Consciousness in Dreams Research
(PD) - Charles Conder - A Dream of Handel's Largo
Copyright ©2014-2021 - updated February 06, 2021
Consciousness in Dreams Research
Abstract: Dream research is a valuable tool to be used as (1) a contrast to awake-states, (2) it is from the contrasts that we can derive a better interpretation of how different individuals process thoughts while asleep and while awake, (3) for illustrating which types of mental processes might improve intellectual capacities while awake, and (4) the learning of how to self-will the sleep state more effectively, which helps some individuals with insomnia and other sleep difficulties to quickly enter into sleep without the need for drugs or other sleep aids.
This article briefly discusses numerous modern hypotheses of dream-states along with an explanation of why some popular beliefs are unsuitable for explaining thoughts, dreams, or consciousness itself.
Many Selves During Dreams
Throughout written history man has almost universally spoken of consciousness and the "I" as being singular for each individual. During the past century — generally beginning around the William James era — some individuals have begun claiming that there are numerous 'selves' during dreams. The claims do not include an explanation of what might be intended by 'multiple selves,' but it appears that the beliefs may follow the William James idea that each different thought, feeling, and memory is consciousness itself; a different consciousness for each thought. The belief appears to be based upon the individuals' inability to recognize their own thoughts while the thoughts are in the process of developing, and thus the individuals may then assume that the final sum of a thought is itself the thinking process.
As a comparison, Albert Einstein described his own manner of processing thoughts:
"It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above-mentioned elements. But taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought — before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others. ...The above-mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some of muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will." (Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, 1954, Crown Publishers, Inc., pages 25-26)
The psychological and philosophical noun-based descriptions of James' are quite different from the introspective verb-based descriptions of Einstein's, and the differences are useful for illustrating that some individuals are self-aware and self-referencing while other individuals are not.
For some of us — surely for most individuals — a new thought is composed of the logical weighing of one's short-term history, long-term history, standards (ethics, cultural standards, etc.), the present reason for summing the thought, and so on. As an analogy, if one's short-term history were white, and the long-term history were red, and the standards were blue, then the final summing of the logic would produce a shade of pastel purple. Individuals who are not aware of their own thoughts may believe that the pastel purple thought is the thought-process itself. The William James hypothesis of thoughts, feelings, and ideas as being synonymous appears to have been based upon his inability to observe his own mind at work, although, if James' mind did function as he claimed, then he may not have possessed a single self, but rather many selves. For myself I will lean towards the belief that James was a normal human who simply did not recognize his own "I" nor did he recognize that his having remained his own self all of his life infers that he had a singular self, but we cannot now ask James questions about what he perceived, and so our conjectures of James' writings will remain mere conjectures.
A disturbing possibility is that some individuals may in fact process thoughts similar to what some biologists claim: mechanical states of binary cellular electrical charge similar to a common computer. If this manner of thought-processing does exist, then it would seem plausible that there might not be a singular root-self for the individual, but rather the sense of self might merely be the moment's recognition of a thought or a feeling like what James claimed for himself. Within a binary form of logic there would be no pastels, nor hues, nor shades of variables within the thinking process itself, but rather the 'thinking' process would be parallel to The God Delusion comment of an individual who cannot self-spark a logical weighing of scents, or in other words, for the individual a thought would simply be an automatic electrically-induced linear sum (like a series of light switches being turned on and off) while there would be no flow of analog logic. Many modern authors and biologists have claimed of themselves to be organic robots, and since the individuals do not possess the ability to self-create variations of olfaction — which indicates linear thoughts sans analog thoughts — then there is reason to at least muse of the possibility that what the individuals claim for themselves might in fact be valid.
Nevertheless, some individuals may indeed experience multiple selves during dreams, and the experience might be symptomatic of a multiple personality disorder, but just because a theorist has multiple personalities in dreams, it does not necessitate that everyone else must suffer from the same identical multiple personalities. Some of us — likely most of us — are aware that our self is the same self regardless of whether we are awake or sleeping, and regardless of whether we are a newborn or a hundred years old.
If there were indeed multiple selves during dreams, then would not the person remember each dream as that of another person's or self's? If all of your dreams are yours, then you likely only have one dream self.
