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Why do dreams lose clarity quickly over time after we awaken?

Why do dreams lose clarity quickly over time after we awaken?

Right after you wake up from a dream, you seem to be able to remember most if not all of the details. Then, over time, these details fade and often disappear.

Is this a form of regression? Why is it harder to solidify memories of dreams?


Short answer: Because areas of the brain needed for remembering are turned off during dreaming.

Dream Amnesia:

The process of converting perception into a memory construct that can be stored is called encoding, and is essentially the same during both wakefulness and sleep: That is, the same factors can hamper or promote successful encoding when awake or dreaming. During sleep, the brain undergoes cyclical changes in which activity in some parts of the brain increases (hyperactive), while other areas decrease in activity (hypoactive). Some areas of the brain associated with memory encoding are hypoactive during dreaming, resulting in most dreams being forgotten.

Red = hyperactive; Blue = hypoactive; F = prefrontal cortex

The most prominent area implicated in memory encoding of episodic memories is the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Activity in this region is correlated with memory in studies conducted in awake subjects, and is similarly correlated with dream amnesia: During dreaming, this area is typically hypoactive (turned off), and its level of activity is predictive of dream recall. Activity in the PFC during sleep may be modulated by levels of acetylcholine, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters.

Vanishing Memory:

Nir & Tononi (2010) review the issue:

Unless the dreamer wakes up, most dreams are forever lost. Upon awakening, memory for the dream often vanishes rapidly unless written down or recorded, even for intense emotional dreams. It is not clear why this is the case since from a neuroimaging perspective, limbic circuits in the medial temporal lobe that are implicated in memory processes, are highly active during REM sleep. Perhaps the hypoactivity of prefrontal cortex, also implicated in mnemonic processes, plays an important role in dream amnesia.

Theoretically, waking up reactivates the areas of the brain that are turned off during sleep, allowing for memories to be encoded. This process is unreliable, as memory encoding in both awake and sleeping subjects is modulated by attention - also a function of the PFC - so how much and how well dream content is remembered also depends on how much attention is given to it during waking. Without attention, the memory trace fades quickly. This interpretation is consistent with the reduced dream recall in awakenings from deep (slow-wave) sleep, that are characterized by disorientation and lower PFC activity, and with higher dream recall of lucid dreaming, characterized by awareness, control, and higher PFC activity.

Note: The above is certainly an over-simplification of a complex and poorly understood system, but it does suggest that any factor affecting the processes involved in memory encoding and attention (such as certain neurotransmitters, psychoactive drugs, lesions, mood disorders, training, experience, etc) may impact dream recall. On the other hand, NMDA, a neurotransmitter involved in long-term memory consolidation (LTP) - a different activity that is increased (hyperactive) during dreaming - is less likely to be implicated in dream amnesia.


State dependent memory could play a role in quickly forgetting dreams after awakening.

See my question here: What is the scientific term for unexpected, spontaneous dream recall? I ask about a phenomenon where dream recall happens much later potentially weeks or months after awakening.

I would venture to hypothesize that Melatonin might play a role as a state dependent cue that alters the state of memory for recall. Melatonin supplementation can produce extraordinarily vivid dreams that rapidly lose their grandeur upon awakening and subsequent recall.

Personally I take a melatonin supplement at night and can drift off to sleep while recalling dozens of dreams (seems to correlate with melatonin levels rising). My understanding is that Melatonin is suppressed by blue light, so bright lights in the morning may rapidly reduce melatonin concentration and hamper recall.


My suggestion would be that, as with all forms of mental imagery, short-term working memory circuits are responsible for keeping dreamt images active, i.e. in consciousness. Distraction by competing perceptual representations would cause immediate disruption of one's dreamt images; without such distraction, imagery in short-term memory typically starts to rapidly fade after about 8 seconds, unless it's highly relevant to one's immediate situation on waking, and hence promptly acted on.


The Psychology of Dreams: Dreams Come Knocking At The Door Of Consciousness


When you pay close attention to both your conscious life and your unconscious, your unconscious doesn’t need to knock on the door seven times to get your attention. The artist Salvador Dali once commented that he used to have dreams, but stopped at some point—perhaps because he had shared the mes­sages of his unconscious through his expressive art.


How do I change the scenery?

Making the dream scene morph in front of your eyes can sometimes be difficult.

Your conscious self simply doesn't expect it to happen, because that is its experience of waking life.

This mental block is typical of a beginner because it requires more confidence and a lucid state of mind.

Not to worry! Established lucid dreamers have been working the dream world long enough to have come up with some excellent solutions.

In the case of changing the scenery:

  • Locate a "dream door": one that stands randomly in the middle of any landscape, and step through to another world.
  • Pass through a mirror portal: a liquid-like mirror that leads to another dimension, and emerge in any scene you choose.
  • Change the channel on a TV - then jump into the screen and allow the image to become 3-dimensional around you.
  • Turn away from the scene - and imagine a new location emerging behind you. When you turn back, everything will look different.
  • Spin around and imagine a new scene appearing when you stop spinning.

In fact, there are lots of creative solutions to issues of dream control.

The important thing to remember is that your conscious expectation plays a major role.

Stay confident in your ability to summon giant goldfish, teleport to the Bahamas or fly like an eagle.

You'll soon find that absolutely anything is possible inside a lucid dream.


What Is Dreaming and What Does It Tell Us about Memory? [Excerpt]

Excerpted with permission from The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest, by Penelope A. Lewis. Available from Palgrave Macmillan Trade. Copyright © 2013. (Scientific American and Palgrave Macmillan are part of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group.)

You are terrified and running along a dark, narrow corridor. Something very evil and scary is chasing you, but you&rsquore not sure why. Your fear is compounded by the fact that your feet won&rsquot do what you want&mdashit feels like they are moving through molasses. The pursuer is gaining, but when it finally catches you, the whole scene vanishes. and you wake up.

Almost by definition, a dream is something you are aware of at some level. It may be fragmentary, disconnected, and illogical, but if you aren&rsquot aware of it during sleep then it isn&rsquot a dream. Many people will protest, &ldquoI never remember my dreams!,&rdquo but that is a different matter entirely. Failing to remember a dream later on when you&rsquore awake doesn&rsquot mean you weren&rsquot aware of it when it occurred. It just means the experience was never really carved into your memory, has decayed in storage, or isn&rsquot accessible for easy call back.

