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Unimagined Sensitivities, Part 11

“Prodromal” dreams express what’s happening in the body.

In my book with Dr. Marc Miocozzi, The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion, I discuss the way a life-threatening emergency marshals the complete attention of body and mind – and how the energy involved may, in some cases, upend the normal convergence of space/time so that anomalous perceptions result. The dynamics frequently, though not inevitably, involve people (or animals) that have emotional ties to one another. When such bonds do not exist, the person (or animal) involved is likely to be highly sensitive, physically and/or emotionally.

This theory is elaborated upon in a soon-to-be-published book by Brandon Massullo, a therapist practicing in suburban Cleveland. According to Massullo, it’s plausible that “traumatic events trigger conscious and unconscious processes [that] seek to alleviate our distress or communicate it to others.” (Massullo, p. 67) A person who is dying or facing the threat of death may – especially if the circumstance is sudden or unexpected – experience “a myriad of…volatile emotions” ranging from fear to sadness to regret to anger. These feelings may emanate, like a distress signal, to certain others. (Massullo, p. 119)

The capacity, I suggest, is akin to a phenomenon known as prodromal dreaming, a term used by the late dream researcher Robert Van de Castle. He observed that "dreams can be sensitive indicators of biochemical or physiological changes." (Van de Castle, p. xix) Such dreams have been noted by observers going back to antiquity. The renowned second-century Greek physician Galen mentioned the case of a man who dreamed his leg had turned to stone and whose leg developed paralysis a few days later. (Van de Castle, p. 364) Van de Castle proceeds to offer several more modern examples (pp. 368-9):

  • A man who dreamed of eating pizza and then his stomach breaking open the night before he actually experienced a perforated ulcer.
  • A woman who dreamed of "wiggly, incandescent worms of all colors" crawling over her eyelids, who developed an inflamed retina two days later.
  • A girl who dreamed of being shot in the left side of the head, who woke up with a severe migraine headache on that side.

It would seem that dreams can, at least in some people, function as a virtual x-ray. Given how entwined and continuous is the communication between our brain and body, it's not surprising that physiological information should come into awareness during sleep. This is, after all, when the brain is most likely to retrieve and assess subliminal information.


Jawer, Michael, with Marc S. Micozzi. The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion. Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press, 2009.

Massullo, Brandon. Haunted Theories: New Perspectives on the Science of Ghostly Encounters. Unpublished manuscript. Shared with author April 2016.

Van de Castle, Robert L. Our Dreaming Mind. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.