It's All in Your Brain
The predominate belief today is that all thoughts, all memories, all dreams, all consciousness, and all other mental states are created by the brain. There is no evidence nor reason that the belief might be valid — nor is there so much as a coherent attempt to explain how the brain can produce all that is claimed — but the belief is very popular and it has become the foundation upon which most all new theories are based. The difficulties in the 'it's all in your brain' hypothesis are far too numerous to list, and so I will simply focus briefly on one difficulty that is directly related to the primary topic at hand: consciousness.
Except for the "I" consciousness, in no other instance in the known universe is there such a thing as a stable field. There are no stable electrical fields, no stable magnetic fields, no stable gravity fields, no stable chemical fields, no stable thermal fields, and therefore there is no plausibility that a continuously varying organic brain can produce a perfectly stable sense of "I-consciousness." Intellectual acuity varies relative to the body's nutrition and stress, but for most individuals the I-consciousness remains unchanged regardless of the body's health, age, or while sleeping. If the mind were in fact the product of chemically-interacting neurons then our self — our "I" — would change moment to moment, and we would never be the same self as we were in the past.
Individuals who are nearing death caused by multiple fist-sized brain tumors may speak and behave incoherently, but of the known individuals who suffered the fate they still retained their sense of self, the same self that they had all of their lives. If consciousness and all mental activities were created solely by an organic brain then we should frequently observe individuals whose selves change, but since we do not see a change of selves — except perhaps in individuals with multiple personality disorders, and yet even their several selves remain the same selves — then we must admit that the I-consciousness is not created by an organic brain.
A popular opinion among some philosophies — like Buddhism — is that most humans are not naturally aware of their "I" consciousness, and a sizable quantity of effort is required for the typical human to discover their self. If this is true, then it may help to explain why modern theories of consciousness possess no description of what consciousness is, because the theories are being formed by individuals who are not aware of their own consciousness, or who may indeed not be conscious except during the presence of a 'conscious' thought. A common teaching in schools is that humans are only conscious about ten percent of the time, and though the teaching appeared absurd to many of us, perhaps it might be possible that some humans are indeed only conscious a few seconds out of each minute.
The question here is to ask why most people retain the same sense of self in dreams as what is sensed while awake. If the same self remains in all states of sleeping and wakefulness — which includes vastly different electrical brain frequencies — then consciousness and the sense of self is not a plausible brain product.
Origin of the I-Consciousness
Historically it has been widely believed and assumed that the 'self' is present during the first moment of life, but in recent years some biologists have claimed that humans do not attain a sense of self until around the age of eighteen months. Might it be possible that both opinions are correct? Might different individuals acquire a sense of self at different stages?
The item of interest here is to ask what this thing is that we refer to as the 'self.' I have not found this topic to be mentioned in any other writing, but I believe that the question deserves to be asked: if the self is present from the first moment of life, and thus the self is present with the first cell, then what about all other cells? Does each cell have its own "I"? Why would a fertilized egg not contain two selves? If self-consciousness is created by an organic cell, then why would not all cells — including plants — be similarly endowed with a self-consciousness? Might multiple personalities be influenced by multiple cellular selves that developed parallel to the others? Might some eggs be multi-fertilized? Might some individuals not retain a cellular self that remains observant of the body development, and thus there is no sense of self except well after the organic mind is sufficiently developed at around two years of age? If self-consciousness were a cellular effect of any cell — including brain cells as modern 'scientific' theories claim — then how would it be possible for the same self-consciousness to exist after the cell dies? Is an early self indicative of a soul, while the late development might be indicative of no soul, or is there a different explanation? What is the reason for a single personality remaining singular? There are countless questions within this topic, and there is not a good answer for any.
At what point in life does the self nascent for each individual, and why? Before we can answer that question we must first know what the self is: is the self a soul or perhaps a common effect of feedback within electrical fields, or of a different field entirely? When the nascent of the self is found, will the act of consciousness also be found?
The origin of consciousness is the pivotal question that must be answered before we can form a rational theory of consciousness. Dream research helps to distinguish between different styles of thought-processing, which in turn helps to distinguish which ingredients of thinking remain unchanged, which then helps point the research towards asking why some manners of thought change and which of the mental acts might be deemed to be consciousness itself.
Loss of Short-term Memory During Dream-states
Some individuals' dreams may be bizarre due to the sequencing of dream-events not appearing to having been logically connected. An example might be that of traveling in a car one moment and then finding one's self in a spacecraft the next moment. The dream's scenarios and topics are apparently not contiguous, that is, not reasonably connected sequentially.
Other individuals' dreams, however, may retain a rational sequencing of events. An example might be of the individual socially interacting with a group of individuals within a building's room, and the whole dream retains the same setting or a sequenced traveling to other regions while the conversations flow naturally with a logical sequence: each sentence spoken is relative to the previously spoken sentence, and the whole of the conversation's concept retains its original meaning and purpose that guides each spoken sentence.
It has been claimed that the brain's dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex and the parietal lobe's precuneus are inactive during REM sleep, and for this reason short-term memory is greatly attenuated if not wholly absent, and too, why dream recall is difficult (allegedly because there is little or no short-term memory).
The belief in the loss of short-term memory is invalid. If a dream is composed of traveling in a car and then traveling in a spacecraft, then the act of traveling is based upon a short-term memory of traveling. If short-term memory were absent then the dream would endlessly wander from scenario to scenario without there being an underlying logic that is based upon short-term memory. Without short-term memory a dream might be a second of traveling on a train, then a second of taking a bath, then a second of eating a tree leaf, then a second of a purple flag waving in the breeze, and each second of the dream would be fully disconnected from the previous scenario. If a dream retains a logical relationship of events, then short-term memory is still present.
In the previous example the purpose of the dream is guided by short-term memory; the use of short-term memory in dreams may not be based upon nor used for the same purposes as awake-states, but just because short-term memory is not used identically when awake and dreaming, it does not infer that short-term memory is absent. Too, if you can remember the sequences of a dream — regardless of whether the sequences are logically connected — then you are exercising short-term memory to remember the short-term events.
The loss of short-term memory might indeed occur for some individuals, but for other individuals there is no loss of short-term nor long-term memory. If a dream can be recalled twenty years later with vivid details, then short-term and long-term memory were present in the dream. It really does not matter what any modern theory might claim; if you can remember a dream from many years in the past, then your dreams were created within short-term and long-term memories, and the theories are not valid for you.
As a side-note it is also useful to mention that the popular belief in REM sleep is currently being challenged by at least one individual who hypothesizes that the rapid eye movement while dreaming is a physiological act to increase oxygen for the cornea. The hypothesis is rational and serves to be a reminder that popular beliefs are almost always discovered to have been invalid by future researchers. The discovery of DNA nullified most previous theories of cell activity, and the long-held belief in right- and left-hemisphere behavior is also being challenged. Current theories about dreams and consciousness are also open for correction, and no popular belief about dreaming should be accepted without scrutiny. Your consciousness and your dreams are yours, no one else's, and the only theory that can be valid for your dreams and consciousness is your own theory that is formed from your own firsthand experiences.
A modern hypothesis is that attenuated short-term memory is the cause of lost dream recall. The hypothesis might be valid for some individuals, but not for all. Some individuals are familiar with the technique of re-entering the emotional and mental states that were present during a dream, and through use of the technique the individual can recall the dream as vividly while awake as when the dream was occurring. Whether a dream to be recalled occurred a minute ago or fifty years ago, the technique works because the individuals' dreams remain stored in memory, and the presence of an old memory illustrates that dreams are created with short-term and long-term memory.
The ability to apply the dream recall technique illustrates one of the methods of retaining acute memory, that of retaining a stable emotion during awake- and dream-states which in turn enables the memories to be easily retrieved. Individuals who do not purposefully practice the stabilization of their emotions may have great difficulty remembering events in life.
Humans are not identical, and it may be possible that some humans' dreams are not created with long-term memory nor with adequate short-term memory, but just because one individual might have few memories it does not necessitate that all humans must have the identical same emotions and limitation of memory.
Loss of Physical Body Perception
A modern belief is that the sense of the body is absent during dream states. While it is agreed that sensory perceptions might be greatly attenuated from the dream's point of view, the sensory perceptions do not disappear. If sensory perceptions were absent during dreams then we would not be capable of being wakened by sounds or being touched.
Some individuals can sleep through the loudest of sounds without waking, and some individuals can sleep through their being physically shaken, but humans are not identical, and most individuals will awaken at the sound of an alarm clock or someone whispering their name.
