The Natural “Defrag” In Your Brain

Dr. William K. Larkin

Dreams BadYou have dreams and nightmares?Be very glad you do.

Everyone has nightmares and haunting dreams.

Every dream you have doesn’t have a meaning, isn’t a sign, and doesn’t need to be analyzed.

You could live your life perfectly if you never analyzed a single dream and just let them be.

The synapses in your brain that exist between the neurons in your brain are busy– busy building connections. The older you are the more connections are getting built.

It is part of the structure of wisdom Bigger Picand getting the larger picture of things that is a wonderful part of growing older–being able to think and reason more broadly, if you allow it to happen, rather than becoming more narrow, more ornery, and crotchety.These synapses can create more connections that are healthy or necessary, especially in healthier brains. In order to maintain order in the brain, some of these synaptic connections are erased. You might say they are “defragged.”

The brain uses cortisol to erase or destroy some of these connections to maintain order in the brain. It is a necessary defragmentation of your brain so it doesn’t go in too many directions all at once.

This cortisol is a stress hormone that is generated by negative dreams and nightmares. They are cleaning your brain by eliciting the cortisol created by stress and fear in your dream state.  It’s the cortisol that defragments too many connections and puts things in order.

UnconsciousnessWe remember very, very few of our dreams because we are not supposed to. The barrier of unconsciousness is there to protect us from that remembering.

I know there is a great body of information about dream analysis and dream therapy, and perhaps some of it is useful. But all of these deep, dark truer than life messages that you think you are getting only when you sleep are actually common sense things that are already present in your every day life.

The magic of “lifting” and interpreting them from dreams just focuses more attention on what they easily adapt themselves to in everyday life.Brain Rose

If you have nightmares, especially as you are getting older, you are busy making more and more synaptic connections, and your scary dreams elicit the cortisol that defrags your brain and gets it running more orderly and smoothly.

 

 

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • MissTowner

    I’ve always been a vivid dreamer and remember almost every dream. I am one of those people who enjoy looking up their dreams. A strength of mine is connection, and so naturally I look for connections everywhere and in everything. It is good to know that when I have nightmares, it’s actually a good thing, that my brain is just cleaning itself out. I’m grateful my body knows how to take care of itself 🙂 spiral up!!

  • alberts3

    I really like the term “defragging,” in reference to organizing and decreasing the clutter in our minds. From what I’ve read in the past, the unconscious mind, or the “underconscious” mind as I’ve heard Dr. Larkin call it, takes in thousands of bits of information minute by minute. So much of it must turn up in our dreams, so you’d have to have some kind of mechanism in place to deal with it all.

    In our dream state, we’re not aware of the cortisol helping to defrag our minds. It just kicks in so that we can maintain order in the brain and things will continue to make sense for us. I think it’s a useful term that goes beyond just the dream state and describes what we’re learning to do in our moment-to-moment living. In our SOMM, we work to keep from playing to our weaknesses, to get into, and remain in the UpSpiral. We are consistently defragging those thoughts that don’t serve us, and replacing some in order to have greater alignment and consistency with our strengths. We are utilizing the Emotional Gym, our meditations, our prayers, our journaling, and other tools to grow a positive mind.

    How long do we go through life, not knowing what we want, or even having the awareness that we can choose the direction of our lives? By constantly culling (or defragging) our thoughts and feelings, using our tools, and working within our strengths, we will ultimately be able to identify our desires and our wants. Once we begin to connect our thoughts and emotions to our wants and desires, we can see that the outcome is our own creation.

    • kkhm

      “In our SOMM, we work to keep from playing to our weaknesses, to get into, and remain in the UpSpiral. We are consistently defragging those thoughts that don’t serve us, and replacing some in order to have greater alignment and consistency with our strengths.”

      You just stated that so well. The work we are doing with SOMM and emotional gym is absolutely defragging. There is both conscious defragging and unconscious defragging. Once again, you can say the same thing I’m thinking but with different words, and it has so much more clarity for me!

      • alberts3

        Thank you, Karissa. I was so blown away by your questions! Your thinking out loud is fascinating to me. I think Dr. Johnson has his work cut out for him in our next class!

        • A Pyatt

          he certainly does! I too was thinking, wow I just never would have thought of that!

      • Dr. Donald B Johnson

        Karissa, Judy, Andrea, The reality of “synaptic pruning” which is a process begun in infancy, is another way in which the brain “cleans up” neuronal connections and significantly shapes its neuropathic structure. One aspect of the process of pruning is the withering of less strong less utilized, interneuronal connections. How do you relate this process to SOMM? The Emotional Gym? Use of your strengths? Go ahead and see if you can connect these dots.

  • kkhm

    Nightmares occur for us in order to produce cortisol in order to clean out the unnecessary things in our brain and to defragment it. Am I understanding this correctly?

