh, the paintings had been ripped from their frames! I stared at the empty frames with a peculiar feeling that some mystery was about to suddenly be solved, I realised that the sixth and seventh spaces were the solution to the problem.

A second problem the students were given was to consider the letters HIJKLMNO. The solution to the problem was one word: water. In other words, ‘H to O’ or H2O.

No dream was classified as actually solving the problem, but twelve were classified as ‘mode of expression dreams’. An example of a ‘mode of expression’ dream is as follows:

I had several dreams, all of which had water in them somewhere. In one dream I was hunting for sharks. In another I was riding waves at the ocean. In another I was confronted by a barracuda while skin-diving. In another it was raining quite heavily. In another I was sailing into the wind.

This dream, as the student reported, had water in it everywhere. Yet, as far as he was concerned, the student had solved the problem to his own satisfaction before going to bed, with the word ‘alphabet’.

The type of holistic thinking required for creative problem solving is the antithesis of the everyday analytical approach. Rather than breaking a problem down, it involves looking at the entire problem from a different perspective. This is also the type of thinking required to solve the problems in Dement’s study. Such creative problem solving is often facilitated by taking a break from the problem and getting into a relaxed frame of mind (incubation) after which the solution often ‘hits’ us (illumination). It may well be that dreaming can, in a sense, provide the relaxed frame of mind in which a solution can emerge. An individual’s analogical thinking process may have arrived at a solution before dreaming, but he or she is either too tired or, more likely, too set in an analytical left-brain mode of thinking, for the solution to emerge.

The research psychologist Norman Dixon has reported experiments where a subliminal image shown to subjects appeared in the manifest content of a subsequent dream. He argued that, in these cases, although the image has been perceived, the stimulus doesn’t possess enough energy to get as far as waking consciousness but it can emerge in the less controlled consciousness of a dream. Perhaps a similar phenomenon exists as far as dream problem solving is concerned. A solution that doesn’t possess enough energy to break through into consciousness, either because existing cognitive sets are too rigid or because the person is not in a suitably relaxed frame of mind, may become manifest in a dream sequence.

How the solution manifests depends on how people anticipate what will happen in their dream before they go to sleep. In the first example given, the subject has the solution expressed clearly in an analogous setting. He is looking at paintings in an art gallery. This is a metaphor for his anticipation that he will be looking at images in a dream. The sixth and seventh paintings, ripped from their frames, symbolise the missing two letters which had to be found in order to solve the problem. He expects the problem to be solved in a dream. He looks at the blank paintings with a feeling that some mystery is going to be solved. He realises that the sixth and seventh spaces are the solution.

This dream, then, metaphorically represented what this student anticipated would happen in a dream that night. His creative process had probably arrived at a correct solution before the dream occurred. Consequently the anticipated solution provided in the dream was an accurate metaphor of the correct solution. This is in contrast to the great majority of the dreams reported – these were about the problem and trying to solve it but the correct solution did not emerge from them.

In the second example, the student wrongly thought that he had solved the problem before going to sleep. In this case, Joe’s theory of dreams would lead us to expect that, for the correct solution to appear in this student’s dreams, it would have to be incorporated into the ongoing imagery of other dream themes, since he was no longer anticipating a solution in a dream. (This is what happened with the subliminally presented images in Dixon’s study, they were incorporated into the ongoing dream sequences.) The student reported several dreams in which water was the main form of symbolism. However, the dreams were not about the problem, or about water as the solution to the problem, but rather water as a symbol to express a personal concern for the future – a fear that he was heading into ‘dangerous waters’ perhaps.

This student’s creative thinking process had arrived at the correct solution, namely ‘water’, but, because he wrongly believed ‘alphabet’ to be the solution, it did not emerge into waking consciousness and, like a subliminally presented stimulus, was easily incorporated into the symbolism or metaphors of dreams that expressed different waking anticipations.

Similarly, Kekule’s analogical thinking process had arrived at a correct solution but a suitable frame of mind for its emergence may not have been arrived at before he fell asleep, or else his conscious mental sets were too rigid to permit the solution to emerge. So the solution was incorporated into the symbolism in a dream which was expressing some other waking concern. In this case Kekule’s fear that the problem was making a fool of him is expressed appropriately by the snake chasing its own tail, ‘mockingly’ going round in circles. The expectation fulfilment theory suggests that, for a person’s problem to be directly solved in a dream, they must actively anticipate that the problem will be solved in their dreams and, secondly, the correct solution must have already occurred to them prior to having the dream. On the other hand, where a solution has occurred to a person’s unconscious mind, but an appropriate milieu for its expression has not been found while they were awake, then the solution may be indirectly suggested by the surface imagery of the metaphor expressing a different waking concern – as in the examples of Kekule’s dream and in the water solution dream just described.

The New Scientist asked its readers to use their dreams to solve a number of intellectual problems. They were the kind of problems that would be expected to baffle the logical, conscious mind. Eleven people wrote to Morton Schatzman, who was conducting the research, and described how a dream had helped them solve the following mathematical problem:

Using six line segments of equal length, can you construct four equilateral triangles such that the sides of the triangles are the same length as the line segments.

One who wrote in said that, in a dream, she ran her hand along some railings and six of them came together “to form a kind of wig-wam”. Later she dreamt that her chemistry teacher appeared in the dream and said ‘109 28’. The student knew that this number was connected with tetrahedral molecules whose structures make up four equilateral triangles. Translating the metaphor she realised that the solution was a three-sided pyramid. Another student, who was not familiar with mathematics, was delighted with the help her dream provided. In her dream, she asked a scientist for help, and the scientist jumped up and down and eventually flew up on top of a cupboard. When the dreamer woke up, she was able to understand the metaphorical answer by realising that the triangles must be given lift off. She made a drawing using this idea and solved the problem.

