Lincoln Stoller, PhD, 2018. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Sleep Authority

One of the paradoxes of sleep is that the harder you try, the less you get. It would seem you are responsible, but lack the authority to procure it. The fundamental rule that authority must come with responsibility doesn’t apply to sleep.

It’s a paradox for me too. I can see a person’s problem, and what he or she needs. I could sell them an illusion that there is something they can do, but it would never work. What they need is not to do, and not to try. You cannot force your way into a sleeping state of mind.


People who have control of their lives are frustrated by their lack of sleep. They want to force things, and they like authority. I can tell right away that they won’t hear me. They are looking for an expert who is a commandant. They want to be a dictator of sleep. They have put their bulldozer in low gear … to plow through their anxiety.

Blowing Us To Kingdom Come

I am a flexible person, that is my greatest asset. I like big challenges, and I don’t expect them to yield directly. Even when I do, they don’t. I’ve learned to change my state, consciousness, and self in order to find new perspectives. The key to sleep is changing state.


But changing state is what our culture fails at utterly. It is what makes the difference between the in touch cultures of the indigenous, contemplative, artistic, and metaphysical, and the out of touch Western cultures. Our culture thinks everything should be reasonable, but it’s not.

I tell them about the skills of flexibility, change, and release. The rhythms of their consciousness. They listen with feigned interest and impatience, waiting for the magic bullet. And when I don’t sell it, they go looking for someone who will.

Things not happened, but that will …

What do you do when asked to sell something that doesn’t work? You’re damned if you don’t, and you’ll be damned if you do. I’m going to try a new approach. I’m going to show you the Ghost of Christmas Future.


Western culture is emotionally dysfunctional, isn’t that the message of the Ghost of Christmas Future? Bulldozers reject this, so to reign things in let’s just say you’re sleep deprived because you deal poorly with your emotions.

Pushy people understand pushy things, but it’s not my style. It won’t get you into heaven, or to sleep either. But let’s imagine there was a sleep bulldozer, and you bought it. Let me take you to where it will lead you.

Let me point my bony finger to someone managing a web of decisions. Each decision is attached to an outcome with people, possibilities, and meaning, and each has a number. And this person is considering these numbers, and pulling certain lines that bring some forward, letting others fall away. And you’re left with just numbers, words, and tokens of cash value, and further meanings gone.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which they lead…
But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”
– Charles Dickens

And what is your object in anything? Is it the count, the mark, or the bottom line? Is it something neat and wrapped up, judged and labeled with a star. Or is it a sense, a stream of memories, a feeling?

What are you left with when the life goes out, or the lights go out. “The Big Sleep” they call it, and why is it so different from the little sleeps on whose shores you beat yourself daily, like the rocks and the waves?

In the end you’re not solving anything. In the mean time you aren’t either, you’re just rewarded for thinking so. But sleep’s no fool. It only comes with balance, and emotion is the measure. Control is the straight jacket of emotion, and you will not sleep well in it. Emotion is the net, including what you do not see and much you cannot see, inside your body and mind.

You can control your death, but not your life. Control can keep you awake, until you lose it, but only when you lose control will you sleep. And if that does not please you, then any doctor will sell you a bigger bulldozer, and it will plow you under, but not to sleep.


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