    Is this defragging similar to the way a disk defrags – grouping like items together in order to make more space? It makes perfect sense that our brain would organize information and group connections together (like our strengths bundles) and also would erase or downplay those connections that are not needed because they are extraneous or so dissimilar to our other connections. I would like to understand more about the erasing. How does the brain know what to erase? How does the brain choose? Is the brain like a computer disk with the ability to analyze each individual bit of data to organize them in a highly sophisticated manner and make amazingly accurate decisions about what connections are priorities and what are not? It is fascinating to contemplate! (And seems common sense as I think about it). I wonder though, does it actually erase the information or does it just “move” it to a small corner, out of the way – just like disk defragmentation?

    I also wonder about the role of cortisol in this process. This information about nightmares is so completely different from anything I have ever learned about dreams.

    Are there other ways that our brain does this in addition to the use of stress and cortisol release? I would think the answer is yes as the brain is always growing and grouping connections. I know there is more understanding for me to gain about this cortisol induced defragging. I’d really like to dig deeper into this. Is it similar to the process that occurs in the fight or flight response which engages only certain parts of us that are the most necessary for the immediate action? Is the cortisol working in our brain in that similar way? Does the cortisol released by the stress of the nightmare seek only those connections in our brain that are most necessary, most developed in order to identify those that are not?

    This week’s blog post really gets me thinking. It gives me new imagery of the workings of the brain. It spurs questions. I’m so awestruck by the working of our brains. They are such amazing instruments! It is incredibly fascinating that this wrinkly, pinkish greyish bulbous shaped item is capable of such intense, sophisticated, flurries of activity even when we are not using our conscious mind. (Of course, this begs new questions for me about consciousness, but that’s for another blog post.)

    A quick Google search for more information digs up negative information about nightmares such as the possibility for them to be an early indicator of mental degeneration, but if what this blog post posits is true, then there is great value in changing the way we think about nightmares, moving from a negative focus to a positive one — embracing these nightmares and being thankful for them as a helpful tool our brain uses to keep itself fresh and up to date. This information also gives us reason to let nightmares go upon waking rather than dwelling on them, looking for meaning, and feeling “traumatized” by the memory of them in our waking life. The only interpreting necessary is that of understanding nightmares to be a result of a healthy, growing, active mind.

  • A Pyatt

    I love that my cortisol is working to clean out what is seen as a nightmare, or negative. it’s my own little flow while I sleep. I’ve always seen cortisol as this nasty little bugger that keeps me awake at night, and really sleepy during the day, so this is interesting to know my cortisol is responsible for a lot more than what I had realized. I tested my cortisol levels, about two or three years ago, and they were completely opposite of what they were ‘supposed’ to be. In any case, I too am fascinated by how is the erasing is ‘decided upon’. What is kept what is not…I am assuming our cortisol defrags what is seen as the stressor? And we are left with what isn’t ‘bad or negative’ for the euphoria of ‘feeling rested’ when we wake? This begs the question, shouldn’t we be paying a little more attention to Cortisol if it does ‘do’ so much? The futuristic side of me is interested in this, as I see so much that could be solved, or understood, about behaviors via understanding how our Cortisol has a bigger job than any of us truly are aware of. Or maybe, I am behind the curve already????

  • Kathleen Burkhalter

    I’m glad to know about this defragging aspect. I have also experienced nightmares when my blood sugar was going too low and my brain was trying to wake me up. The dreams got worse and worse until I just woke up! I don’t pay much attention to dreams unless they are, very rarely, very specific. I have always assumed they were part of the brain’s process or a way to work out buried fears. It’s all OK.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    Thank goodness for defragging and cortisol. I’m glad there is a natural way to clean out the excess in my brain. I think a lot. I don’t remember my dreams very much and I’m sure that the file cabinet needs cleaning out. The best way I know to help myself is to continue to practice positive thoughts, feelings and beliefs and manage my up spiral.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    Thank goodness for defragging and cortisol. I’m glad there is a natural way to clean out the excess in my brain. I think a lot. I don’t remember my dreams very much and I’m sure that the file cabinet needs cleaning out. The best way I know to help myself is to continue to practice positive thoughts, feelings and beliefs and manage my up spiral.

  • Mary Garvey Horst

    In my former training, I did place emphasis on dream analysis. With the introduction into the “defragging” of the brain at night, I have experienced a release from the type of conditioning that looks back over dreams for content and meaning. Now, I wake up to face the new day without trying to remember the dream “story” and fragments. I prefer to “Be Here Now” in the present moment as I awaken to the excitement of what this new day has to offer. If I have had a dream come to the surface during the night, I say to myself: “My brain is releasing extraneous material”. Next, I ask with curiosity: “What space has been cleared out for the adventure that is being presented to me today?”

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