We all intuitively know what a dream is, but you&rsquoll be surprised to learn there&rsquos no universally accepted definition of dreaming. One fairly safe catch-all is &ldquoall perceptions, thoughts, or emotions experienced during sleep.&rdquo Because this is very broad, there are also several different ways of rating, ranking, and scoring dreams. For example, one uses an eight-point rating system from 0 (no dream) to 7 (&ldquoan extremely long sequence of 5 or more stages&rdquo).

Physical Bases of Dreams
But let me backtrack. One aim of neuroscience is to map the brain loci of thoughts and mental experiences. Everything we see, imagine, or think about is linked to neural responses somewhere in the brain. Dreams also have a home. Neural activity in the primary sensory areas of the neocortex produces the impression of sensory perception. This means that neurons firing in the primary visual cortex create the illusion of seeing things, neurons firing in the primary auditory area create the illusion of hearing things, and so forth. If that firing occurs at random, these perceptions can feel like crazy, randomly fragmented hallucinations. It is easy to imagine that the random imagery and sensations created in this way could be woven together to create a complex, multisensory hallucination which we might call a dream.

Do Dreams Serve a Purpose?
In contrast to an activation-synthesis model, which views dreams as epiphenomena&mdasha simple by-product of neural processes in sleep&mdashother scientists have suggested that dreams serve an important function. As usual in psychology, there are lots of different ideas about what this function could be. Sigmund Freud&rsquos suggestion that dreams express forbidden desires is of course the most famous of these, but there are lots of other theories about what dreams might do, many with more empirical support than the Freudian view. For example, the threat simulation hypothesis suggests that dreams may provide a sort of virtual reality simulation in which we can rehearse threatening situations, even if we don&rsquot remember the dreams. Presumably, this rehearsal would lead to better real-life responses, so the rehearsal is adaptive. Evidence supporting this comes from the large proportion of dreams which include a threatening situation (more than 70 percent in some studies) and the fact that this percentage is much higher than the incidence of threats in the dreamer&rsquos actual daytime life. Furthermore, studies of children in two different areas of Palestine show that those who live in a more threatening environment also have a much higher incidence of threat in their dreams. Reactions to these threats are almost always relevant and sensible, so the rehearsal (if that&rsquos what it is) clearly involves plausible solutions, again suggesting that they provide a kind of valid simulation of potential real-life scenarios.

Another suggestion is that dreams influence the way you feel the next day, either in terms of mood or more basic bodily states. Forcing people to remember the nastier dreams from their REM sleep definitely puts them in a foul mood, and nightmares (defined as very negative dreams which can wake you up) may even lead to ongoing mood problems. On the other hand, there is also evidence that dreams could help to regulate long-term mood. For instance, a study of dreams in divorced women showed that those who dreamed about their ex-husbands more often were better adapted to the divorce. Amazingly enough, dreams also seem able to influence physiological state: One study showed that people who were deprived of water before they slept, but then drank in their dreams, felt less thirsty when they woke up.

The content of dreams can be influenced in lots of different ways. For instance, recent work has shown that sleepers tend to initiate pleasant dreams if nice smells are wafted at them in REM sleep, and they have negative or unhappy dreams if stinky, unpleasant smells are sent their way. Some people can achieve lucid dreaming, in which they control the sequence of events in their dream, and evidence suggests that these techniques can be learned by intensive practice and training. All of this is highly tantalizing, of course, because (though it tells us nothing at all about the original evolved purpose of dreams) it suggests we might not only be able to set ourselves up for pleasant experiences while we sleep, but we might also eventually be able to use these techniques to treat mood disorders, phobias, and other psychological problems. We already know that hypnotic suggestion can cause people to incorporate snakes, spiders, or other things about which they have phobias into their dreams, and&mdashwhen combined with more benign forms of these menacing objects&mdashsuch incorporation helps to remove the phobia. Hypnotic suggestion can also make dreams more pleasant, and mental imagery practiced during the day can be used to modify (and often nullify) persistent nightmares.

There is little evidence that people actually learn during their dreams. The fact that they can learn during sleep is a different matter, but dreams themselves don&rsquot appear to be a good forum for imprinting new information into the hippocampus (after all, we don&rsquot even remember our dreams most of the time). Studies of language learning illustrate this well. Although learning efficiency is predicted by an increase in the percentage of the night that is spent in REM, the dreams which are experienced during this extra REM don&rsquot have much to do with language. If they relate to it at all they are most often about the frustration of not being able to understand something and not about the mechanics of how to construct or decode a sentence.

Memories in Dreams
What&rsquos the most recent dream you can remember? Was anyone you know in it? Did it happen in a place you know well? Were you doing something familiar? Most dreams incorporate fragments of experiences from our waking lives. It&rsquos common to dream about disconnected snippets like a particular person, place, or activity. But do dreams ever replay complete memories&mdashfor instance, the last time you saw your mother, including the place, activities, and people? Memories like this are called episodic because they represent whole episodes instead of just fragments studies the secret world of sleep of dreaming show that these types of memories are sometimes replayed in sleep, but it is quite rare (around 2 percent of dreams contain such memories, according to one study). Most of our dreams just recombine fragments of waking life. These fragments are relatively familiar and reflect the interests and concerns of the dreamer. This means cyclists dream about cycling, teachers dream about teaching, and bankers dream about money.

Some researchers have capitalized upon dream reports to gain insight into the process by which memories are immediately incorporated (i.e., in the first night after they were initially experienced). Freud famously referred to this as &ldquoday-residues.&rdquo One study showed day residues appear in 65 to 70 percent of single dream reports. On the other hand, a more recently described phenomenon called the dream-lag effect refers to the extraordinary observation that, after its initial appearance as a day residue, the likelihood that a specific memory will be incorporated into dreams decreases steadily across the next few nights after the memory was formed, then increases again across the following few nights (Fig. 20).