Some individuals have observed that different body positions tend to result in different types of dreams. Lying on one's left side might tend to produce one style of dreaming, while lying on one's right, stomach, and back might tend to produce dreams specific for that body position. If body position influences dreams then the body's sensory perceptions are still very much active during dreams.
For myself, during a time of exhaustion I was not able to be wakened by a person speaking my name, and I was only able to be woken by the person touching my foot (which scared the dickens out of me since I did not immediately recognize what the sensation implied: I was indeed very tired). Too, some of us can wake at a specific moment without the need for an alarm clock, which illustrates that there remains an active 'conscious' analysis of the body and its environment even while we are dreaming. Some individuals will awaken when someone else silently enters the room, which illustrates that the senses are capable of perceiving presence while sleeping and while awake. All humans are different, all humans will experience dreams and sensory perceptions differently, and there is no one universal 'brain function' that turns on and off during sleep.
Decision-making in Dreams
An increasingly popular belief is that the changes in the prefrontal cortex and precuneus occurring during dreams — and thus a loss of short-term memory — is the cause of an inability to apply logic. It appears that the belief is not merely incorrect, but the belief might also be the result of researchers assuming that a reaction is the cause of an action. As an analogy, when an individual types words on a computer, the cause of the words comes from the computer user, and the reaction is the displaying of the words on the computer monitor. Similarly, there are numerous causes of television that include television broadcasting stations and the viewer's choice to turn on the television and to change channels. All known electrical devices are reactive and not the origin of cause.
If the prefrontal cortex activity is observed to change for some individuals during sleep, then the logical approach would be to ask what the cause is of the prefrontal cortex being less active, and to not assume that the prefrontal cortex spontaneously creates is its own cause. If the brain is allegedly electrically-based, and if all known electrically-based devices are reactive to a cause, then the prefrontal cortex should be interpreted as reactive and not causal.
Nevertheless, decision-making does change for most individuals' dreams, and a portion of the reason is due to there being a different group and variation of 'ingredients' that form the dream-thoughts. As an example — and as mentioned previously — if a normal awake-state thought included memories, ethics, sensory perceptions, and the current purpose for thinking the thought, then in a dream-state the ingredients might include memories, ethics, and purpose but with few recognized sensory perceptions that would have better guided the thoughts.
Expanding on the example, if the dream were of walking through a forest, but there were no awareness of feeling one's self walking, then the dream-reasoning would not contain an immediate logical reference to the act of walking, and thus the dream might jump from walking to flying because there would be no past sensory reference to guide the next thoughts. The act of not having a sensory reference is not a loss of short-term memory per se, but rather simply not having as many ingredients being used for summing conclusions. A short-term memory — even if fully active — is of no benefit if there are no perceptions to be remembered. In this example we find a useful reference to how awake-thoughts are improved through the individual being aware of their own sensory perceptions.
A rational thought is the creation of a sum that includes many different variables accurately weighed relative to the other. Similar to mathematics, if we omit numbers from a formula we will sum an irrational conclusion, and likewise with thoughts; if we omit important ingredients the sum cannot be rational. Dream-states tend to make use of fewer ingredients, which in turn renders the dream 'rational' from the dreaming point of view, but irrational from the awake point of view.
This specific topic is one that I have written about quite often, that of choosing specific awake-state ingredients that enable favored thoughts and intelligence. The dream-state research serves as a good example of what happens when an individual's normal mental ingredients are changed and/or attenuated: if a dream appears irrational to an awake mind, then the individual should recognize that their current awake-thoughts would also appear irrational if the individual were to attain a greater quantity of mental ingredients. The common Zen interpretation of the normal mind is that it is "asleep", which is a relatively good contrast between the three states of mind: dreams, normal consciousness, and Zen consciousness. To the typical person who is dreaming, their thoughts may appear rational while dreaming, but the individuals realize how irrational the dream-thoughts were when the person wakes. Similarly, when the individual attains a skill with Zen the person then recognizes that their normal awake-thoughts had been irrational. The popular beliefs about dreams and consciousness are based upon the middle point of view and not upon the enhanced awareness point of view.
