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Threat Simulation Theory Of Dreams - Bet You’re Clueless

Dreaming about something is not necessarily a direct result of using or thinking about it often. However, our dreams can be influenced by our waking experiences, including the things we encounter regularly. While dreaming is a complex phenomenon, the threat simulation theory of dreams is one of the few scientific explanations that may shed some light on it.

Celeste Pearl
Celeste Pearl
Jun 22, 20233K Shares87.9K Views
Jump to
  1. Dreams And Thoughts
  2. Trending Tweet About Dreams
  3. Threat Simulation Theory Explained
  4. People Also Ask
  5. Final Thoughts

Have you ever heard about this concept called threat simulation theory of dreams?

No? Well, OK, let me ask something simple.

Have you ever wondered why our dreamsrarely feature the familiar objects and activities that dominate our waking lives?

Now that I have asked… yeah, right?

While we interact with countless objects and technologies daily, from smartphones to kitchen appliances, they seem curiously absent from our dreamscapes.

The absence of these everyday elements raises intriguing questions about the nature of dreaming and the workings of our subconscious mind.

Let’s delve into the realm of dreams to uncover the reasons behind this phenomenon.

By learning about what some experts have to say about it, we aim to shed light on the mystery surrounding the absence of everyday objects in our dreams.

Can this threat simulation theory of dreams also enlighten us?

What does it mean to dream about the same person over and over again?

Dreams And Thoughts

Dreams and thoughts are closely connected aspects of human cognition, but they operate in different states of consciousness and serve different functions.

Thoughts, in general, refer to the mental processes and activities that occur in our waking state of consciousness.

They involve the conscious and often deliberate:

  • generation
  • manipulation
  • organization of ideas, concepts, and information

Thoughts can be logical, rational, and coherent, reflecting our conscious cognitive processes.

On the other hand, dreams are mental experiences that occur during sleep, primarily during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase.

Dreams are characterized by a series of:

  • sensory perceptions
  • emotions
  • images
  • narratives . . .

. . . that can be vivid, fragmented, or bizarre - even nightmarish!

While we are often not fully aware or in control of our dreams, they can be influenced by our:

  • emotions
  • memories
  • thoughts

Thoughts! There!

As Laurie Lowenberg, a dream analyst from Florida and a member of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), a California-based dream organization founded in 1983, shared to TODAY:

Dreams are thoughts.- Laurie Lowenberg

Lowenberg, who is also the author of three books, including Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life (2011), explained that the subconscious mind “takes over” the conscious mind when we sleep.

When in that subconscious state, according to her, the mind tends to think “on a much deeper and focused level.”

So, whatever thoughts you’re having could morph into dreams.

An adult woman in white sleepwear and in a dream state surrounded by fluffy white clouds
An adult woman in white sleepwear and in a dream state surrounded by fluffy white clouds

Do Dreams Represent Your Thoughts?

If you agree with what Laurie Lowenberg said, then there’s a connection between dreams and thoughts, with the latter, according to her, being thoughts themselves.

Now if we are going to take views from the world of psychology, we may arrive at the same explanation as given by Lowenberg.

Aside from threat simulation theory of dreams, we can also ponder on three more theories.

First is the activation-synthesis theory, where, as explained in a 2021 Healthline article, during sleep, the brain simply launches a stream of “random images and thoughts.”

These series of thoughts and images are what make up a dream.

Another one is from G. William Domhoff, a research (sociology and psychology) professor (Distinguished Professor Emeritus) at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Domhoff went to the University of Miami to study dream research.

According to Verywell Mind, he considers dreams “as a reflection of waking life” and that they “represent daily life.”

In his research, Domhoff, who is now 86, learned that the thoughts of people while they’re awake could be reflected in their dreams.

Domhoff’s ideas share something in common with the psychoanalytic theory by renowned Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).

This theory, according to mental health resource site GoodTherapy, touches on “wish fulfillment.”

Per The Sleep Doctor, Freud’s psychoanalytic theory talks about wish fulfillment, where it is believed that in dreams, people can have their thoughts conveyed, which they might not be able to dowhen they’re awake.