Thus, it is very common for memories to be incorporated into dreams on the first night after they were initially experienced (if I have a car crash today, I&rsquom likely to dream about it tonight). The likelihood of such incorporation decreases gradually across the next few nights, with few memories incorporated into dreams three to five days after they occurred. Extraordinarily, however, the probability that a memory will be incorporated into a dream increases again on nights six and seven after it was initially experienced. What is going on here? Why are memories less likely to be incorporated into dreams three to five days after they originally occurred than six to seven days afterward? One possibility relates to the need for consolidation. Memories may be inaccessible at this stage because they are being processed in some way which takes them temporarily &ldquooffline.&rdquo Notably, this effect is only true for people who report vivid dreams, and it also appears to only be true of REM dreams. As with most research, the dream-lag effect raises more questions than it answers.

Why Do We Have Different Kinds of Dreams at Different Stages of the Night?
Dreams aren&rsquot all the same. Everyone is aware of the difference between good and bad dreams, but we don&rsquot tend to notice that some dreams are more logical and structured while others are more bizarre. Some dreams are so highly realistic that it is difficult to convince ourselves they aren&rsquot real, while others are fuzzy and indistinct. Some dreams are fragmented, jumping rapidly from one topic to another, while others move forward in a more coherent story. Recent analyses have suggested that these differences are far from random instead they may be driven by the physiology of various brain states and the extent to which structures like the hippocampus and neocortex are in communication during different sleep stages.

Dreams occur in all stages of sleep, but they seem to become increasingly fragmented as the night progresses. In general, they appear to be constructed out of a mishmash of prior experience. As mentioned above, dreams contain disconnected memory fragments: places we&rsquove been, faces we&rsquove seen, situations that are partly familiar. These fragments can either be pasted together in a semi-random mess or organized in a structured and realistic way. The dreams that occur in non-REM sleep tend to be shorter but more cohesive than REM dreams, and often they relate to things that just happened the day before. REM dreams that occur early in the night often also reflect recent waking experiences, but they are more fragmented than their non-REM counterparts. Conversely, REM dreams that occur late in the night are typically much more bizarre and disjointed.

Simply thinking about where these memory fragments are coming from and how they are connected together may provide an explanation for the difference between early and late-night dreams. The various elements of an episode are thought to be stored in the neocortex, but they are not necessarily linked together to form a complete representation. For example, if your memory of having dinner last night involves memories about a specific place, specific sounds, specific actions, and maybe even memories about other people who were there, each of these bits of information is represented by a different area of the neocortex. Even though they combine together to make up a complete memory, these various neocortical areas may not be directly interlinked. Instead, the hippocampus keeps track of such connections and forms the appropriate linkages, at least while the memory is relatively fresh. However, communication between the neocortex and hippocampus is disrupted during sleep, so this process is also disrupted. During REM sleep, both the hippocampus and those parts of the neocortex which are involved in a current dream are strongly active&mdashbut they don&rsquot appear to be in communication. Instead, responses in the neocortex occur independently, without hippocampal input, so they must relate to memory fragments rather than linked multisensory representations. Essentially, when memories which have been stored in the neocortex are accessed or activated during REM, they remain fragmentary instead of drawing in other aspects of the same memory to form a complete episodic replay. These fragments aren&rsquot linked together in the way they might be if you thought of the same place while you were awake (or indeed in non-REM sleep). For instance, cortical representations of both someone who was present for your dinner last night and of the place where it was held may be triggered, but these will not necessarily be linked together, and they may not be linked to the idea of dinner or eating at all. Instead, seemingly unrelated characters and events may be activated in conjunction with the memory of this place. One possible driver for this is the stress hormone cortisol, which increases steadily across the night. High cortisol concentrations can block communication between the hippocampus and neocortex, and since concentrations are much higher early in the morning, this could provide a physiological reason for the disjointed properties of late-night (early morning) dreams.

Irrespective of how it happens, it is clear that dreams not only replay memory fragments but also create brand-new, highly creative mixtures of memories and knowledge. This process has led to the creation of many works of literature, art, and science, such as Mary Shelley&rsquos Frankenstein, the molecular formula of benzene, and the invention of the light bulb. An especially good demonstration of this somnolent creativity comes from a study of 35 professional musicians who not only heard more music in their dreams than your normal man-on-the-street but also reported that much of this (28 percent) was music they had never heard in waking life. They had created new music in their dreams!

Although we don&rsquot quite understand how dreams achieve this type of innovative recombination of material, it seems clear that the sleeping brain is somehow freed of constraints and can thus create whole sequences of free associations. This is not only useful for creativity, it is also thought to facilitate insight and problem solving. It may even be critical for the integration of newly acquired memories with more remote ones (see chapter 8). In fact, this facilitated lateral thinking could, in itself, be the true purpose of dreams. It is certainly valuable enough to have evolved through natural selection.


A lucid dream is any dream in which you become aware that you're dreaming!

This simple realization triggers your waking consciousness during the dream, enabling you to do any number of cool things, such as:

  • Explore your dreamworld with total clarity. Everything you see, hear, touch, taste and smell will be as authentic as reality. It can be truly mind-blowing to discover this virtual world.
  • Fulfill any fantasy. Fly over mountains, have dream sex, go base jumping, shapeshifting, time traveling, dinosaur spotting, ninja fighting, meet your hero or visit alien planets.
  • Overcome personal psychological issues. In the safety of the lucid dream environment you can face your fears, phobias, anxieties, nightmares and past traumas.
  • Tap into your inner creativity. In surreal and unexpected ways, you can compose music, seek original artistic imagery and solve technical problems, just like these famous folk.

Experts agree that everyone has the potential to lucid dream.

But only a small fraction of people learn how to do it on a regular basis.

This site is for people who are serious about learning the art of lucid dreaming and exploring its real world applications.


1. Self awareness.

&ldquoConquer thyself till thou hast done this, thou art but a slave.&rdquo

Replace the word &ldquoslave&rdquo with &ldquoinmate,&rdquo and you can see my point. People want to change the world, but they can&rsquot change themselves. Until you master yourself, you won&rsquot be able to master anything.

Mental toughness is based around oneself. The first step in mastering this mental strength is mastering your own physical, emotional and spiritual states. How do you react to negative situations? How do you show up in life? How do you look to other people? Do your dreams and goals align with your everyday actions and decisions?

This first step is self reflection on an honest inventory of the person you are right now.


Doing Your Own Dream Interpretation

Both Delaney and Freeman use an interview approach with clients they say individuals can use to interpret their own dreams. Basically the interview unravels the dream metaphor to discover what the dream symbols mean to the dreamer and the dream's relevance to the dreamer's present day life.

Continued

For example, Delaney's interview with a woman who dreamt she'd had sex with her old boyfriend, George, might go like this:

Delaney: What is George like?

Dreamer: Extremely handsome and dashing, but I couldn't get close to him.

Delaney: Why did you break up?

Dreamer: He was critical and kept me at arm's length.

Delaney: Is there anyone in your life now who's sort of like George?

Dreamer: I'm dating Michael. He's handsome and dashing, but he's blond. He's not at all like George. Last night before I went to sleep I tried to talk to him about our relationship, but he put his arms straight out and said he didn't want to talk about it.

Continued

Delaney: So is there any parallel between the dream and real life?

Dreamer: Now that you mention it .

Delaney says if friends told the dreamer that Michael was just like George, her subjective bias would prevent her from seeing the parallel. But subjective bias can be overridden in the dream state. "Dreams bring objectivity to everyday experience, and this dream revealed her unconscious pattern of choosing men like George."

"Dreams are pretty transparent, but most people never try to decode them," says Freeman. "It's like learning a new language." He teaches a four-week dream interpretation class and says when students begin, they view the symbols literally. "Dreaming they fell down stairs must mean they fell down stairs," he says.

The device both Freeman and Delaney use to get dreamers past the literal symbols and discover how the symbols act as a metaphor for what's happening in their lives is to have them describe the people, setting, mood, and actions in a dream as though they're talking to someone from another planet. They say dreamers can use the interview technique on themselves, and Delaney suggests questions you could ask if, for example, you dreamed about losing a purse or wallet:

  • What is a purse or wallet? Pretend I come from another planet and have no idea what one is, why humans use them and what they carry in them.
  • Why would a human such as yourself care if your purse was lost or stolen?
  • How do you feel in the dream when your purse is lost or stolen?
  • Is there anywhere in your life where you feel the way you feel in the dream when you realize your purse has been lost or stolen?
  • How so? Be as specific as you can.
  • Having identified the relevant area of your life, is there anything you could do to change the situation?

Continued

"Insights come easily with dreams if you don't jump to interpretations, but first describe the images and then ask what does that remind me of in my life?" says Delaney. "Dream images aren't that hard to get. What's hard is to act on your insights."

In addition to providing insights, dreams may also serve as warnings, putting you in touch with something you're not consciously aware of. Freeman cites the example of a psychologist who paid attention to dreams that warned of illness, went to the doctor and learned he was in the early stages of cancer.

Many people have experienced psychic or prophetic dreams. Jungian theory would attribute psychic dreams to a collective unconscious shared by all people, and prophetic dreams to the past, present, and future as existing more or less simultaneously. Freeman collects stories of such unusual dreams and describes a famous case in Florida in which a mother had a recurring nightmare about her deceased daughter whose body had been cremated. She saw the daughter's head in a jar. "She went to the sheriff who thought she was crazy, but she persisted," says Freeman. "Eventually they found the daughter's skull on a shelf in the coroner's office."

Psychic and prophetic dreams raise many questions but few answers, which points out a problem with the study of dreams in general. Freeman and Delaney tell WebMD much remains to be learned about how dreams function, but the field suffers from a severe lack of research dollars.


Why Did Your Spiritual Awakening Happen?

So, why do spiritual awakenings happen in the first place?

Spiritual awakenings happen as a natural product of your Soul evolving, expanding, and maturing. Just as everything in life grows, so too does our connection with our Souls.

The more you connect to your Soul (whether accidentally or intentionally), the more you experience transformation. The more you come to embody your Soul, the more you taste true and lasting joy, peace, fulfillment, freedom, and love.

While the spiritual awakening process can feel painful and disturbing at first, it ultimately helps you to live a more meaningful life. The sensation that your life doesn&rsquot make sense anymore is the product of having all of your former beliefs, desires, and paradigms challenged and often disproven. This is traumatic, but a necessary part of your expansion.


Why Humans Totally Freak Out When They Get Lost

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

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One day in October 2015, a forest surveyor working in an area of dense woodland near Mount Redington in Maine came across a collapsed tent hidden in the undergrowth. He noticed a backpack, some clothes, a sleeping bag, and inside the sleeping bag what he assumed was a human skull. He took a photograph, then hurried out of the woods and called his boss. The news soon reached Kevin Adam, the search and rescue coordinator for the Maine Warden Service, who immediately guessed what the surveyor had found. He wrote later, "From what I could see of the location on the map and what I saw in the picture, I was almost certain it would be Gerry Largay."

Geraldine Largay, a 66-year-old retired nurse from Tennessee, had gone missing near Redington in July 2013 while attempting to walk the length of the Appalachian Trail, a national hiking route that stretches more than 2,100 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in central Maine. Her disappearance triggered one of the biggest search and rescue operations in the state’s history. Over two years, it failed to uncover a single clue. Until the surveyor stumbled on her camp, no one had any idea what had become of her.

Excerpt adapted from From Here to There: The Art and Science of Finding and Losing Our Way, by Michael Bond. Buy on Amazon.

Courtesy of Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

This was Gerry’s dream trip. She had set off with a friend, Jane Lee, on April 23, 2013, from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. They had planned to hike the trail "flip-flop" style, walking north to Katahdin then driving back to Harpers Ferry, before continuing south to Springer. They had help: Gerry’s husband, George, was shadowing them in his car, resupplying them at prearranged locations and occasionally taking them to a motel for a rest. They made good progress, and by the end of June were in New Hampshire. A family emergency forced Jane to return home, but Gerry carried on alone. She was slow, managing about a mile each hour (she adopted the trail name "Inchworm," in recognition of her larval pace). Her sense of direction wasn’t great, but she was well equipped. She was a meticulous planner—she always knew where to find water and shelter—and her gregariousness and warmth won her many friends among fellow hikers. One of them, Dorothy Rust, told The Boston Globe, "She was just full of confidence and joy, a real delight to talk to."

