Sunday, May 31, 2009

Posters Question

I wanted to post this comment that I read today about sleep paralysis. I found it very interesting and I tried to answer the question asked:

nice post - I never thought about SP in regards to the terrible biochemical combination of intense fear and muscle paralysis. it's a rough place for consciousness! I'm reading Hufford's classic right now and the accounts are fascinating. do you have any ideas about the phenomenon of the "stranger" (that sometimes accompanied the experience of SP) in terms of brain activity?

Sleep paralysis has been a long time been something that I have researched since I used to have it affect my life. The stranger you asked about I believe (if were thinking of the same thing) has been referenced by some people in the lucid dreaming community as the dweller. It seems to be the occurrence of a type of thing that exists in the dream that sometimes tries to scare the dreamer. At time this “dweller” has even been known to have long conversations with people of why it tries to scare people once the dreamer shows their inability to be scared by the object. I remember one account where someone ones reported that after having the conversation with the dweller, another dweller entered the room and explained to the other that it was time to go. Interesting enough I see the same references during psychedelic uses in the way they describe some of the “guides” that are experienced during some drug trips.

In trying to understand the brain chemistry that is causing this dweller effect, the easiest explanation that was explained in many of the books I have read about the processes of sleep, is that during the transitional phases between NREM and REM sleep the subconscious dominate. If by some chance there is a hiccup in this process (which is normally the case) the subconscious could become aware of the conscious mind and it causes an interaction. The amygdala being over active at this time and I believe a good explanation of why fear is the most referenced the interaction between the two. Psychedelic drugs could also cause a type of lucid state during the trip experience and cause the same type of interaction between the subconscious and conscious just on a larger scale. The relationship presented by Dr. Strassman and his work on DMT shows that the dream state and alteration of consciousness during sleep could very well be more psychedelic then we currently believe, and would explain more why the dweller effect happened in both cases.

I would be glad to hear more about what you have been reading, feel free to post your comments and ill try to get post more.


  1. thanks for the long post! I've never hear of the term "dweller" before. I think we're talking bout the same effect: how you realize you're in paralysis (can't move) and then you may feel pressure on your chest, and sometimes another presence is "felt" in the room. other times, people see someone, and even feel a hand on their throats, etc. the bizarre thing (from a phenomenological perspective) is the "victim" insists that they are awake - not in a dream. so it seems to me - as others have suggested - that REm intrusion is happening, a medley of the dreamstate and awareness with eyes open how NREM is in the mix, dunno. (Many cases have shown when there's a witness that the dreamers eyes are open during these attacks). If you haven't ready David Hufford's "the terror that comes in the night" I highly recommend it. I think this effect may be one of the greatest causes of "ghost" sightings. Not to invalidate people's experiences, but from a cognitive-neuro perspective I've always wondered what is going on in the brain that allows for this universal, cross-cultural experience of the stranger - also called the Hag, and which also maybe related to the Incubus tales from medieval days. I experience this too, by the way, and have found that if you work through the fear of the stranger, the experience can shift from a nightmarish one to a pleasurable or enlightening one. you say its hallucinogenic, yep, I think it also could be called shamanic. I wrote more about this perspective here:
    still, to my knowledge, and this is your expertise, no one has data that matches this "dweller" experience with a mind/brain corrolate... if discovered, i have a feeling we could learn a lot about how we experience our sense of self, as well as provide insight into multiple personality disorder...

  2. Ryan,

    Not a problem of the size of the post and yes we are talking about the same thing. The name dweller comes from a group of people that have been experimenting on lucid dreaming for a long time, they insist that the dweller is just something that you have to get through in order to lucid dream. This dweller is the same thing as the old hag, I just use that term because its cooler sounding :)

    For me the dweller started to happen to me for no reason that I knew of, and my friend told me about a site that seemed to show some promise on helping me get over this thing. This is before I started to read up on sleep issues and get a better idea of whats going on during sleep. They said to face the fear of what ever it was. I tried that and after many troubling times, I managed to beat it. After that I had the same thing happen to me a few times but it was easier and easier to overcome this fearful object. I have suggested the same thing to individuals that have night terrors as there seems to be some coloration to the events, but I have yet had anyone try to overcome their fear or what is troubling them during the terror event.

    In the idea of the multiple personality, I think that all of us have these multiple personalities running around in their head, we just don't see them or get to talk to them, unless we have a drug or an altered state of consciousness allowing us too. Almost everyone who sleeps at night dreams of unique individuals that have their own personality and the same goes with people who use psychedelics and not only limited to the insane. I think its only considered a problem when these personalities take over when someone is unaware and conscious. I that to truly understand psychology we must explore the mind in altered states and find out what these dwellers, old hags, and guides truly are.

    Ill read more about what you wrote tomorrow as its later here and I need to get some sleep.

    Thanks again!