Your Terrifying Dreams Could Be Rehearsal for Real Life

Once, I dreamed I was at a man’s funeral. According to the deceased’s instructions, each of his toes were to be buried in tiny, individual coffins. When I woke up, I wondered, “What could it mean?”

According to some neuroscience research on dreams, like that of the Harvard psychiatrist Allan Hobson, the coffined toes might mean absolutely nothing. In his view, dreams are essentially narratives that our frontal brain areas piece together from chaotic brain signals originating from the brain stem. I might look back on that dream and derive some meaning from it after the fact, but it’s not like those coffined toes are my brain’s way of telling me

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus6 min readSociety
How Freedom Divides: An expert on animal societies on what sets human societies apart.
As a biologist who studies animal behavior, particularly the long-term stability of the societies of different species, our own included, I’ve traveled through diverse cultures around the world. The word I hear everywhere I go, a badge of honor to al
Nautilus7 min read
Why We’re Drawn Into Darkness: Author Robert MacFarlane on the awe and horror of subterranean places.
Robert Macfarlane grew up obsessed twith climbing mountains and nearly died on several occasions as he scaled some of the world’s high peaks. He found a safer way to indulge his alpine passions, writing about the mystique of mountains. As someone dra
Nautilus5 min read
Why Campaigns to Change Language Often Backfire
In the first decades of the 20th century, people around the world began succumbing to an entirely new cause of mortality. These new deaths, due to the dangers of the automobile, soon became accepted as a lamentable but normal part of modern life. A h