Notice how the presence of the scientist in the dream would naturally alert her waking mind to the fact that this dream was about the problem from the New Scientist.

Another problem presented was to discover what was remarkable about the following sentence:

‘I am not very happy acting pleased whenever prominent scientists overmagnify intellectual enlightenment.’ 

(The number of letters increases in each consecutive word by one to form a numerical sequence going from one to 13.)

One sixth-form student dreamed that he was lecturing to scientists seated at five tables with one, two, three, four and five scientists sitting at each respective table. The student was able to see that the dream was a metaphorical solution to the problem. Another student who solved the problem by means of a dream reported that, in his dream, he typed the sentence, ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’. (This is, of course, the sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet.) His supervisor tells him to type 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 instead. Again, we see the dream expressing the solution metaphorically. The words were replaced by a sentence known to contain all the letters of the alphabet, and thus it directs his attention to the letters in the words. The supervisor tells him to write a sequence of numbers that stops at 9. This is because the number of words in the replacement sentence in the dream has nine words in it, unlike the problem sentence, which has thirteen words in it. We can see, therefore, that the dream provided a metaphorical solution to the problem.

In these examples the dreamers were anticipating a solution to the problem in their dreams and then dreaming a metaphorical solution to the problem. In the next two examples a solution to a problem was not anticipated in a dream and so the solution had to follow the more indirect route of being incorporated into the surface images of a dream expressing another theme.

Part 3: Invention and dreams


Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Why We Dream: Part 1 - Solving problems: Creativity and Dreams

Here is the first part of a new Human Givens Blog series, extracts from Chapter 7 of the book Why We Dream: The definitive answer.

Part 1 - Solving Problems: Creativity and Dreams

“It is the function of creative men and women to perceive the relations between thoughts, or things, or forms of expression that may seem utterly different, and to be able to combine them into some new forms – the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.”
William Plomer

The relationship between creativity and dreams has long been recognised. There are many recorded anecdotes of dreams helping people solve problems. Indeed, Joe’s research into the origin of why we dream is a case in point: as we’ve seen, it too was inspired by a dream which eventually led to this new theory. But, although Joe’s dream clearly led him towards the solution he eventually found, it is, of course, not strictly comparable with the types of dream that appear instantaneously to give rise to solutions to specific problems. In these dreams, the dream content has a direct relationship with the problem being worked on. One of the most famous dream anecdotes of all time is a perfect example of this: Kekule’s discovery of the structure of the benzene ring – one of the most important discoveries in the history of chemistry. Kekule had been trying for years to solve the problem of the nature of the molecular structure of benzene.

 Kekule’s dream

"Then, one afternoon, I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gambolling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of this kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together, all twining and twisting in a snake-like motion. But look! What was this? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the forms whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightening I awoke .... Let us learn to dream, gentlemen."

The snake swallowing its own tail suggested to Kekule that the structure of this organic compound might be a closed ring. So, would we be right in concluding from this that the dream solved the problem for Kekule which his waking conscious mind could not?

The expectation fulfilment theory offers an alternative interpretation of the events of the dream, as follows. Kekule had worked hard on his problem, trying out many different solutions but without success. He feels he is getting nowhere. He sits by the fire and starts to doze. The dream he then has expresses his deep frustration concerning the problem. He sees the “manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together” – that is, the numerous solutions he had tried, some more closely fitting the solution than others “all twining and twisting in snake-like fashion”. This suggests his continuing attempts to fashion or model the correct shape of the structure. “What was this? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the forms whirled mockingly before my eyes” – we see here a metaphorical expression of Kekule’s frustration. His attempts at a solution are just going around in circles. He feels the problem is making a fool of him – mocking him. (Feelings – emotions – are, of course, what dreams are all about because it is unacted out emotional arousal patterns that dreams deactivate by completing them.)

This interpretation is given further credence by the fact that Kekule’s dream occurred just after he nodded off to sleep. This stage of sleep is not REM sleep proper but the drowsy transitional state called ‘hypnogogic sleep’. The EEG brainwave pattern in hypnogogic sleep is similar to REM sleep, but the lower brainstem is not as involved as it is in full-blown REM sleep. As we saw from Silberer’s research, a current waking introspection may become metaphorically translated during hypnogogic sleep. We would therefore expect Kekule’s dream to reflect his waking frustration at the lack of progress in his attempts to solve his problem. This is exactly what Joe’s dream analysis shows did in fact happen.

However, although the dream represents Kekule’s frustration at not being able to find the correct solution to the problem, the vivid image in it of going around in circles did break him free from his entrenched mental set of looking for a linear solution to the problem and opened up to him the possibility that a circular structure might provide the solution. Are we to assume, then, that it was pure coincidence that led to the selection of the image of the whirling circle to represent the feelings of frustration? Research by Dement suggests an answer to this problem, but first we must consider how the creative process works.

Part 2: Stages in the creative process 


Knowing the basics of the expectation fulfilment theory of dreaming will enhance your enjoyment of this blog series, so if you are not already familiar with it, watch this talk, or read this page of the Why We Dream website.

Of course you could read the entire book, (The Kindle version is only £4.99!) where all references can be found.