In other words, Freud proposed that dreams present themselves as a realm where a dreaming person’s wishes - the things he/she thinks about when awake - can finally happen.

Does the threat simulation theory of dreams also promote the same ideas?

Well, we’ll finally get into it in a while, but there’s a need to let you know first about the one tweet that prompted the creation of this article.

People outdoors seated close to each other and using their cell phones
People outdoors seated close to each other and using their cell phones

On May 14, 2023, an anonymous Twitter user, with the handle @zephyr_on_call, asked the Twitterverse:

How is it [that it is already] 2023 and nobody’s come up with a satisfying explanation as to why cell phones never show up in our dreams if we're using them for 12 hours a day?- Zephyr On Call (@zephyr_on_call)

As of this writing, this tweet has already received:

  • 3.7 million views
  • 29,900 likes
  • 2,126 retweets

That explains why we’re also looking for some good explanations.

One Reddit user (MeteorIntrovert) shared the tweet in the Me IRL subreddit (r/MeIRL) on May 30, which has so far gathered over 2,100 comments.

Shekhar Tiwari (shav_official), an Indian digital marketer, commented:

You can only remember dreams that carry a message rest [sic] you forget after sleep. I guess in dream world cell phones doesn’t [sic] make sense.- Shekhar Tiwari (shav_official)

So, for Tiwari, people would tend to dream more frequently about those material things that matter more or hold more significance.

Several Reddit users - who said they’re regular smartphone users - remarked that they either haven’t yet dreamed about said gadget or at one time only.

Look at this comment from Reddit user verstohlen:

I’ve had dreams about them. And I don’t use mine very often. Though perhaps that is why I have had dreams about them.- verstohlen (Reddit user)

Hmmm. We can only dream about certain things if we don’tregularly use them, is that it?

For Reddit user sterlingphoenix:

I’d say the reason nobody came up with a satisfying explanation is that this is a patently false statement.- sterlingphoenix (Reddit user)

Based on an old article, this “sterlingphoenix” probably has a point.

Per The Cut, on the last week of June 2018, a certain Brendan Credence (the Twitter account is currently suspended) tweeted:

As much as I use my smartphone, I don’t think I have ever seen it in any of my dreams.- Brendan Credence

The said tweet, by the time of the article’s publication (July 5, 2018), already garnered approximately 55,000likes.

Perhaps that anonymous Twitter user is familiar with that 2018 tweet and is now only making a follow up on the matter.

However, per a 2016 article by Psychology Today, according to the result of analyzing over 16,000 dream reports, people dodream about smartphones:

Those Who Dreamed about Cell PhonesPercentage
Male2.6%
Female3.5%

Dream researcher Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., the author of the said article, wrote:

The results suggest the newest technologies are not necessarily the most important ones in the world of dreams.- Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D. (Director, The Sleep and Dream Database)

It appears then that Tiwari’s opinion makes sense.

This is now the part where the threat simulation theory of dreams comes into the picture.

Threat Simulation Theory Explained

Threat simulation theory of dreams is a psychological theory that proposes that the function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events in order to prepare individuals for real-life dangers.

It is developed by two evolutionary psychologists and professors of cognitive neuroscience:

  • Antti Revonsuo(a Finnish, who is also a neuroscientist)
  • Katja Valli(also a researcher at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Turku, Finland)

Their theory suggests that dreams:

  • serve as a kind of virtual reality training for potential threats
  • help individuals enhance their ability to cope with and survive dangerous situations

According to the threat simulation theory of dreams, when we dream, our brain creates scenarios that involve potential threats and challenges.

These dreams often include situations, such as:

  • being chased and/or attacked
  • experiencing life-threatening events

The theory argues that these simulations serve several important functions:

a. Threat detection and avoidance

By simulating threatening situations, our brain becomes better at recognizing and detecting potential dangers in real life.

So, based on this threat simulation theory of dreams, our brain allows us to practice evaluating and responding to threatening stimuli.

Result: We improve our ability to detect and avoid threats when awake.

b. Emotional regulation

Dreams provide a safe environment for the processing and regulation of emotions associated with threatening situations.

