Impossible Receptivity (2min Read)
How receptive to new ideas are you?
There exists a super interesting and all encompassing view-forming time of the day for me i have discovered. It’s not a new discovery – more likely i have never felt the reason to write it down and try to capture it in any meaningful way. And so i shall attempt to do so here.
The actual time of the day is irrelevant i belive, it is more the state of mind which is likely having the most interesting effects, and in turn leading to the generation of ideas i consider worthy of pursuing. That said, this state of mind rarely arises outside of this specific period of time.
The time in which i speak of, is that period between sleep and awake, that period of time where you are transitioning from sleep state to awake state, for me its typically between 5 – 6am. Neither asleep nor awake – but both simultaneously, for some reason this short transitional period has great significance for my churning of creative ideas and the drive to pursue them.
Most, if not all my most interesting ideas come from this brief time between being horizontal and vertical – indeed often the ideas generated at this period are what move me from being horizontal to vertical, if only to get the idea properly noted and begin some research.
You hear of people keeping a notebook next to their bed to write things of interest or any ideas they may have during the night, i am not doing this, although i have done in the past. That said i kind of do by having my mobile on the bed side table, although in my experience i tend to use that notebook app mostly in the day.
So whats happening in my brain at this time of the day? Why does this period of transition from sleep to awake continue to be so creatively and logically fruitful for me? And perhaps most importantly how can i prolong it? Its hard to put into words – things just seem to come together, it feels as if there is a collision between the possible and the impossible, or a very specific problem speed-meeting many many solutions even.
The period of time in which i refer to – it has a name. It’s called Hypnagogia and according to the wikipedia page:
Hypnagogia is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep: the hypnagogic state of consciousness, during the onset of sleep. Mental phenomena that occur during this “threshold consciousness” phase include lucid thought, lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.
Wait… so according to this description of Hypnagogia i am likely running some sort of hallucinations in my head at this point in the day. That’s likely something i wouldn’t want to prolong come to think of it. This description does better describe what i may be experiencing and allows me to understand what state i am in when generating new thoughts, feeling around new ideas, however it seems to lean rather to the sleep side of the transitional period, and of course with sleep paralysis at play i would not be able to move up and in to the day, so what else is happening here?
Actually, it appears not much, the majority of the brain activity is happening in the dream state and so the real world state or “Awake” only serves to move the body to a place where it can get more information of start the creative process should it need to manifest itself immediately.
Check out the expert below from the wikipedia Hypnagogia page on the Cognitive and affective phenomena of Hypnagogia, that i belive includes the answers to some of my questions and perhaps some of yours too : )
Thought processes on the edge of sleep tend to differ radically from those of ordinary wakefulness. For example, something that you agreed with in a state of Hypnagogia may seem completely ridiculous to you in an awake state. Hypnagogia may involve a “loosening of ego boundaries … openness, sensitivity, internalization-subjectification of the physical and mental environment (empathy) and diffuse-absorbed attention.”Hypnagogic cognition, in comparison with that of normal, alert wakefulness, is characterized by heightened suggestibility, illogic and a fluid association of ideas. Subjects are more receptive in the hypnagogic state to suggestion from an experimenter than at other times, and readily incorporate external stimuli into hypnagogic trains of thought and subsequent dreams. This receptivity has a physiological parallel; EEG readings show elevated responsiveness to sound around the onset of sleep.
Herbert Silberer described a process he called autosymbolism, whereby hypnagogic hallucinations seem to represent, without repression or censorship, whatever one is thinking at the time, turning abstract ideas into a concrete image, which may be perceived as an apt and succinct representation thereof.
The hypnagogic state can provide insight into a problem, the best-known example being August Kekulé’s realization that the structure of benzene was a closed ring while half-asleep in front of a fire and seeing molecules forming into snakes, one of which grabbed its tail in its mouth. Many other artists, writers, scientists and inventors — including Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Walter Scott, Salvador Dalí, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton — have credited hypnagogia and related states with enhancing their creativity. A 2001 study by Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett found that, while problems can also be solved in full-blown dreams from later stages of sleep, hypnagogia was especially likely to solve problems which benefit from hallucinatory images being critically examined while still before the eyes.
A feature that hypnagogia shares with other stages of sleep is amnesia. But this is a selective forgetfulness, affecting the hippocampal memory system, which is responsible for episodic or autobiographical memory, rather than the neocortical memory system, responsible for semantic memory. It has been suggested that hypnagogia and REM sleep help in the consolidation of semantic memory, but the evidence for this has been disputed. For example, suppression of REM sleep due to antidepressants and lesions to the brainstem has not been found to produce detrimental effects on cognition.