Dream research is productive because it very clearly illustrates the contrasts of what happens when specific ingredients of thoughts are absent or misdirected. If the conscious awareness of one's sensory perceptions is absent in dreams and causes irrational logic, then individuals ought to be able to recognize that the normal human inability to be conscious of sensory perceptions must also result in a diminished logic that is irrational. Over 99% of all humans perceive over 99% of all sensory perceptions subconsciously, which is evidence enough that the typical human is forming decisions without first having all the ingredients to form a rational thought.
A useful example is that of animal migration theories. Most migration theories were created by individuals who have no sense of geological direction, and thus the theories were based upon beliefs of mechanical means (e.g. magnetic compasses built-into an animal's brain or body). However, an individual who can feel geological directions can describe what is being felt when near the ground, when standing on a cliff, when standing on a building thirty stories high, and when flying in a plane six miles high. Individuals who can feel geological directions interpret the popular theories of animal migration to be wholly irrational; as if the popular 'scientific' theories were formed within someone's sleep. If an individual should desire to attain high intelligence, then the individual will want to acquire and make use of as many useful mental ingredients as possible, including sensory perception.
Nevertheless, it appears that most reported dreams contain decision-making, albeit the decisions may be based upon standards and purposes that the individuals would not normally apply while awake. For myself, my dreams retain the same ethics, standards, and analyses as awake-states, but with different variations of ingredients. As an example, a recent dream was of my walking across a construction site where there was snow and water on the ground, and I was surprised that I only had socks on my feet (I usually only wear socks in the house) and yet my feet and socks were remaining dry in the dream. Short-term memory, long-term memory, analyses, and self-created sensory perceptions remain present in my dreams.
Each individual can analyze their own dreams and know whether the popular theories are true or not for themselves.
Dreams and Hormones
Each field of research tends to focus on a narrow interpretation of observations, and it is to be expected that researchers who focus on the biochemical view will not give a similar focus to introspective views, philosophical views, nor psychological views. Biochemical research cannot be the full answer to anything, but it can provide us with additional clues that might be useful when viewed as one ingredient among many.
Before investigating the numerous molecules that influence dreams and thoughts, it is advantageous to look at the primary molecule that regulates all dreams and thoughts: when the molecule is absent there is no thinking-process at all, and without the primary molecule there are no dreams. If there is too much or too little of the primary molecule the individual will quickly die. The molecule is H2O; water. Water is a necessary molecule for all dreams and all thoughts within all known thinking life-forms, and though the quantity of available water does influence dreams and thoughts, we do not claim that water creates the thoughts and dreams. There are several hypotheses that water has a capacity to store 'memories,' and if we wanted to carry that idea over into the topic of the human mind we might find an interesting set of questions to ponder and muse, but for the moment the topic is of how hormones might influence dreams and consciousness, and it is useful to use the H2O example to illustrate that the presence of a molecule does not in of itself infer anything beyond that of the molecule being useful for a specific physiological purpose. It is not plausible that water molecules are the originating cause of dreams and consciousness, and likewise, nor is it plausible that any other molecule is the originating cause of dreams, consciousness, emotions, or thought.
The hormone norepinephrine is said to possibly play an important role in concentration, and therefore the absence of norepinephrine during dream-states may be an indicator that concentration might be lacking in dreams. While it may or may not be true that norepinephrine is present in higher or lower quantities for some individuals during sleep, the question here is to ask why the presence of a chemical compound might cause a change of mental acuity. The introspective point of view among some individuals is that mental activity is muscular-based, that is, physical/bodily muscle tension is used as one of the ingredients of thought (e.g. the Einstein method).
Norepinephrine is perhaps best known for its medical use to treat hypotension, that of increasing blood pressure, increasing the heart rate, and increasing vascular muscle tone. If Albert Einstein's introspective self-description is valid — and other individuals' who report a similar use of muscle-tension and emotional-tension states as ingredients of thought (like my own self-referencing language) — then the absence or lowered quantities of norepinephrine in REM dream-states appears rationally related: the heart is beating slower, blood pressure is lower, the muscles are relaxed, and the body's muscle-tension is not being fully used for processing thoughts.
The item of importance here is that norepinephrine by itself does not enhance concentration — as if the presence of a single chemical compound (e.g. H2O) were to somehow create an effect that is intelligently-conceptually self-willed and not chemical — but rather the chemical research is best used as a supportive finding that the chemicals that are normally present during awake-state self-referencing thought-processing are of a lower quantity during sleep-states for some individuals. From the introspective and physiological points of view, the presence of norepinephrine supports the Einstein/self-referencing/muscle-tension mental model, but the presence of norepinephrine does not support the popular binary-electrical brain theories, or in other words, it is not all in your brain as is popularly believed.