By repeatedly experiencing threatening scenarios during dreaming, individuals may gradually desensitize their emotional responses to these situations.

Result: People become better equipped to manage fear and anxiety in real life.

c. Problem-solving and decision-making

Dreaming may also help individuals develop problem-solving and decision-making skills in threatening situations.

Through dream simulations, the brain can explore different approaches and strategies for coping with danger.

Result: An individual’s ability is enhanced to respond effectively when faced with real-life threats.

d. Cognitive and neural development

The simulation of threatening events in dreams may contribute to the development and refinement of cognitive processes and neural networks involved in:

  • threat detection
  • attention
  • decision-making

Result: This ongoing simulation and neural activation can strengthen and optimize these cognitive processes over time.

Still, further research is needed to fully understand the complex nature of dreaming and its various functions.

An adult woman in long-sleeved top and in an anxious state, sitting and biting her nails
An adult woman in long-sleeved top and in an anxious state, sitting and biting her nails

Threat Simulation Theory Of Dreams

For further understanding of the matter, let’s check what American journalist and science writer Alice Robb has to say about it.

In a 2018 interviewfor The Cut, she mentioned the threat simulation theory of dreams.

Robb, author of Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey (2018), picked that theory to offer an explanation regarding the trending and thought-provoking 2018 tweet.

According to her, dreams prepare us for “stressful events.”

The threat simulation theory of dreams proposes that a dream doubles as what Robb calls as “an evolved defense mechanism,” helping people survive in the world when they’re wide awake.

“Evolved” because we tend to dream about those things that brought fear and caused anxiety to our ancestors, which happens to be the same things that make us scared and anxious these modern times.

Our ancestors didn’t know about modern gadgets, such as smartphones.

We often dream more about fighting (the example given by Robb) because it’s more “relevant” to them.

Robb added though, that some life events can make us dream about smartphones.

The example she gave: when we mourn the death of someone.

During our time of grieving, according to her, we might see the dead person in our dream giving us a phone call.

A man in dark shades and light blue collared shirt calling someone on his black iPhone 5s
A man in dark shades and light blue collared shirt calling someone on his black iPhone 5s

People Also Ask

What Does Mobile Phone Represent In A Dream?

Several dream websites mention “emotional closeness” as one of the things that represent a dream about a cell phone.

One of them, the Dream Bible, says that when you dream of a smartphone, it signifies those relationships you don’t want to lose.

Another one, the Dream Meaning Net, suggests that such a dream reminds us that we can reach out to others at any time we want.

What Is The Most Common Thing People Dream About?

In her article published in July 2022 by mattress company Amerisleep, certified sleep science coach McKenzie Hyde mentioned that they conducted a survey about this.

It involved more than 2,000 respondents from different industries across the U.S. The top ten results are:

DreamPercentage
falling53.5%
being chased50.9%
being back in school37.9%
being unprepared for test or an important event34.0%
flying32.6%
mortality29.5%
one’s teeth falling out27.3%
being lost27.1%
going nowhere or moving in slow motion25.8%
missing/being late for a bus/train/plane25.5%

Making it on the top 15 were seeing creatures such as snakes or spiders (16.7 percent; 12th place) and finding money/getting wealthy (15.3 percent; 14th place).

See how these common dreams reflect the ideas concerning threat simulation theory of dreams as well as Alice Robb’s views about it?

What Is The Rarest Dream?

A lucid dream is a type of dream in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming while the dream is still occurring.

In other words, it is a dream state in which the individual has conscious awareness and control over their actions, thoughts, and surroundings within the dream.

According to MedicineNet, it’s the rarest dream, where 55 percent of people can have this kind of dream and could only even experience it once in their entire life.

How Lucid Dreaming Works

Final Thoughts

Remember that while the threat simulation theory of dreams offers an intriguing perspective on the function of dreams, it is still a hypothesis and a part of ongoing research in the field of psychology.

The exact purpose and mechanisms of dreaming remain complex and multifaceted.

Nevertheless, while other theories also exist to explain the nature and functions of dreams, the threat simulation theory of dreams is something we can hold on to.

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