hypnagogic hallucinations – another tool in the writer’s toolbox?
I came upon the term ‘hypnagogic hallucinations’ while attempting to write a story about AI. I wanted find the biological equivalent of the ‘hidden layer’ of AI, the layer in between input layers and output layers, where artificial neurons take in a set of weighted inputs and produce an output through an activation function. I thought if I could equate it to the layer between wakefulness and sleep I might be on to something.
I have yet to finish that particular story, but what I was left with was a strong desire to see if I could use this hypnagogia period, where it’s common to experience involuntary and imagined experiences (i.e. hypnagogic hallucinations), as a tool to explore my subconscious a bit and write down any ideas that came as a result.
So I did.
I mention it here as a recently posted the results of said ‘hallucinations’ and then gave a brief explanation of these events to my friend/editor, her being a writer and creative type herself, and then thought there might be someone else in the writing community who might find it interesting.
Although far from scientific, what I did was wake up a little earlier than usual for three straight days and then fell back asleep for awhile. Although never a deep sleep. And in the interest of full disclosure, I was lulled back to slumber by putting on a Fall Asleep to Karl Pilkington video on Youtube and having it play softly in the background.
It was actually easier than I thought to achieve this state and each day I came out with a chunk of what would become the eight-part Nap Lapkin and the Mammoth Undertaking. Little bits of dialogue and snippets of images hastily written down when I realized I was once again awake and then dropped into the story like pieces of a puzzle. However Sesame Street and woolly mammoths managed to initially manifest themselves, both probably starting with some Snuffleupagus memory (how deep was that buried?), I have no idea, but once they were established on the first morning the next two sessions could jump right in with the heroes and villains that populate every writer’s unconscious mind.
In retrospect I was a bit disappointed about how linear the story ended up being and how the dialogue focused mainly on reinforcing archetypes. On the other hand, there were a few laughs to be had and a few unexpected poignant moments, some of which were quite personal and not the kind of stuff I typically feel comfortable including in stories.
As an experiment I’d have to say it was a success and now I wonder what impact changing what is playing in the background as I enter the hypnagogia period might have on the experiences I am have. Obviously there are a number of other variables that can be changed in this endeavor as well and I look forward to continuing the exploration of my ‘hidden layers.’ While I’m sure there are similarities between these episodes and psychedelic drugs, at first blush I would think that psychoactive substances cause changes in a person’s sensory perception and emotions while hypnagogic hallucinations seem more rooted in a person’s psyche. Also having dabbled in mindfulness, I would also speculate that these hallucinations seem to come from more random and less important places than those meditation seemed to evoke.
Despite all the big words, please remember that I am a moron so take it all with a grain of salt.
If you’ve had any involvement with this or try it and want to share your experience I hope you’ll send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org
(fyi… tomorrow’s story is also a result of this new morning ritual)
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