Back to the blog

Blog 20: The bizarre sandhouse and its evolutionary origins?

12th January 2021

In my last Blog 19, I decoded my Sandhouse dream. By “decoding” I mean I identified the nexus of associations from which my dreaming mind/brain constructed the sandhouse. These associations connect elements of my recent and remote memories.

Across evolutionary time,  in our pre-linguistic past, when we lived in a much more dangerous world than we do now, I propose we used retained dream images, unconsciously, on approach to a place we wanted to go, for food, water or shelter, which was also sometimes frequented by potential mates, predators and competitors.  Dreams associations identified activity patterns in the behaviour of potential mates, competitors and predators. We retained these patterns in dream images enabling us to visit places when potential mates were more likely to be there or, in the case of predators and competitors, less likely to be there. Who would want to visit the waterhole when this fearsome, “sit and wait”, dragon watched, from a rock nearby, ready to pounce?

Sit and wait dragon at the waterhole

Even this close up, look how well camouflaged the dragon is, blending into the rock. Supposing an early human is approaching the waterhole and, from a distance, senses movement on top of one of the rocks near the water. An unconscious dream image depicting associations which predicted the danger of a dragon would help to decide whether to withdraw, freeze or continue to advance.

If another waterhole was discovered in a similar location, and if, for example, it also had rocks on which dragons could lurk, then an early human would be likely to merge the retained dream associations from the first waterhole with the second because, without much experience  of this newly discovered waterhole, the best prediction of the presence of fearsome dragons was the associative dream image from the first. But how would these two different waterholes be depicted in the new dream image?

In my sandhouse dream, I seem to have merged my associations from the first “house on the edge of town”, where I experienced fear under the bridge, with the second  “house on the edge of town” which I feared unlucky because someone had died in it. The common positioning of both houses, along with the fear associations of both, seems to have engendered a hybrid house. I propose this is the evolutionary explanation for the dream experience of a place/person/object taking on the characteristics of other places/persons/objects- creating hybrids.

But the house I approach in my dream is not only hybrid but also bizarre because I don’t just feel afraid I see something that, to me, is fear-inducing: a sandhouse.  A bizarre house, which is constructed from elements of four different memories. A dictionary definition of bizarre is: markedly unusual in appearance, style or general character and often involving incongruous or unexpected elements. I propose that the evolutionary explanation for bizarreness in dreams is the use of prior experiences to prepare us for newly encountered ones- where those experiences are similar in ways that are meaningful to us. Paradoxically, I suggest the bizarre and surprising nature of dreams ( as in “I had a really funny dream last night“) means we are prepared for new experiences and, therefore, less likely to be surprised in our waking lives.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *