Why do we have a body in a dream?

The brain draws from memory whatever it needs to build the dream world (what we see, what we hear, what we feel, etc.). Dreaming is also entirely a mental experience. It is an internal phenomenon. And yet the dream creates for us a visual representation of ourselves to experience this new world.

It’s interesting to me that the mind feels “forced” to include a portrayal of the self, an identity for us to experience the dream, even if we don’t actually need it. Now, I’ve had my fair share of bodiless dreams like everyone else but, even in these dreams, the awareness in me is not actively participating in what’s happening. There is still a dream character (recognized by me as my dream character) that lives the events of the dream; the bodiless perspective serves nothing more than a third-person point of view that observes a string of events of which I’ve got no personal involvement, yet I feel them.

Why does this happen? Again, it isn’t needed. There is no physical input going on outside that produces what is actually happening. It is all in our heads. For example, I can imagine a table as it is and not through a perspective of another body looking at a table; know what I mean? We can imagine without the requirement of a copy of ourselves in that mental image.

Interesting, From my perspective I would say that I don’t know how else the mind would process the information, As you say, the brain always draws on SOMETHING from the waking world, e.g. a memory of us being actively involved in an activity or us WATCHING an activity from that “third person” perspective.

Even if you talk about visualisation, it’s you as a person who is conjuring the image of the table. Like if I do it, I can see the table in my mind, but It;s still created from the perspective as if I’m looking at it through my own eyes, even if it’s not physically there so in a sense (at least for me) I’m still IN my body looking at the table. (I have no idea if that makes sense but it’s tricky to explain!)



I’m with DreamMystic on this one. The dream is making up things from your perspective because all the information it constructs dreams from, as you explained, are your memories. And all those were created from your perspective. You never have memories from a third person perspective or without any viewpoint anchor. Notice that even if we had cyber brains and could transplant memories it’d still be the same because even if you get somebody else’s memories, they’d still be recorded in first person. Just in their first person instead of yours. But they’d still have a first person as a center.

Another explanation could be that the ego or the concept of it is in fact hard wired into our brain and thus also essential part of our dreams one way or another. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. Maybe it’s even necessary for the human’s special cognitive ability of imagination and thought. But I think it could also be the case that the ego is just an inevitable product of our experiences and memories we gain in life and starts to develop really early on.

There are animals that don’t understand the concept of self. Most of them in fact, afaik. If they had dreams (I don’t know if they do), it’d be interesting to know whether they dream of a character that represents themself in the dream. Probably not, but I guess we won’t find out, even though it’d help this discussion.

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i’m a druid in my lucid dreams , i usually turn into snake , tiger , bird . you can’t fully see or understand what are you exactly but the movement can give you the information you need.
for example i’m not sure i was tiger or cat or lion … but i had claws and i was moving like how they move.
i advice never try mirror in dreams. i did once , and i saw something so disgusting and demon-like that i instantly woke up.
the fact is you dont have body in lucid dreams. you have movement method instead. and everytime you check your hands or feets they generate based on what are excepting to see.
if you except to see tiger legs or spider legs you would see them as your legs and perhaps your movement method changes.

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Interesting thoughts friends.

I was thinking about this along with your points and they do make sense. I guess a proper representation of reality in dreams must include the use of our sensory organs in the same vein as we would when we’re awake. Input must still reach the brain (but we’re already inside the mind?), even if it is through a copy of the self. However, I still think this reasoning is incomplete.

Two nights ago, I dreamt I had returned to middle school. It was a non-lucid dream, and in it I sat on a desk and had class. And yet, I didn’t had a body and whatever I did, no matter the task, appeared to “require” a body, except I never used ‘it’. If I had to grab a book the thing would appear already on the desk in front of me. If I had to write, the same happened, and if I wanted to move I would glide over stuff like a ghost or presence. Despite that, I do remember remaining with the sense of proprioception. I understood within this non-lucid state that there was a volume to this weightless, intangible body, if it was at all “a body.” If I leaned forward on the desk, for instance, I feared bumping into it, like any normal body would, yet there was no need.

Perhaps the understanding of a body in many non-lucid dreams falls at a conceptual level? While others include a more literal expression of it. Likewise, I realize lucid dreams favor more this latter notion than the first. Meaning it is easier for us to understand things from the literal sense, the physicality of using a body to experience the world, like @psychoman describes when taking the form of an animal. And the movement experienced is similar to how I would describe that feeling of proprioception when in a bodiless dream. It helps us understand.

One way or another, I think both means could relate to how the ego portrays and labels the experience as “my dream”; this is going by what I understood from what you said, @Marvin. Say, what does it mean when I proclaim “I dreamed” or “I had a dream”? Is the answer to that question exemplified by the use of some approximation to a body or a literal one, within the dream?

Going back to the example with imagination, let’s say we visualize a watermelon in our mind’s eye. If I want you to cut the watermelon in half, how would you go about it? One might picture a physical representation of his/her hand holding a knife and cutting the watermelon. You could also see only the knife falling through the fruit like a guillotine. Or maybe, you don’t need to use anything; the watermelon could divide itself in half, just like that.

There’s another question that springs to mind. Why the need for the third person perspective? What is the purpose of dreaming like this if a first-person point of view does the job?

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The thing is, dreams are some unorganized data created by our mind. During the dream we are not seeing or hearing or touching anything.
Its just a collection of data and feelings that generated from analysis of the real data we collected during the waking time of that day.
We have no input, instead we are combining and remaking inputs we got in day.
The dream stores with visuals and sounds in waking time when we recall them.
And because our conciseness can’t understand some collection of data and feelings, it will convert them into the closest and nearest concept of that data.
For example we have a colored image and we want to print it, but our printer is only black and white.
So the printer would convert yellow to bright gray instead. Because it’s the closest and nearest color to yellow.
The colored image is our dream, printer is our conciseness ( our waking me) and the black and white image is what we recall from our dream.
Instead the printer is so much better than our mind.
For example we had data and feelings of shame and nervousness in our dream but when we recall it in waking life that data will translate into school and having no pants.
And the funny thing is it’s temporarily, it won’t store in permanent memory.
So when we recall that dream again another time, our mind have two sources for that dream.
The colored original image and the black and white, except that this time colored is fade and incomplete and the black and white one is less vivid than last time. So for better understanding our conciseness have to translate and generate a new image from combination of that two.
So second time we recall that dream it may change a bit or sometimes it will change a lot.
And still because our mind ia not sure about its translation, it will restore the second recall in memory with a tag of “I’m not sure if i translated this correctly”.
Some days later or even month we go in a office that look like the school that our mind translated for the first recall.
And because it’s similar, brain will pick that old memory with that tag and re-translate it with the new data collected from office and will remove the tag.
And we will wonder in that moment and we feel we were here before in a dream so we recall that dream again and it will regenerate again with this fact that it was office not school.
So everything would change to fit in office situation.
For example teacher would change into boss, etc.
People call this feeling “dejavu”.
Now with knowledge of this fact, imagine how complicated is lucid dream, our conciseness is awake during the dream and it’s constantly translating, and because we are still thinking ( thoughts are new inputs during the dream and we said in dream there is no input anymore, thats what put lucid dream aside from a normal dream ) our thoughts will instantly translate into visuals, sounds, feelings, etc.
So if you think that the watermelon was already half from beginning, it will be half like it was never full.
And if you decide to cut it with knife, your hands and the knife appear like they were there all the time.
Thats why i always say real dream is lucid dream.
Normal dreams are just a false memory of some unorganized analyzed data and 99% of times they never even happened in our dream.

Out of curiosity, if the perceptions of first or third person weren’t an issue, how would you expect us to process the sensory imput? I’m not sure I understand quite what you mean. I don’t see how we have any other way to do so. Either we are actively taking part in any given situation, or we are a passive observer watching a situation unfold from a detached perspective , Like when we watch TV for example. But in both scenarios our consciousness recieves the sensory imput either through actively engaging in or passively observing a situation and so that’s how it translates into the dream.

I have dreams in which I am disembodied - but I’m still there in a sense - there always has to be some sense of perspective or you don’t have the sensory imput for the mind to construct a scene.

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I think you misunderstood me, @DreamMystic (probably due to a poor effort on my part to express my thoughts clearly). It is not perspective which I’m focusing on; you’re correct in that a perspective, an awareness must exist in order to experience the dream. What I’m trying to debate is why that perspective, sometimes, must include a body, in the literal sense (e.g. having a set of arms, legs, a torso, etc.) if it isn’t needed. Input will reach us all the same, as evident in many of these bodiless dreams.

Keep in mind, I’m talking exclusively about non-lucid dreams. A lucid dream is trickier to discuss, in my opinion, because we can make a choice in how best we want to live the dream. I remembered a dream, for instance (non-lucid), in which I was running away from something. And during that moment, I knew I was running. Within that awareness, I perfectly enacted a set of moves that my brain readily simulated as running, but I wasn’t moving any arms, or there weren’t any legs going back and forth; nothing connected to anything… there was no body. But it felt like running.

The idea I was trying to convey, is that our mind can express in so many ways the act of doing, while there’s only one way to do the same thing in real life. Cue the example with the watermelon. You can cut the watermelon in so many different ways with your imagination, but if you want to do this in reality, you have to physically grab the fruit and cut it.

My other question, about the third-person point of view, relates to an observation you made, that we can passively observe what’s happening. However, you’re always passively observing others or anything else except you. Right now, I can’t observe myself from a detached perspective, I just can’t, unless I were to imagine it. But in a dream I had, I saw myself having a conversation with another person. That is, I, the awareness, saw another character (myself), talking with another character. My question is, what is the reason for that? Why didn’t the dream put me in the shoes of, well me!

Anyway, I’m not trying to convince you of anything, or confuse you. In fact, I don’t even know what the purpose of this thread holds to me either. I just felt like thinking aloud to see if I could get a deeper understanding of some things.

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Ah I see what you mean now! Yeah I see your point. The only thing I can think of with regards to the observation of yourself is perhaps the brain draws on memories of maybe watching ourselves on video, or maybe even from seeing us in photos? It’s definitely fascinating to think about what does or doesn’t influence that…

I have been like a void before. Once I was in a dream and I looked at my hands, they were empty, they sucked me into them and I woke up. I don’t think I was human. I have never had a dream where I didn’t occupy space though. Maybe we expect to occupy space?

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