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(More) Thoughts on Sleep

I discovered some little writings I had on my desktop about sleep

I thought I might share them as a part of me returning to posting here.

The sleep state, and particularly the dream state, are an opportunity for an almost entirely unaware status to dominate, a status that is not anchored in the normal viewpoint of ’cause and effect’. This provides rest to the parts of the mind that are always framing things in terms of what Femi called ‘narrow objective’ and ‘diffuse objective’ attention (here).

To paraphrase greatly, narrow objective attention is a focused ‘doing to’ things that seem separate from you (keeping focus on your math test), while diffuse objective attention is a ‘doing of’ things that seem separate from you (more automatic, like driving a car).

To again oversimplify, more meditative or fused states include narrow immersed attention (you become immersed in a focus, like in mantra meditation) and diffuse immersed attention (you are immersed in the process of observation, like in mindfulness meditation).

Sleep is also a rest from one’s own sense of being ‘done to’ or watching one’s own or someone else’s ‘doing of’.

In getting to sleep, there is an anticipation of non-being (non-birth, pre-birth, post-death) and the feeling of not being in control of it. In good sleep that is working well, at the end of a day this anticipation and feeling would be welcome, perhaps like near the end of a full life.

As in many places in my clinical thinking, ‘awareness, not control’.

With a ‘backdrop’ of non-being, most dreams in sleep are a reminder that one can have some level of awareness or experience, but still not be in full control of anything. Which is…a truth.

After dreams—perhaps ‘in’ dreams too—there is an exposure to what seems like randomness, unpredictability, oddness, and the fact that there is something that seems ‘other’, over all of which we do not feel control. However, we can experience, learn about, and eventually feel familiar with that uncontrolled ‘other’ and encourage it to come in and sit for a while.

Sleep, an unremembered taste of unconscious being, can become an anxious problem when conscious, directive processes attempt to grasp and control it. Such as, “Why can’t I just go to sleep already?!!” (That won’t work, will it?)

Some Practical, but Dreamy, Ideas for You

When sleep becomes a significant focus of attention, I often discuss “sleep hygiene” with patients. It is basically a distilling of the idea that sleep is an automatic function that is responsive to conditions. Those conditions can be planned or readied to maximize the likelihood of good sleep and then taken as a set given.

The fact that it is set allows you to let go, so sleep happens eventually but remains a function that cannot be ‘willed’ to occur. Sex therapy is based on similar ideas (sexual response is, at least mainly, automatic–any trying to control it tends to interfere with it).

External conditions and schedules can be set to help you with sleep. However, I take pains to explain that they are not just a mindless exercise. They are a mindfully executed set of procedures that are then taken as ‘givens’…so you can become temporarily mindless enough to sleep. 🙂

What is the Style of Thinking and Attitude to which Sleep is Attracted?

In addition to those external structures we review, I might also give some other ideas to help facilitate the internal process of sleep, the quieting of the critical, rational mind. For example, things you can say to yourself when you notice dream-like thinking when trying to sleep:

“Let that [part that needs unblocking, translation, reconciliation, encouragement, reassurance, alone time, time to dream, rest] drift and keep talking. Keep up its story but let the story go any which way, even weird ways, kind of like dreaming…”

This sort of ‘drift-y’ pseudo-dreaming often works for me and others. You go with the story in a very ‘what if’ kind of mode, letting a story write itself, and then before you know it, you are not doing it anymore but it is still happening, has happened, and you didn’t even know it.

Such a technique can also be helpful when a therapy patient is stuck in session…

I hope these are enjoyable little bits. If I did my job right, they should also have winks of thinking in them that are more than about sleep as a pure life function.

I will be returning soon with something more substantial and personal to my work and to what therapy / counseling can do for you.

415 W. Foothill Blvd., Suite 123
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 766-2221

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