The Brain is a Fascinating Palace

It is truly fascinating how the mind works.

Often when we think we have an innovative idea it’s actually a compilation of bits of information that our brain has unconsciously assembled.

Case in point, I recently decided to re-watch BBC’s Sherlock. In watching the show a couple years ago I had (consciously) gotten the idea of  “mind palace,”  which inspired the name of this blog, Quixie’s Mind Palace

I also decided recently to change the theme of my blog and knew that I must have an image of a winding staircase so I purchased an image for the front page of my blog showing a winding staircase. This is the image I settled on:

palace staircase

Though, I oscillated between that and a top-view that looked nearly identical to this image:

HisLastVowSherlockHolmes

Where did I get this idea of a winding staircase in my mind palace? Sherlock, that’s where! This image comes from episode “His Last Vow”, where Sherlock is frantically searching his mind palace in an effort to save his life.

Damn it! This image came from memory of a Sherlock episode not from my creative process!

Why I settled on “Quixie’s Mind Palace”

Sherlock uses his Mind Palace to help him recall memories and that’s essentially what I’ve hoped to do here on this blog – store my thoughts and be able to access them later.  In real life I’m not so great at accessing facts (though, truth be told, no one really is) however I am fantastic at accessing memories of mood, environment, tones, colors, and feelings.

I’ve always seen my psyche as a house, even as a little girl.  I’m not alone: Swiss psychologist Carl Jung spent 30 years building his home on Lake Zurich and described the different parts of his castle presenting different parts of his psyche.

Often times I’ve had dreams in which I explored homes, typically mansions.

“Think of the house as yourself. The meaning of a dream about a house depends on the message the self is trying to relay.”

–  Vocata George, Ph.D., a Jungian Analyst at the C.G. Jung Education Center of Cleveland

My favorites dreams were ones in which I kept discovering rooms and secret passageways. 

“Since the house is a symbol of yourself it could show you that you could be bigger. If you find more and more rooms in a big house, you may need to be more conscious of pieces of yourself not yet discovered.” –  also Vocata George, Ph.D

The part of my dreams that have fascinated me the most are the attics. The closer I get to an attic the more hellish it becomes. I’m talking about severe nightmares here when I reach the attic! Waking up to cold sweats, even screaming. There was always something up there calling to me and threatening to me.

The draw to the attic would overtake me and I would follow the path towards the attic, which would often get interrupted along the way with more rooms to discover. But rarely I would find and open up the attic door, climb the steps and go inside. In my dreams the attic was always a hoarders dream: boxes and broken furniture piled ceiling high. I couldn’t see the wicked thing that was waiting for me but I knew it was there. My thoughts and mind (FEARS!) were exposed and I was at it’s mercy – it threatened to ruin my life where ever I went.  Before I could see anything I’d wake up in terror.

“A man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose”

 -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes novella, A Study in Scarlet (1887)

The meaning of my nightmares of this evil force in the attic? I’m still not quite sure but the nightmares stopped when I stopped believing in the supernatural. Or maybe it’s cessation has to do with simultaneously getting the treatment I need for my mood disorder. There is no one waiting to harm me, though I could understand why it would have felt that way to me, as it’s the human tendency to personify things we don’t understand, like the manic-depressive monster that has haunted me since I was a young teen.

One of the things that is fascinating about the human brain is that we store all this information inside our heads and we are constantly simultaneously cataloging and connecting dots and creating meaning. People say that dreams don’t mean anything.  I disagree. Without the conscious filter of re-directly our thoughts during sleep our brain is sorting through massive amounts of data and deciding what to do with it.

This blog is my virtual house, my Mind Palace.

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17 thoughts on “The Brain is a Fascinating Palace

    1. Bahaha! Love shack. Oh goodness, that song is obnoxious.

      I am quite sure that you have a mind palace, SB, from the years of reading your blogs. You probably just don’t think of it in those terms.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I used to love the B-52’s but after so much airtime in the late 80s/early 90s I tired of them. Great, now I’m going to have “Roam” in my head all day. “Roam if you want to, roam around the word…” The song is catchy and the lyrics are great. Noooo…

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Do you know where the staircase in your photo is? It looks like a very interesting building.

    I often find myself in houses when I’m dreaming. Often I know it’s my house, and I know where all the rooms are supposed to be, even though I’m not dreaming of any real house I have actually been to. The dream becomes distressing when I can’t find a particular room, and things don’t connect up they way they are supposed to. I have other similar distressing dreams where a road or path that I am familiar with now leads somewhere totally different from where it used to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So, I was wondering the same thing myself (where the building is located) and discovered using Google Images search that it’s from the Erawan Museum in Samut Prakan Province, Thailand:

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erawan_Museum

      I get similarly distressed about not being able to find a particular room in my dream. That’s interesting about how your path leads away from a place you were intending to go. That’s a great metaphor for life, don’t you think? We expect that if we take a certain path it’ll lead us to where we want us to go and it usually doesn’t because “life” gets in the way.

      I have nightmares sometimes of getting stuck in a labyrinth. Do you ever have dreams where you are trying to call someone, and it’s extremely urgent that you do, and can’t seem to dial the right numbers?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t have phone nightmares, maybe because I try to avoid using the phone in general. For work I function mostly by email. My labyrinths are almost always about not being able to find a toilet, and the deeper message there is just that I need to wake up and pee.

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  2. The brain really IS fascinating! I recently heard that some scientists are now considering the primary purpose of sleep to be for the laying down of memories. It would certainly explain dreams.

    I can relate to the dreams that involve searching through rooms Quixie. I seem to have a lot less of them now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laying down of memories? Fascinating! Do you know if there any studies of what happens if people have insomnia – do they have trouble forming new memories?

      I wonder if you have less searching-through-rooms dreams because you are more confident about who you are and have more life stability? Not saying that’s what it is, but I’m trying to find a metaphor for every type of dream. Lol.

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      1. I’m not sure Quixie re further research in the effects of insomnia on memories, but would hazard a guess that they are affected.

        And yes. I suspect having more security in my personal life has lead to me to dreaming less about exploring rooms.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. However..last night my dreams were full of drama..trying to fend off attacks from bombs etc. I’m sure the stress surrounding the wedding of one of my sons tomorrow..infiltrated my sub conscious!

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  3. Oh god I love that song lol. Even I’ve trouble recalling facts, though sometimes I’ll remember a very distant memory too vividly…even my dreams fade away within minutes of waking up and I’m too lazy to write them down or something!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Last Minute Stuff! I am SO sorry I missed your comment. Forgive me!

      Typically it takes just the right amount of emotional punch OR waking up at just the right moment of the sleep cycle to recall dreams. Though, like in your case, most dreams do fade away so fast.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol that’s okay. I’ve recently discovered certain genuine comments on my posts going straight to the spam folder!! It was a sweet surprise, anyways…

        Yeah, maybe it’s about the sleep cycle…like sometimes I get lucid dreams when I wake up too early

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About Quixie

Hi! I go by "Quixie" My nickname comes from the term I began using to describe myself when I began blogging nearly 4 years ago: "quixotic," meaning "exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical." It's how I described my evangelical Christian faith at the time. Now I'm an agnostic atheist who is trying to find a balance between idealism and reality.