Medical experts and their wild, baseless ideas about memories after near-death
This is easy stuff to unravel and a fun way to teach about human memory.
In science, we make a sharp distinction between an idea and a finding.
There are all kinds of theories about how the brain works. Their value depends on the findings on record and future discoveries. But, perhaps because the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe, fact findings often lend themselves to so many interpretations. So, to take a CNS theory seriously, it makes more sense to listen to people who have a lot of information about the brain. Anyone can generate Theories.
I did a lot of therapy. I cried (tears, not just making sad sounds) for not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands of hours. With that, a lot of ancient memories return, cleaned up and fresh as if from three minutes ago. And then I hear what ‘specialists’ say about why people feel and dream, how people think, what babies notice, etc., and they just sound so silly. They don’t even remember what happened to them before they were five.
To recall memories is associative, but the content of the memory is always literal. If you even feared ‘Now we’re all doomed,’ that’s what you may remember. You can’t then remember, ‘Now we’re all lost.’
I once heard a neurology professor repeat what a patient of his described. He was a window cleaner who had fallen from a height on his head. He got a chronic headache. It was as if a narrow band moved down over his head, and then, halfway, he saw a bright light. I told the physician this is a literal repeat of what he must’ve experienced at birth. The professor dismissed that immediately. ‘Babies don’t build memories yet.’ A theory. Just like many pediatricians believe that babies cannot focus or see sharply. These men clearly never held a healthy, happy baby in their life.
Many people who were ‘clinically dead’ or ‘near death’ but survived have described going through a dark, narrow tunnel and seeing a bright light and often their loved ones who passed on but who now looked young again. Was this a peek into Heaven? Anything is possible, but in science, we prefer facts over philosophy, logic over mysticism, and simplicity over far-out stuff. This too is a literal recall of what they must have seen when they were born. A tunnel, the birth canal; a bright light, the light in the operation theater or hospital room; the happy faces of their young, new parents. Those don’t need to be dead to see them, but people recovering from near death are often older, and so, their parents likely would have passed on, but they can be alive and kicking and be remembered younger.
And if you remember a bright light, of course, brain areas that deal with light will work extra. The dying brain doesn’t ‘generate’ light; it recalls it.
Easy to Refute
What counts in science more than proof are ways you can refute a theory.
My explanation is simple and easy to refute. It only takes one person who managed to cry away all shock experienced at birth but at a new trauma, still revives these images. Or one person who remembers going through a dark tunnel but was born per C-section. Or one person who sees a bright light but was birthed in half-shade. Or one person close to death, seeing loved ones who surely were not at their birth. Yet, a point against the last refutation, possibly, one could see someone who died when one was very young, like a sibling, if that trauma got glued unto their hurts at birth.
I apologize to romantics who better like the idea of having visited Heaven.
Why We Dream What We Dream
Decades ago, Harvey Jackins already explained how we sleep and dream.
To sleep, we minimize new sensory input. Silence or some noise that has no new information (ticking clock, soothing music), darkness, soft sheets.
We begin processing with the deepest sleep, during which we review things that hardly upset us. We slowly progress to things scarier. To deal with that we need more contact with reality, so we sleep less deeply. At the end of a sleep cycle, we will review the most frightening things for us, and we may need to wake up to manage. We call that a nightmare. But we dream all night. You can train yourself to remember dreams.
They typically will be the ones that you woke up with. Even when you remember only a little, you can retrieve much more. Just recount what you remember. When you’re done, tell it again. You’ll see you’re adding more details. When you don’t want to talk about it again, you can stop when no more details surface. Unfortunately, that is rare to happen. Emotional release (crying, trembling, laughing, yawning, etc.) happens automatically. Dreams you talked about enough (while not being drugged) will not return. Tell this to trauma survivors and people suffering from PTSD.
Harvey also held that the most painful emotion is boredom. Boredom happens when we get too much or too little new information. So, I say we feel refreshed after a good sleep because we did not get bored. Our brain keeps telling us stories even while we’re unconscious. That must also be why our brain connects flashes of what we went through into stories. A pile of random loose memories would be boring. So, the ‘glue’ between the bits is made-up fake facts; the bits are literal recordings.
Dreaming differs from brainstorming in that during the latter, you try to generate the craziest ideas to defeat timidity and narrow-mindedness.
The brain chats all the time. Some people notice, and often they go to therapy to try to diminish their sensitivity. But most people notice scarcely that the brain generates feelings all the time. Those emotions should give us clues about what we need to do in therapy next. To the feelings, words are glued. And to them tears, yawns, laughs, blushes, shivers, you name it, which, when released, are signs of deep healing of painful memories.
What We See When It’s Pitch Dark but We Are Awake
I don’t know any grownup who talks about what they see when all is dark. Babies probably still pay attention to it, but we seem to ignore what we see when the light goes out. I mean, after our retina stops sending after-glow contrast signals to what it registered before you turned off all lights.
You don’t need any meditation or special trick to see what only you can see in darkness. Pay attention, and you’ll notice your brain ‘sees’ all kinds of things. They can lead you to early painful memories. Or they are just biology’s screensavers. I find them different every time. Sometimes they are complex sets of crossing lines, sometimes dots, or patches. It can be monochromatic, changing color slowly or not, or multi-colored. What’s constant is that there is steady change throughout. Also, here, the brain keeps us from boredom. (The retina and eye ‘nerve’ are part of the brain.)
You know these pictures come from the brain because moving your eyeballs or head does not influence them. They are not to be confused with visual recalls of static snapshots that are not abstract.
New discoveries should not just find answers but also pose new questions. Did I see colored cubes as in Mondrian’s later paintings because I had them in stock, or did Mondrian paint them because he had the same visions? Are our pitch-dark condition’s visions extremely private, or are they picked from a huge set of common possibilities most human brains can generate?