More importantly for this article's topic is that the "I" consciousness does not change relative to differences of hormone presence. The presence or absence of norepinephrine may be an indicator of some forms of mental and physical activity for some individuals, but norepinephrine has no relevance to consciousness itself (or at least not for some individuals). From the introspective point of view the "I" consciousness is always present and always the same "I" — at least the same "I" for most known individuals — and even during severe brain inactivity (e.g. coma and 'brain death') experimental evidence suggests that the "I" consciousness can remain active. There is no plausible evidence to support a hypothesis that hormones play a role in consciousness.
Dreams are Brain Products
Expanding on the previous sections, the popular view is that dreams are 'all in our heads,' that is, dreaming is a brain function that relies solely on the brain with no input from sensory input. The belief is obviously and verifiably incorrect. Surely most individuals have had dreams related to what the body is currently sensorially perceiving (warmth, cold, a bug crawling on the arm, a need to go to the bathroom, etc.), which simply illustrates that dreams do indeed continue to include sensorial perceptions: dreams are most definitely not 'all in our heads.'
Of the numerous sub-topics of dreaming is the 'scientific' belief that our dreams are composed of thoughts, feelings, desires, and several others: the theories do not recognize the obviousness that the presence of a body is a prerequisite for the feelings and desires to be experienced, and unless an individual is an organic robot the individual will make use of the body as a variable of thought (as the Einstein example). Feelings are body-related, and desire is a body-dependent concept: modern science may not yet recognize the nature of any emotion — not love, compassion, sympathy, lust, grief, ethics, virtue, nor even beauty — but introspection reveals that without the use of the body to be used as a self-referencing transductive pattern there will be no desires. If the brain were in fact to create desire, then what sort of desire would it create? How can a brain choose a desire that is related to the body's shape if the brain is not in contact with the body? For the same reasons that a healthy human senses beauty and desire for another healthy human who has the specific body shape and personality that harmonizes with one's own shape and personality, so must dream desires be based upon bodily sensations, which further opens the Einstein/self-referencing mode of thinking for all healthy humans. Without a self-referencing language a human might desire to mate with a rock or a tree: the body's senses are present in dreams, and the 'scientific' claims of desires being all in your head are fully wrong.
A surprising (to me) report is that REM dreaming often includes dreamer-initiated social aggression by the dreamer, while non-REM dreaming is said to be about twice as likely to contain dreamer-initiated social friendliness. I am me, I am not everyone else, and so I do not know why other people tend to be aggressive in their dreams, but I would postulate that some of the reason might be the individuals' learned sense of social standards is attenuated during REM and thus permitting the individuals' natural behavior to surface. During the awake-state different individuals make use of different mental ingredients that we might reference as including standards and self-referencing states (sympathy, compassion, conscience, etc.), and yet some individuals do not possess the ability to experience things like sympathy and a conscience because the individuals' minds are not working with a full set of mental ingredients. The healthy mind bases its thoughts and decisions upon a chorus of harmonizingly-creative foundational standards and memories, while the unhealthy mind forms conclusions based on animalistic cravings and minimal mental ingredients (e.g. the typical terrorist mentality of hate and violence that does not possess the potential for a conscience or a sense of compassion, and the common felon behavior of acting first and thinking last).
While writing this section I paused to sift through memories of my own dreams, and I do not remember ever having a dream in which I was the aggressor. A relatively recent dream included my being mildly less inhibited when communicating with a dream-individual who was receptive, but for myself my foundational standards do not include aggression, and thus for me there is no self-initiated aggression in dreams even if/when the learned sense of social standards is attenuated. For me social standards are social standards, not my standards — I could care less what a social standard might be — and I will continue to live by my own standards regardless of whatsoever the social standards might be. My dreams are almost always pleasant, socially harmonious, and emotionally creative; the report of most dreamers being aggressive in their dreams is unsettling to me.
