Dreams: The Process of Awakening

A Physical Interpretation of Dreams

Revised January 16, 2021

By Bruce McKeithan


We can understand dreams from the standpoint of physics. In particular, let us apply De Broglie’s hypothesis from 1924 intending to show that particles as well as light beams have wave motion. In brain activity, we are dealing with brainwaves and elements, like sodium, potassium and chloride which have become electrically charged, and various molecules.

De Broglie derived his hypothesis from Planck’s discovery in 1900 that energy (E) equals Planck’s constant (a very small number represented by the letter h) times the frequency (f) of a radiation’s light wave, in short E = hf. De Broglie translated it as follows: Because E = mass X velocity squared and f is velocity / wavelength (w), E = hf could be written as mv2 = hv/w, or simply mvw = h. (Schrodinger developed an actual equation for time dependent particle waves a short time later, in December 1925).

Let us start with the premise that we wish to remain undisturbed by energy that arises after deep sleep from the base of the brain. This may be due to inertia, a physical attribute common to all objects, or just an inherent tendency of humans to counteract imposed energy. So how do we handle new energy?

In dreams, we witness a large number of people or objects. The objects like buildings may themselves be large. The first effect of De Broglie’s relation is for these large images in a dream to reduce the velocity of brainwaves , thereby controlling energy. The brain stores the reduced amount of energy, something which we do not witness in dreams but must take place concurrently. In physic’s terms, kinetic energy becomes potential energy. In a way this also partly describes the psychoanalytical approach to dreams whereby we repress our drives and wishes and remand them to the unconscious.

Eventually the stored energy reaches a limit, but we persist in trying to reduce the level of energy in the brain. Additional mass collides with existing mass, having a harmful effect. In a dream we try to repair the now old mass as represented by people and things that we have known, some in the distant past. We also dream of trying to retain the old situation by being successful at something only to be frustrated by new mass. In the final analysis our efforts to attain the reduction of energy that is necessary to leave us in a placid state are insufficient.

At the given, lower velocity, De Broglie’s relation predicts that a further increase in mass decreases the wavelength of the energy waves. Since f = v/w , an increase in the frequency or energy of the brainwaves must occur. Since we are dealing with electrical elements, there is also an increase in voltage, putting pressure on the storage system and releasing energy into the system like water overflowing a dam. It is at this point that it is necessary to wake up and expend energy in some way.

The growth in new mass and energy that grows beyond a certain point, because of our resistance to waking, creates a tremendous threat to one. If nothing else, it is the fear or anticipation of this deadly threat that finally awakens us.

In the Beginning

Energy originates at the base, or stem, of the brain. Brainwaves threaten to become too sharp to be sustained in the same place. To alleviate this disturbance, energy flows into the central part of the brain where dreams occur. The new state allows brainwaves to become more elongated and stretched out and momentum to decrease reciprocally. Another, older way of stating this is that energy flows into the interior of the brain to relieve the ensuing pressure.

Thus, we may find ourselves away from home. For example, we may be at a resort, or in the mountains, or in another region of the country, or even in another country. We also may find ourselves back in time: at an earlier home, or at an old school or workplace. In short a displacement in place and/or time occurs. Various happy memories are elicited as a part of the initial relief from excessive agitation and avoidance of a buildup of heat in the lower brain.


Because the brain has a limited capacity for expansion, the waves are still quite excited, indicating a considerable amount of remaining energy. We shall refer to this imputed energy as free energy. We continue to draw upon memories and emotions that reside in the central part of the brain to improve the situation further. We may see ourselves up a river at a college, reflecting the learning that is necessary to handle free energy. We can better the situation only by decreasing the velocity of the waves, making them more agreeable.

To this end, the mind forms images of a multitude of people or a great many objects. For example, we may see large crowds or gatherings, or a number of buildings or houses, or a single large building or structure, or a large number of tables or desks in some setting. The objects also have a certain density which expresses their ordering.

This increase in images will produce a reciprocal decrease in velocity and energy provided the mind can store the decrease in energy. A reduction in the electric fields (and their associated voltage) within the brain accomplishes the requisite storage of energy. Mathematically speaking, the divisor of the electric field must equal the multiplier of the images for one to remain in the same state. Devices for storing electrical energy are called capacitors. The brain has various structures that serve this purpose such as the membranes of nerves and the gaps between nerve cells. Making these structures less permeable to the conduction of charged elements decreases the strength of the microscopic electric fields within the brain. We can interpret this physically as a self-regulating increase in the dielectric strength (or charge-resistance) of the material between opposite charges. It allows an increase in the amount of electric charge which can be stored, something called capacitance. We can say that without an increase in capacitance in direct proportion to the increase in images, one cannot handle free energy.

In physiology, Dr. Clay Armstrong, professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania has found that calcium has a blocking effect within the membranes of nerves cells. In addition, there are antagonistic molecules within the space (or synapse) between neurons. There are also inhibitory neurons in addition to the principal neurons acting on a postsynaptic nerve. While the net effect of the two may determine whether an impulse is propagated further, a reduction in the electric field must still be involved.

Let us also briefly discuss thermodynamics as it pertains to dreams. The release of energy that precedes a dream is called an increase in entropy, or disorder (symbol S). To avoid an increase in pressure, energy flows out of the stem of the brain into the interior of the brain. This presents a new challenge to us in the form of free energy that is imposed upon us, as it can result in increased heat and temperature. To lessen that impact, the mind must take preemptive action. Two psychiatrists Hobson and McCauley point out in their 1977 paper that dreams are the brain’s effort to make sense of the resulting chaos.

As the images become greater in number, they also often align themselves. For example, homes are in a line or there is a congregation of people in a church or other assembly, or there is a busload of seated people. The alignment of the figures indicates a maximum in the storage of energy and the most that the mind can accomplish in handling imposed, free energy. Once this effort results in the maximum attainable decrease in S, the mind releases this energy for one to handle internally and then consciously in order to complete the brain’s thermodynamic cycle.

In The End

At this point, the mass of images (m) increases beyond the mind’s capacity to reduce velocity so that it now forces a release of energy, an increase in entropy. How can this be? The product of mv (or momentum) and w (wavelength) must remain the same in accordance with De Broglie’s relation. As no further change in velocity can occur, a further increase in m must cause a significant decrease in w. Since frequency (f) equals v/w, the shortness in w means a greater f and therefore more energy.

So again energy is a threat to one. We can see this in a dream of a large lake (stored energy) with water flowing over the dam, or a stream rushing down a hill toward a town, or water rapidly going through a culvert, sweeping one along with it. We can see it as deep ravine before us. So how do we deal with this energy produced from within the brain? Ultimately of course we must awake and pursue some activity, but what happens in the meantime.

We dream of various activities to relieve the tension within the brain, which the further increase in the mass of images causes in accordance with De Broglie. In thermodynamic terms, it is an effort to expand mental activity to avoid an increase in internal energy. It is like filling a bunch of balloons and letting them rise in the air. Again we draw upon our experiences and urges to envision extending ourselves to expend energy.

As these dreams continue, the mass of images now ironically frustrate our internal activities. The dream activities are simply not sufficient to quell released energy. Sports offer a good example of this situation. In golf there are too many trees, hills or rocks to achieve success. In football, one’s opponent is too strong. In tennis, the court is too large or there is another problem. Other failures can also occur in dreams, such as failing a test at school, failing at a job, and even a plane preparing to make a crash landing. Put another way: These failures represent being ultimately unable to accomplish a pacification of the further release of potential energy.

Still we persist in our efforts to use energy internally without awakening, and we want to cure or repair any hindrance to, or hampering, of these efforts. For example, we may see ourselves wanting to help older people that are harmed, such as a sick parent who in real life may have died, or another older relative. It may be an old car, or a coal burning furnace, or an overgrown garden that needs repair.

Finally, the mind must have some idea that we are at the end of a dream. We may prepare to go home, which represents deep sleep. We can really only get back to deep sleep by waking up and participating in real activities. So again we have trouble: We cannot get our clothes together, or there is some obstacle such as a steep hill. A deep ravine may lay before us so that if we fail to wake up and pursue some activity we will die.

Prolonging sleep can engender a more dangerous, or severely hostile, situation. Some police or military force, or enemy, may threaten us with execution or death. In these situations, it is of course impossible to stay asleep any longer.


The several steps and means involved in handling new energy while asleep are not in themselves sufficient to avoid or prevent destructive, excessive internal energy. This process though seems necessary, and natural, before leading us to awake and pursue activities consciously. Awake, we must of course depend on a favorable environment, and be clever enough, to expend our energies in useful ways.


Thanks to Dr. John P. Ralston, professor of physics at Kansas University, for helping me during the past several years to understand and appreciate various things about physics and to put these concepts into words.

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