Rust and her hiking partner, who were walking south, encountered Gerry at the Poplar Ridge lean-to, a shelter just south of the stretch in Redington where Gerry went missing. They were the last people to see her alive. At around 6:30 on the morning of July 22, they watched her gather her things, eat breakfast, and strap on her rucksack. Rust took a photo of her. The Warden Service’s case report states that Gerry was wearing a "blue kerchief, red long sleeve top, tan shorts, hiking boots, blue backpack, distinctive eye-glasses, big smile." They are all there in that picture. She looks set for the trail.

Forty-five minutes after leaving Poplar Ridge, Gerry texted George to tell him she was on her way. They had arranged to meet at a road crossing 21 miles up the trail the following evening. The first anyone knew that something was wrong was when she failed to show up for that rendezvous. George waited a day, then alerted the Warden Service, which instigated its well-rehearsed lost-person procedure. Over the following weeks, hundreds of professional rescuers and trained volunteers searched the woods around Redington. They found nothing: no shred of clothing, no sign of a camp. The investigation and many of the searchers carried on for the next 26 months, until her body was found. Only then did they get some answers.

The day after the surveyor’s gruesome discovery, Kevin Adam and his fellow wardens retrieved the remains of her camp and went through her phone records and her journal, which she had wrapped in a watertight bag, to try to piece together what had happened. They learnt that she had left the trail during the morning of July 22 a few miles from the Poplar Ridge shelter to go to the bathroom and couldn’t find her way back. Most likely she went no more than 80 paces into the woods—this was her usual practice. Disorientated in the tangle of trees and brush, she started wandering. At 11:01 am she sent a text to George: "In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br. Now lost. Can u call AMC [Appalachian Mountain Club] to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. xox." Unfortunately she was in an area with no cell phone coverage, and neither this nor her subsequent texts got through. The following afternoon she tried again: "Lost since yesterday. Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. xox." That night she pitched her tent on the highest ground she could find. She heard the spotter planes and helicopters looking for her and she did her best to be seen. She tried to light a fire. She draped her reflective emergency blanket on a tree. She waited.

On August 6, Gerry used her phone for the last time, though she kept writing in her journal for four more days. By then, she knew what was coming. She left a note for her would-be rescuers: "When you find my body please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry, it will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me—no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them." She survived at least 19 days on her own in the wilderness before succumbing to the effects of exposure and starvation, longer than many experts believed possible. She did not know that a dog team had passed within 100 yards of her, that her campsite was only half a mile from the trail as the crow flies, or that if she had walked downhill she would have soon reached an old railroad track that would have taken her, in either direction, straight out of the woods.

To be lost is a dreadful thing. Most people are unsettled by the slightest threat of it. Fear of being lost appears to be hardwired in the human brain, as visceral as our response to snakes: Millions of years of evolution have taught us that the experience tends not to end well.

The fear runs deep in the culture. Children lost in the woods is as common a motif in modern fairy tales as in ancient mythology. Usually in fiction there is some kind of redemption: Romulus and Remus are saved by a she-wolf Snow White is rescued by dwarfs and even Hansel and Gretel, facing certain doom in the gingerbread house, find their way home. Reality is often more grim: During the 18th and 19th centuries, getting lost was one of the most common causes of death among the children of European settlers in the North American wilderness. "Scarcely a summer passes over the colonists in Canada without losses of children from the families of settlers occurring in the vast forests of the backwoods," the Canadian writer Susanna Moodie noted in 1852. Moodie’s sister, Catharine Parr Traill, another pioneer and writer, based her own novel Canadian Crusoes: A Tale of the Rice Lake Plains on real-life stories of children who walked into the woods and couldn’t find their way home. Canadian Crusoes is set in Ontario, a few hundred miles west of Maine, yet Traill’s depiction of the wilderness could have been written about the forest that engulfed Gerry Largay: "The utter loneliness of the path, the grotesque shadows of the trees that stretched in long array across the steep banks on either side, taking now this, now that wild and fanciful shape, awakened strange feelings of dread in the mind of these poor forlorn wanderers."

Being lost is still synonymous with tragedy in the public mind. In 2002, a survey commissioned by the UK Forestry Commission found that many people steer clear of forests because they feel vulnerable and worry that they won’t be able to find their way out again. The commission concluded that "folklore, fairy tales and horror films" have taken their toll on our sensibilities, and that "people are genuinely terrified of getting lost." They have good reason to be.

In the age of GPS, we forget how easy it can be to get disorientated, and we are often fooled into thinking we know the world around us. Common cognitive errors, such as the assumption that ridges, coastlines, and other geographical features run parallel to each other, are easily corrected by a compass or mapping app. But technology, just like our brains, can also lead us astray when we are unsure how to use it or are unaware of its fallibilities. When the aviator Francis Chichester was teaching navigation to RAF pilots during the Second World War, two of his students went missing during an exercise. Chichester searched for them for days in his light aircraft in the Welsh hills, without success. Three months later, he heard that they were prisoners of war: They had misread their compass and flown 180 degrees in the wrong direction, traveling southeast instead of northwest, and had crossed the English Channel thinking it was the Bristol Channel. "They were grateful when an airfield put up a cone of searchlights for them," Chichester recounted in his autobiography, "and it was not until they had finished their landing run on the airstrip and a German soldier poked a tommy-gun into the cockpit that they realised that they were not on an English airfield." This was the wartime equivalent of following a satnav into a river.

It is hard to predict how someone who is lost will behave, though it’s safe to assume—as search and rescue leaders always do—that they won’t do much to help themselves. Few people manage to do what is often the most sensible thing and stay put. Most feel compelled to keep moving, and so throw themselves into the unknown in the hope that an escape route will appear. Accounts by people who have been lost show that this urge to move is extremely hard to resist, even among skilled navigators. Ralph Bagnold, a pioneer of desert exploration in North Africa during the 1930s and 1940s and founder of the British Army’s Long Range Desert Group, recalled being seized by "an extraordinarily powerful impulse" to carry on driving, in any direction, after losing his way in the Western Desert in Egypt. He considered it a kind of madness. "This psychological effect … has been the cause of nearly every desert disaster of recent years," he wrote. "If one can stay still even for half an hour and have a meal or smoke a pipe, reason returns to work out the problem of location." When you’re lost, fight (or rather, freeze) is better than flight, at least until you’ve made a plan. Does knowing this help you drop anchor? Up to a point. Hugo Spiers, who studies how animals and humans navigate space, inadvertently became his own test subject during an expedition to the Amazon basin in Peru. He asked the guards at his camp if he could go for a walk in the jungle. Don’t go too far, they told him:

So I didn’t go far, but it’s the jungle, and ten metres into the jungle is enough to be completely disorientated. I was lost in this jungle for two hours. They sent a dog out to find me. I wasn’t the first person to have a dog sent out. It was terrifying. My brain just wanted me to run. Just run. Just keep moving. I was very aware that that was not the right strategy. Keeping moving in the jungle is not going to save your life. So I tried to calm down and think carefully and not react at high speed and look at my environment, and I realized I was going in circles, exactly like in the movies. I was using a machete to mark big trees, laying down a thread, to know if I’d come that way before. That was starting to work. I’d mark a tree with three slashes and if I ended up back at that tree I knew I’d gone in a circle. I was nearly back at the camp when they sent the dog out, but it was a huge relief. It just made me very aware that being really, really lost is quite terrifying. It’s not a normal thing.

Some years ago Kenneth Hill, a psychologist at St Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, who has dedicated his career to studying how lost people behave, reviewed more than 800 search and rescue reports from his home province of Nova Scotia, which is 80 percent forest and is known as the "lost person capital of North America." In Nova Scotia you can get lost by stepping away from your backyard. He found only two cases out of those 800-plus in which the lost person had stayed put: an 80-year-old woman out picking apples, and an 11-year-old boy who had taken a "Hug a Tree and Survive" course at school (as the name implies, it teaches kids to stay where they are). He says most lost people are stationary when they are found, but only because they have run themselves into the ground and are too tired or ill to continue.

The compulsion to move, no matter what, is likely an evolutionary adaptation: In prehistoric times, hanging around in a place you didn’t know would probably have ensured you were eaten by predators. More confusing is another quirk of lost behavior, the tendency to walk in circles when you can’t see any spatial cues (this doesn’t only happen in the movies). In dense woodland, on a boundless plain or in fog, it is almost impossible to walk in a straight line for more than a few meters. This perverse habit could have its uses: As you panic-charge through the forest or across the open moor, at least you can reckon on ending up somewhere in the vicinity of where you started and no worse off than you were before. It’s a small consolation.

Circling happens where there are no prominent landmarks (a cell phone mast or a tall tree, for example) or spatial boundaries (a fence or a line of hills), and where all the vistas look similar. Without a fixed reference point, we drift. A view of the sun or the moon can help keep us grounded, though the sun is a dangerous guide if you’re not aware of how it moves across the sky. In an appendix to Canadian Crusoes, Catharine Traill relates the true story of a girl who, lost in the woods of Ontario for three weeks, believed the sun would lead her out and so followed it hopefully all day as it arced from east to west and thus, inevitably, found herself at night in almost the same place she had been that morning.

The idea that in places without landmarks, disorientation causes people to walk in circles or to loop back on themselves seems improbable, but many experiments have found it to be true. One popular theory blames body asymmetry: We all have one leg longer than the other, which can cause us to veer. But this doesn’t explain why some people veer both ways depending on where they are.

In 2009, Jan Souman tracked volunteers using GPS monitors as they attempted to walk in a straight line through the Sahara Desert and Germany’s Bienwald forest. When the sun wasn’t visible, none of them managed it: Errors quickly accumulated, small deviations became large ones, and they ended up walking in circles. Souman concluded that with no external cues to help them, people will not travel more than around 100 meters from their starting position, regardless of how long they walk for. This says a lot about our spatial system and what it requires to anchor us to our surroundings. Unlike the desert ant, humans are not good at dead reckoning, which in desert, forest, and fog is all you can do. In the absence of landmarks and boundaries, our head-direction cells and grid cells, which normally do an excellent job at keeping us on track, can’t compute direction and distance, and leave us flailing in space. This knowledge won’t help you if you’re lost, but it might persuade you to pack a compass or a GPS tracker before you set out, and above all to pay careful attention—the wayfinder’s golden rule—when you go into the woods.

The route of the Appalachian Trail is marked by a system of white rectangular "blazes" painted on trees, posts, and rocks every 20 or 30 meters. It is a well-trodden path: You can meet a dozen other people every day even on the less accessible sections. Around 20 trail hikers go missing in Maine each year, but almost all of them are found within a couple of days. For someone to get irretrievably lost is extremely rare. Why did it happen to Gerry?

When she went missing, a few press reports suggested she had underestimated the difficulties of "thru-hiking" the entire length of the trail. Her friend Jane Lee told investigators that as well as having a poor sense of direction, Gerry had become slower and less confident, and was scared of being alone. Her doctor said she had a long-term anxiety issue and could be prone to panic attacks—she had been prescribed medication, but apparently wasn’t carrying it. Her husband George noticed that she had been finding the hike increasingly hard, and he had worried that she might be "in over her head."

None of this adds up as an explanation. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is hard, but Gerry seemed to be holding up well. Dorothy Rust told The Boston Globe that she "really had her wits about her." Gerry had spent years preparing for the trip and had completed several long practice hikes. Since leaving West Virginia she had walked over 900 miles, which made her more experienced than most people on the trail. If she wasn’t taking her anxiety medication, it’s likely that she wasn’t feeling anxious. She was focused on her dream, and she was on track to achieve it.

The mistake she made was an easy one to make. The forest in the Redington section of the Appalachian Trail has a dense understory. Eighty paces from the path, it looks the same in every direction. If you fail to pay attention when you walk in—the wayfinder’s fatal error—there is nothing to help you retrace your steps: no landmarks, no boundaries, no white blazes on a wayside tree. Much of the area is owned by the US Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school, which teaches pilots and special forces personnel how to survive behind enemy lines. The Navy chose it because it’s hard to escape from.

Local people say that if you leave the trail in this part of Maine, it’s easy to be lost. "I learnt that lesson," says Jim Bridge, who manages one of the state’s search and rescue dog teams. "Like Gerry, I had gone off the trail to go to the bathroom, and when I came back I walked right across it. You’re used to this beaten path, which draws a line in your mind, but in the other direction there’s no line, it’s effectively a dot. It’s easy to look back and not see it." Hikers know this too. In a forum about Gerry’s case on the discussion website Reddit, a contributor who had hiked the trail in 2000 commented:

She was in one of the more rugged sections of trail, and while what happened was tragic, nothing she did was foolish. I personally know hundreds of people that have hiked the whole trail. Not one of us are asking ourselves "How could she get lost peeing" or "Why didn’t she have a map and compass." We are mourning the loss of a fellow hiker, and know that in slightly different circumstances, this could have happened to any of us when we had to wander off the trail even a few feet.

Forests and woods are a challenge for wayfinding because they lack distinguishing features. "They make you feel small and confused and vulnerable, like a small child lost in a crowd of strange legs," writes Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods, his memoir of a hike along the Appalachian Trail. In forests there is no long view, which makes it like navigating in fog. "Anyone who spends enough time in the woods will, sooner or later, become lost," says Kenneth Hill. The vast forests of the eastern United States, thronged with tangled undergrowth and towering canopies, can feel daunting and oppressive. The Scottish settlers who emigrated there from the tree-less Highlands in the 18th and 19th centuries in hope of a better life found them discouraging to say the least. "Dreary and pestilential solitudes … one of the most dismal and impressive landscapes on which the eye of man ever rested," is how one visitor remembered them in 1831.

The current inhabitants of Maine are rather fond of their forests, but they are also in awe of their capacity to swallow people up. Almost everyone around Redington volunteers for the local search and rescue team or has done so in the past. Everyone knows the stories of those who were lost and found, as well as those who were never found. Lost is the existential enemy, the ever present threat. In these parts, it is as salient a danger as it was 200 years ago, or indeed in prehistoric times. Gerry was ready for the trail. She had done her homework. She had ticked off nearly a thousand miles and was set for a thousand more. But she wasn’t ready for the wilderness, for the solitude beyond the path. Few people ever are.

People who have been truly lost never forget the experience. Suddenly disconnected from all that surrounds them, they are plunged into a relationship with an utterly alien world. They think they are going to die. Horror-struck, their behavior becomes so confounding that finding them is as much a psychological challenge as a geographical one. One ranger with 30 years’ experience told me, "You’ll never be able to figure out why lost people make their decisions."

Lost is a cognitive state. Your internal map has become detached from the external world, and nothing in your spatial memory matches what you see. But at its core, it is an emotional state. It delivers a psychic double whammy: Not only are you stricken with fear, you also lose your ability to reason. You suffer what neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux calls a "hostile takeover of consciousness by emotion." 90 percent of people make things a lot worse for themselves when they realize they are lost—by running, for instance. Because they are afraid, they can’t solve problems or figure out what to do. They fail to notice landmarks, or fail to remember them. They lose track of how far they’ve travelled. They feel claustrophobic, as if their surroundings are closing in on them. They can’t help it it’s a quick-fire evolutionary response. Robert Koester, a search and rescue specialist with a background in neurobiology, describes it as a "full-flown fight-or-flight catecholamine 1 dump. It’s essentially a panic attack. If you are lost out in the woods there is a chance you will die. That’s pretty real. You feel like you’re separating from reality. You feel like you’re going crazy."

1 A class of compounds released during stress including adrenaline and noradrenaline.

Veteran adventurers are as susceptible to this as novices. In 1873, a contributor to the science journal Nature reported that in the forested mountains of West Virginia, "even the most experienced hunters … are liable to a kind of seizure that they may 'lose their head' all at once, and become convinced that they are going in quite the contrary direction to what they had intended." This feeling of disorientation, he continued, "is accompanied by great nervousness and a general sense of dismay and upset." The subject was of considerable academic interest at the time—the writer was responding to an article in a previous issue by Charles Darwin, in which he argued that the distress caused by disorientation "leads to the suspicion that some part of the brain is specialized for the function of direction." Just over a century later, the physiologist James Ranck discovered head-direction cells in the dorsal presubiculum of a rat, proving Darwin right.

It is common for lost people to lose their head as well as their heading direction. Stories of people walking "trance-like" past search parties, or running off and having to be chased down and tackled, are part of search and rescue lore. Ed Cornell, the psychologist who studies lost person behavior, says it is very difficult to interview someone just after they’ve been found: "They are basically scrambled" and can remember little about what happened to them.


Limiting Belief #5: “I can’t pursue my dreams because I may fail.”

Before I started pursuing my dreams, there was a brief moment when I worried about failing. What if I fail? I thought. What would happen to my life? Would I be deemed a failure, a loser, a good-for-nothing?

It didn’t take long before I realized that my fear was redundant. Firstly, by properly strategizing, planning, and taking due action, there was no reason why I would fail. Secondly, even if I were to “fail” (as defined by not generating income before my savings run out), I could always return to the corporate world, get more savings, and then return to pursue my dreams after a year or two. I could simply just do this over and over until I succeed.

This was a big aha because I was able to pursue my dreams without fear after that. Things took off after a few months and I never had to explore the option of returning to the corporate world. Even if things didn’t work out, I would have simply returned to work and quit to pursue my dreams after a couple of years.

Failure is over-glorified in today’s world. People fail all the time — there’s no need to make a big hoo-ha out of it. What’s more important is the actions you take when things don’t go your way. How can you learn from your failures? How can you turn your failures into success? These are the questions to ask yourself as you pursue your dreams.

Embrace these beliefs instead:

  • “My dreams are mine for the taking.”
  • “Whatever I can conceive, I can achieve. It’s up to me to take the steps to make things happen.”

Further reading:


The Brain During A Nightmare

Nightmares tend to occur in the last third of the night when REM sleep is the strongest. Sleep is divided into four stages: stage 1 (sleep onset), stage 2 (light sleep) and stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep) — the REM stages. REM sleep occurs every 90 minutes during the night, and is associated with high brain activity, rapid eye movements and inhibited voluntary motor activity. Typically, dreaming occurs in all stages, with 80 percent of people awakened during REM sleep and sleep onset (stages 1 and 2), while 40 percent of persons are awakened from a deep sleep, according to an article in the American Family Physician.

The amygdala, which is regulated by the front lobes of the brain, seems to be the culprit when it comes to nightmares. Neuroimaging studies of the brain while dreaming show the amygdala is highly activated during REM. In Patrick McNamara’s book, Nightmares: the Science and Solution of Those Frightening Visions During Sleep, he emphasizes the amygdala’s role in handling negative mentions such as fear and aggression. This may explain why the over-activation of the amygdala during REM can produce fear-responses in the dreamer.

“[O]nce we enter REM sleep, which is when dreaming takes place, the brain is working differently (certain parts of the brain become dormant while others become highly active), so instead of thinking in literal terms and words you are thinking in pictures, symbols and emotions. metaphors!” Loewenberg said.


Why Do Guys Like BJ Reason #6: It gives a man a sense of connection

We women feel at home and thrive much more on Oxytocin and connection with people or animals, or children.

We simply don’t nee d to rely on sex to feel regularly connected to other human beings. (Not that men cannot connect with others through talking too).

The difference is that men can, and often do feel this incredible feeling of connection through blow job and sex (when they are in a relationship).

This is one of the primary ways in which men can feel connected to, and loved by their woman.

If a couple spends a very long time not having sex when there is every opportunity for them to have sex, there’s a chance that he might wonder if his woman really loves him.

Some women are uncomfortable with the idea of giving their man a blow-job, because they dislike being vulnerable (not that they consciously use these words).

They hate being asked for it, and they unfortunately start to make their man feel bad about his need for sex. And because the man loves the woman, he slowly rejects the intensely sexual part of himself in order to feel more loved and accepted by her, and in order not to ‘hurt’ her.

The reality is that men and women are both very much driven by sex. Sex and procreation is behind much of our actions and decisions.

This doesn’t have to mean that men always just want to have sex, no, no!

Sexual energy can be used in many other ways to benefit an intimate relationship.

His perceived Love Through a Blowjob

Women often perceive love in different things than what men do (obviously).

A woman may perceive love in a man taking the time to listen to her, buy her gifts, take her out, commit to her, protect her and talk to her.

There are other ways a man can show his love to a woman. He can hug her, caress her, call her, write her letters, make the first move, be the rock and the leader in the relationship, complimenting her, etc.

Whilst many of these things are important to men too, men also perceive great love in being given oral sex and having sex in general. T

They don’t rely on talking to bond like women do, and men perceive that a woman loves him if she is sexually and energetically open to him, or if she does have sex with him.

MUST You engage in physical intercourse to meet a man’s need for connection?

You do not have to give a blow job or have sex with a man in order for a man to feel all of these things that I have just described. Not at all!

A blow job is just an act. It’s a potential vehicle through which you get to give a wonderful gift to a man of all these things I’ve described above.

However, when you cannot have sex, or when your body truly does not want to open to sex (because you need to trust a man more first, or because you need to bond with a man more first – which are all very important things)! Then you should absolutely not give a blow job or have sex out of fear of losing him.

You can still give a blow job if you want to give a man a gift without having to have sex. But you should never do it out of fear or to try to keep a man around!

It’s not the blow job or the sex with you that he wants the most, deep down. There is something else that you can give that is much more valuable…here it is…

Men want you to be open to them more than they want sex

Here’s one deeper truth that many women and men may not consciously acknowledge. What a man really wants deep down inside, is not just the act of sex.

What he truly craves is for a woman to be open to him.

A lot of us, men and women, assume that for men, sex and blow jobs are the most important thing. We mistakenly assume that without sex, men will be unhappy.

Women especially fear that if they do not ‘put out’ – they are not a good girlfriend, and they are not worthy, or that a man will leave her.

The reality is, is that what men truly want deep down, is not sex, it is a woman’s feminine energy that he wants.

What does that mean? Well, at the core of it, it is a symbol of value from the woman. It is the hope of future access to a woman and it is a sense that she is open to him and him only.

If you want to learn more about what it means to show openness, check this article: What men Really Want When They Push You For Sex.

Saying ‘I Love You’ is not as powerful as doing ‘I Love You’

There are many ways to express love.

In this respect, men speak a different language of love, and it is no use telling a man you love him and admire him if you will not open up and give him your feminine energy.

And, saying ‘I love You’ is nice, but it’s not as valuable as you feeling open to him sexually.

I did say ‘feeling’ open to him sexually. What matters is that you are not giving him the impression that you are closing off to him, because this scares him – a lot.

Why? Because men are afraid of their woman’s sexual infidelity more than anything else. They had to be afraid of it, because if a woman makes a man a cuckold (gets pregnant by another man whilst in a relationship with him), then that means a man spent valuable physical and emotional resources on her for nothing.

It is, evolutionary speaking – the absolute worst thing that can happen to a man. For 9 whole months he will spend valuable resources on a woman, taking care of her – whilst she carries another man’s child.


9. Tracking and accountability.

“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” —Thomas S. Monson

Clarity is what creates motivation.

Tracking is what creates awareness.

Reporting is what creates accountability.

Having these three will help you progress quickly.

If you’re not tracking your daily behaviors, you are undoubtedly doing worse than you think you are. For example, most people have no clue where their money goes because they don’t track their expenses.

According to research, self-regulation is the psychological process that detects inconsistency between your goals and your behaviors. It is the ignition of your motivational forces helping you get from where you are to where you want to be.

Specifically, self-regulation works in three ways:

  • Self-monitoring determines how well you are currently performing.
  • Self-evaluation determines how well you are performing comparative to your goals.
  • Self-reaction determines how you think and feel comparative to your goals. When you feel dissatisfied with your performance, self-reaction pushes you to reallocate your motivation resources.

Beyond tracking, research has found that accountability improves performance. When you report your performance to someone, particularly someone you respect, it adds external and relational motivation to succeed.

During your accountability sessions, you can get coaching and feedback on where you can improve.

Striving to accomplish big goals is not easy. Most people will give up on their dreams in order to have a clear path to lesser goals.

If you want to move quickly toward your big goals, you’ll need to become proficient at acquiring clarity for the next few steps of your journey. The best way to do this is through context-based and immersion-style learning.

The deeper and wider your clarity, the bigger your goals can be. In order to ensure you achieve those goals, you’ll need to track your behaviors daily and have an intense accountability system in place.

It’s all in the setup. When you set up the conditions effectively, you make the achievement of your goals inevitable.