Hypnagogia, co-consciousness, and the duality of multiples

A strange experience last night launched this morning’s digging for information. I awoke disjointed and wondering, whose nightmare had I been having. It was clearly not my own.

Shortly after I went to sleep, the feelings started. Instead of my normally detailed narrative dreams, what I experienced had a content I couldn’t quite reach. As if I was experiencing the body thrashings of someone else’s nightmares.

My research took me from hypnagogia, to theta waves, amnesic memories, co-consciousness, and amazingly, back around to the multiplicity of unity that is Jung.

I awoke to feel myself breathing heavily, my husband still watching TV beside me. I lay hovering in the gray zone between sleep and wakefulness, knowing I had been in nightmare. Asleep and awake again, unable to keep awake long enough to reset the dream, inevitably falling back down into it.

The nightmare was in my body; my mind was a swirl. A small voice in my head, not yet connected to my mouth, “Help me help me.” Not my voice, but another within me.

I call to my husband, words leaking out, “My dreams are freaking me out.” I don’t know if he heard me, or if I actually spoke at all. But I had, reaching out while the dream below me continued on uninterrupted.

My body moves on it’s own. Lungs heaving air for no reason I cannot discern. My body is in distress and drags me along for the ride. But part of me was on the edge of wakefulness and sleep.

Not completely unaffected, I was disturbed by the state of my self even though the specifics of the dream eluded me. Laying on my back, I felt my stomach contract, chest lifting to the ceiling, palms up and arms outstretched. Several seconds in this strange suspended prayer mode before sinking slowly back to the sheets.

My knees bend to one side, legs sprawled. I feel my hands pull a sheet up between them, legs still bare, mantra still running in my head. Still no images for eyes that dart back and forth behind half open eyelids, fluttering and twitching, perhaps playing scenes for another. Floating in the back of my head, I feel caught between awareness of a sister’s nightmare and dreamless unconsciousness of my own. I struggle to stay awake to understand this unique shared consciousness. Not the “normal” co-conscious I/we experience often during the day, but a frightening duality disconnected from the content but hearing the voice and feeling the body nightmare of another.

Not pleasant at all, this freaky duality on both sides of the wall of consciousness.

Hypnogogic reverie?

My research quickly directed me to something called hypnagogia or hypnogogic reverie, a state occurring between wakefulness and sleep that can be accompanied by “vivid dreamlike auditory, visual, or tactile sensations” and sometime paralysis. Prominent in this stage of deep relaxation are theta waves, which are synchronized firings of neurons in the brain that can be seen on an electroencephalogram (EEG) at approximately 4 to7-8 cycles per second. They are associated with memory and learning in the temporal lobe, possibly the hippocampus.

Dreaming ↔ temporal lobe ↔ memories?

I’d already been reading about how hippocampus and amygdala structures in the brain are associated with memory storage and retrieval, and how these mechanisms can be physically and physiologically altered with prolonged PTSD and traumatic memories.

Hypnagogic dreaming ↔ damaged temporal lobe ↔ repressed and/or traumatic memories?

Kubie (1945) reported using hypnogogic reverie to access repressed amnesic memories, and suggested that this method can help individuals for whom therapy has failed because this allows direct access to memories, bypassing the problems with interpretation of dreams.

While I had had no paralysis, all this seems related. I have memory loss and partial amnesia of past events. My lucid dreams explain a lot, but require translation. Now I want to know more about this strange state of direct access.

But don’t dreams just happen in REM sleep?

Apparently not. Dreaming occurs in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which generally does not begin until 2 hours after falling asleep. We normally sequence through several stages of sleep before reaching REM sleep, as shown below. Researchers can already differentiate REM sleep from other states by looking at the RSA (rhythmic slow activity) in the hippocampus during sleep.

Stages of Sleep [2]

However, Bodizs (2005) suggests that some elements of REM sleep, termed “covert-rapid-eye-movement,” may accompany the initial transition to sleep, leading to the vivid impact of hypnogogia. He found an increase in REM-like 1.5-3.0 Hz parahippocampal activity in this wake-to-sleep transition state in epileptic patients. [3]

Wow – everything is starting to make sense. During my strange experience, I felt my eyes open and rapidly dart about. I was not consciously focusing on anything – just feeling the movement and being aware of the different perspective snapshots of my bedroom. Covert-REM.

So far, so good.

But the spooky thing is, I was also aware of it. I could hear another voice and feel another’s motions and panic. My body moved but not under my control. I wonder what was running through the mind of that other welf.

And exactly who or what is this “covert-REM” supposed to be covert from? Was some part of me in this covert-REM mode while another other part watched?

Sure seems so. Half-away dissociation. Freaky.