And here we are brought back to the questions of desires: if an individual is experiencing aggression in a dream, then what are the accompanying emotions? Throughout recorded history man has spoken of feeling love from the heart region, and all emotions are given specific body regions of where the emotions are most intensely felt. For those of us who use a self-referencing mode of thought-processing, we cannot fathom what it would be like to simply think of an emotion without our physically feeling the emotion, and so to us the idea of dreams 'being all in your brain' is more than a little irrational.
I have not yet found any references related to individuals recognizing a geological location within a dream, but I want to further touch on this topic because it has significance for both the awake- and dream-states. For some of us the recognition of a location is a physically felt weight of presence (the self-referencing mode of 'mathematical' analyses). Since few individuals can describe by what means that they recognize a location, then we cannot yet form a good guess of how humans may generally tend to rationalize geological locations, but we do know for some of us that the recognition of a location in a dream requires the use of the body's sensory perceptions, and thus, dreams do include sensory perceptions.
An example from my own dreams is a specific location that I have dreamed of often, and though sometimes the structures at the location may be modified or in the process of being modified with additional structures, the location is known to me through the same method that I rationalize a geological location while awake: through the use of self-referencing sensorial feelings. From my personal point of view I do not know how it might be possible to recognize any location through 'brain-only' thoughts.
Over 99% of all tested humans perceive over 99% of all sensory perceptions subconsciously, and so it is reasonable to assume that if sensorial feelings are used in dreams to discern locations then it is likely that the dreamers are making use of sensorial feelings without knowing it, perhaps similarly as to how the normal awake-state recognizes locations.
To date there still does not exist a universally acceptable definition of what consciousness is, and no field of science is even close to discovering the existence of consciousness. All known scientific theories of consciousness are based upon an irrational jumping back and forth of claiming one thing to be consciousness and then with each succeeding sentence claiming other things to be consciousness. Physiological research into dreaming is useful for gathering data of trends and hormonal changes during sleep, but the research would be best profited if the word "consciousness" were removed from all data reports: the existence of the undefined word "consciousness" within scientific research nullifies the research, rendering the data to be little more than incoherent ramblings.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of researching dream consciousness is for each individual to research their own dreams and consciousness so that each individual can learn how they themselves think. Humans are not identical, nor are humans created equal, and the only person who can describe your own dream consciousness is you.
Is Dream Consciousness Different than Awake Consciousness
Perhaps the primary reason why consciousness has been debated for thousands of years without yet finding an answer is because different individuals interpret consciousness to mean different things. Humans are not identical, and the differences are sometimes quite startling. Some humans sincerely cannot feel geological directions, nor do some individuals perceive multiple senses simultaneously, and it is extraordinarily difficult to explain the differences of perception if an individual has not personally experienced the differences. Theories of acrophobia and animal migration are too often created by individuals who have no sense of direction themselves, and likewise, theories of consciousness are too often created by philosophers, biologists, and other individuals who have no cognition of their own consciousness.
Individuals who are self-aware and can observe their own minds thinking may interpret consciousness to imply the self-observer, the "I" who observes the mind at work. Individuals who are not self-aware cannot observe their own minds thinking, and they may interpret consciousness to simply imply the final sum of any thought, feeling, or sensory perception. Until the day that consciousness is defined with a clarity of details that accurately describe what each individual believes consciousness to be, there can never be a coherent theory of consciousness.
Just because someone might make a claim, and though the individual might also insist that they are the world's greatest expert in any field, the claim might still be false. There are countless claims about consciousness — claiming that consciousness is everything from biological, electrical, to that of a soul — but not all of the claims can be correct for everyone. Humans are not identical, nor do humans all share the same identical minds: a theory might hold true for the theorist, but the theory might be fully incorrect for you. The only person who can give a valid answer about your consciousness is you.
If a theory claims that "we" think in a such-and-such way, then the theory and most every claim within the theory is inherently false. Similarly, if a theory claims 'science-this and science-that' then again the claim is almost assuredly a fabrication that is attempting an 'appeal to authority' fallacy. No less important is that if a theorist cannot describe their own thoughts and their own consciousness with great clarity, then the theorist's theories cannot be valid simply because the individual does not know what they are theorizing about.
If humanity survives long enough, someday the nature of consciousness will be discovered, and it will be discovered by a real living human being researcher; not by science, and not by "us". Meanwhile, dream research continues, and the results have been positive for answering a few questions while raising more questions for future researchers to solve.