Meditation, psychic experiences, and a duality of state

So these magical theta waves are associated with memory and with hypnagogia. Indicative of dreaming and near-unconscious.

The state is also reported to be the source of paranormal experiences, ESP, and even alien abductions. Also schizophrenia, the ‘ekstasis’ (ecstasy) trance-state of the shaman, the ‘void’ state of Eastern transcendental meditation.

<Right. Fine. Whatever.>

Putting that digression aside, how many people have observed themselves in this state? A duality of state?

Turns out that with training, yogis and experienced meditators are able to maintain both theta waves and conscious awareness. A new lucidity after the feeling of falling asleep.

I also found some nice information from Ervin László, a Hungarian philosopher. Perhaps I misapply this philosopher’s assertions <shrug>, but let’s interpret co-consciousness my way. The separate consciousnesses of two selves as opposed to two persons.

In the ‘experience of dual unity’ a patient in an ASC [altered state of consciousness] experiences a loosening and melting of the boundaries of the body ego and a sense of merging with another person in a state of unity and oneness. In this experience, despite the feeling of being fused with another, the patient retains an awareness of his or her own identity.

The “other” or others can be someone in the presence of the patient or someone absent; he or she can be part of an experience from the subject’s childhood, his or her ancestry, or even of a previous lifetime. [4]

László echos Kubie:

The hypnagogic reverie might be called a dream without distortion. Its immediate instigator is the day’s “unfinished business,” but like the dream it derives from more remote ‘unfinished business’ of an entire lifetime as well.

What kind of shit that I can’t remember is trying to come out this way? Yeah, the topic area is pretty clear. Part of me is distressed, can’t breath. Trying to cover up between my legs. Attempting to get up, praying from that trapped position on my back.

With [hypnagogic reverie] significant information about the past can be made readily and directly accessible without depending upon the interpretation…of dreams…It is probable that in this partial sleep, in this no-man’s land between sleeping and waking, a form of dissociation occurs which makes it possible to by-pass the more obstinate resistances which block our memories in states of full conscious awareness, and which contribute to the distortion of memory traces in dreams. [4]

Great – I know this intellectually. My therapist says I need to have all these memories in order to recast them. Remove their power to overwhelm me at their whim.

So this accessibility suggests a mechanism for cognitive and therapeutic restructuring, if we can only capture that hypnagogic state and learn from it.

Recovery of traumatic memories, both spontaneously and by induction, occurs in an altered state of consciousness, with remarkable emotional expression. Once the state of consciousness is altered by means of induction and relaxation, the perception of an event can undergo changes as well, and consequently, a new interaction and relationship with the trauma context will take place. [5]

Unus Mundus

Continuing on this idea of duality, I again trip across Jung, who came to see the psyche as one force containing multiple perspectives, “a multiplicity within unity.” Unus Mundus – “one world” – the domain of symmetry, Jung’s idea of collective consciousness.

Where alchemist Gerhard Dorn said,

[S]plits are healed, duality ceases, and the individual, the vir unus, unites with the world soul.

Dorn suggests that unus mundus is a unified multiplicity, a separateness of the parts and a oneness at the same time, that may only take place after death. [6]

All of this started getting too metaphysical for me, especially after I tripped across a meandering discussion of the history and some believable (and not so believable) interpretations of hypnagogia, located here: “Sleepless Sleep:Hypnagogia – the Shamanic Trance-State (The Neutral Point in Consciousness)” by Gary Osborn.

While I read some interesting things, I quickly realized that this whole realm is like statistics – throw a bunch of concepts together, apply the right munging factors, and it will explain whatever theory you want.

In the end, what I had was a strange experience of duality that was one step further along the path of co-conscious than I have ever been before. This idea that one was awake while the other was still asleep. Hypnagogy of multiples states with a multiple.

Freaky, and a f*ck of a night, but ultimately perhaps I’ll view it as kinda cool.


[1] Kubie LS. (1945). The Use of Induced Hypnagogic Reveries in the Recovery of Repressed Amnesic Data, summarized in Greenson, R.R. (1945). Hypnosis Number: Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. VII, 1943, Nos. 5 and 6.. Psychoanal Q., 14:135-13.

[2] Chudler EH. What is sleep and why do we do it? Accessed online from http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/sleep.html.

[3] Bódizs R et al., (2005). Human parahippocampal activity: non-REM and REM elements in wake-sleep transition. Brain Res Bull. 2005 Mar 15;65(2):169-76.

[4] Ervin Laszlo E. (1996). Subtle Connections:Psi, Grof, Jung, and the Quantum Vacuum. The International Society for the Systems Sciences and The Club of Budapest, accessed online from http://www.goertzel.org/dynapsyc/1996/subtle.html.

[5] Perez JFP, et al., (2005). Fostering resilience in psychological trauma. Accessed online from http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rprs/v27n2/en_v27n2a03.pdf.

[5] Marie-Louise von Franz (1979). Alchemical Active Imagination, Spring Publications, accessed from http://web.ukonline.co.uk/phil.williams/unusmundus.htm.



  For Prez ’24 wrote @

Interesting stuff. I spent some time with some shaman and they suggested that you didn’t necessarily have to relive the memory though you might still experience the emotions involved as you purge it. Jung was also of the belief that memories don’t always have to be brought up to remove the block, especially since pulling at the wrong memory could just complicate matters and not help at all.


  emilylonelygirl wrote @

For Prez ’24 – I agree that blindly chasing and trying to pull out blocked memories can be frustrating or re-traumatizing. I have spoken with another woman with DID and she relayed some very positive experiences with a Shaman, something I may someday explore.

I am reminded of something I read recently:

“Generally speaking, we remember about as much about traumatic events as we are psychologically capable of dealing with.” – Warwick Middleton, “Remembering the past, anticipating a future.”

Thank you for your comments –

  mo wrote @

I just wanted to say I have had very similar experiences. I have researched quite a bit on it and have access to many reputable journals. The state between wake and sleep is what is called hypnogogic sleep. The state between sleep and wake is called hypnopomic sleep. Most research has been done on hypnogogic state. I will say that most of my dreams or flashbacks have happened in hypnopomic state. I dont get paralysis either, but sometimes can hear eg birds singing outside my window. I have asked someone experience in this research about it and if I could be having a flashback. (although its not me)…answer was I could be but hallucinations are also very common in this state. Given the content of mine I think the chance its some sort of flashback or memory is high, but the truth is I will never really know for sure.
Anyway I just wanted to add to this, and if I remember your post correctly this happened in hypnopomic sleep(going from sleep to wake). The brain is so facinating, I even offered to donate mine like now 🙂

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Laughing!!!! I would donate my brain as well – the stuff that researchers are finding now with folks like us…amazing, and much of it seems like it could be structural changes in addition to biophysiological changes….I’d like more evidence.

Thanks for clarifying the definitions…Mine have been in both directions – the sleep-to-waking are the most freaky for me because I feel less grounded…like this is happening from a state of uncertainty. If I am falling asleep, it is as if I am still somewhat attached to consciousness so if I wake, I have a better connection. This happens more frequently for me now, and interestingly, I have dreams that follow on to the hypnogogic subject matter.

I know that some of mine are flashback and some are hallucination…the hallucinations because they have elements of my attacks overlaid on present day geographic locations. Although they can be very scary, I have actually learned from them because there is this distinction….it shows me events in my current life that are tied to my past.

As you are suggesting…the brain is a really cool mass of jello, eh?


  Shasta wrote @

It seems to me that being in a hypnogogic or hypnopompic state would make a memory less reliable because of the melding of dreams (inner states) and sensory data from the immediate environment. The mind in that state is, if anything less able to organize memories in to coherent patterns. As for Jung, he had some good ideas but he was mystical. I doubt if the construct of the “collective unconscious” is separable from cultural traditions passed down in the form of stories and metaphors which are not metaphysical but sociological phenomena. You spoke about having several states of consciousness where one part of experiencing something and the other watches. I know what this is like when I am awake and it is freaky to have two mind sets operating simultaneously. On the other hand I have experienced this also in dreams which are plainly works of imagination. In one dream in particular I become someone completely different than who I am, in thoughts, values, temperament, perception; even in culture and race. I was inside that experience not merely observing it. I think a lot of people single or multiple can both observe and participate in several mental states at once. That is what the frontal lobes are supposed to do – manage and monitor a number of operations going on in the brain. Are the frontal lobes responsible for our sense of having a homunculus? Hey I do not know. I try not to pay too much attention to “the man behind that curtain.” Now I confess that I am no shining example of insight into my unconscious, preconscious, or subconscious (whatever), I may be jaded because I was raised on Freud. In fact, I rather doubt what I feel and think which is the reason I have never gone very far in therapy. Still, I learned to resist mind control by doubting my state of mind. However, I do think its best for me to always keep one foot in the solid territory of the conscious linear side of my brain. At any rate, I think you are looking into some interesting subjects, Seek and keep on seeking. Ask and keep on asking, the scriptures say.

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Hi Shasta

Yeah, keep on seeking, and fall further and further down the rabbit hole!

A lot of these types of my musings may all just be bullshit, but I still try to tie my experiences to something that already exists. But when it comes to Freud, etc., I am no scholar. So as I said before, I interpret the way I please!


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