- Mental Health
An Introduction to Lucid Dreaming
What is Lucid Dreaming?
Lucid dreaming is being aware you are dreaming while you are still dreaming. It may be a hard concept to understand until you have a lucid dream yourself. When I had my first lucid dream, I felt like I heard a “pop” and I was thrown into my dream awake. It felt similar to suddenly finding yourself in a movie you have been watching and possibly being able to interact with the scene.
Some may say that lucid dream is the same as being in control of one’s dream. That is not completely true. It is possible that you realize you are dreaming and are aware what you are seeing is a dream yet are unable to influence the dream. The amount of control you have over a dream varies. There is a full spectrum of possibilities ranging from having no control and being at the mercy of your dream to controlling all of the objects and content within your dreams. Normally when someone first has a lucid dream they do have some laborious influence over their dream. They may turn their attention somewhere or try to touch the objects within the dream.
A person can have a lucid dream spontaneously. Others may try to have a lucid dream on purpose. Lucid dreams can be very instrumental in a number of ways. Your dreamtime is like a blank canvas available for your creativity and limited only by the constraints you put on yourself. If you believe you cannot have a lucid dream- you will not have one. If you believe you cannot influence a dream when you are having it- you will not be able to.
Purposes and Uses of Lucid Dreaming
One of the greatest lures to lucid dreaming is that they can be used as a way to fulfill fantasies/desires or partake in adventures. The sky is the limit when it comes to what you could do in a dream. When you realize you are in the driver’s seat of your dream and control where you are going, you can choose to do whatever you would like. Lucid dreaming can truly be instrumental and powerful.
Lucid dreaming can be used for self-help therapy. If you are troubled by a reoccurring nightmare, lucid dreaming would help. If you are more conscious of your dream, you could accept that your fear is within yourself and confront what has been troubling you. Within a nightmare, doing what is counter-intuitive to your feeling of fear will help you resolve the nightmare. Instead of running away from a monstrous pursuer- face him. My experience with nightmares has been as soon as I face something terrifying, it instantly turns into sand and vanishes. The content of the dream changes abruptly. The transition happens so fast it can be hard to realize what even happened. When confronted, fears and the terrifying elements we imagine melt away almost instantly.
Dreams have been known to be instrumental in problem solving. An example of this is the organist chemist of the 1800’s, August Kehule. He discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a day-dream of a snake biting its own tail. In the 1800’s, scientists believed that the structure of atoms was 'unknowable' and that anything that reacted with atoms created a structure that was in constant flux. Kekule doubted this hypothesis and spent years studying chemical structure. The exact nature of the structure eluded him until one evening when he had a dream. Kekule claims that he stopped writing and dozed off to sleep. He saw atoms whirling and dancing before his eyes. The atoms then began to reassemble themselves into long rows that seemed to move about in a snake-like motion. As he watched the snake dance, the vision progressed until the snake formed the image of a snake devouring its own tail. After this dream, he realized the atoms were configured within a ring shape. Dreams allow us to think creatively without limit. When dreaming lucidly, we can purposely solve problems in creative ways.
There are an infinite number of ways to use lucid dreams. Examples of other uses not already discussed include rehearsing, healing, and transcendence. A dreamer could choose to rehearse giving a speech, confront someone, practice a routine, play a sport, perform in a play, or any other activity that may benefit from practice. Some people have used lucid dreams in overcoming phobias, working with grief, decreasing social and sexual anxieties, achieving greater self-confidence, increasing his/her sense of freedom if limited by disability or circumstance, and facilitating physical healing. Lucid dreams can be the forum for any type of therapy involving visualization. The experience of being in a lucid dream clearly demonstrates the astonishing fact that the world we see is a construct of our minds. This concept, so elusive when sought in waking life, is the cornerstone of spiritual teachings. It forces us to look beyond everyday experience and ask, "If this is not real, what is?" Lucid dreaming often triggers spiritual questioning in people who try it for far more mundane purposes. Not only does lucid dreaming lead to questioning the nature of reality, but for many it also has been a source of transcendent experience. Exalted and ecstatic states are common in lucid dreams. There are many cases of individuals achieving states of union with the Highest, great peace and a new sense of their purpose in life.
The Science of Lucid Dreaming
How to Have a Lucid Dream
Much is written about how to have lucid dreams. Learning how can take the magic out of what some believe lucid dreaming is. Lucid dreaming can be compared to meditation—many people want to do it, it sounds mysterious and exciting, yet not all want to put in the time to achieve it. The key to lucid dreaming is patience, practice, motivation and consistent effort. Many resources may provide you with elaborate instruction. I will outline the basics that will work for you without fancy gadgets or exercises. Sometimes the simplest techniques are truly the best.
- Dream Recall: The foundation for any dream work is working on your dream recall. Begin to write down your dreams each time you wake up. This is where the consistent effort comes in. Each and every time you wake up; write down your dreams, impressions, feelings and thoughts immediately. There will be times when you feel you cannot recall a dream but if you stay positive and do not give up, you will notice you will be able to write down a feeling, a color, an impression, a picture, etc. even if it is just a word or two. If you do this every day for a month, you will notice your dream recall will improve drastically. Do not give up, you do recall at least small parts of the dream you just had. Sometimes laying down, relaxing and moving your eyes from side to side rapidly may help trigger your memory. Once you begin to recall vivid dreams, you are closer to lucid dreaming. If you are not recalling your dreams as much as you would like, try to take naps or set your alarm at different intervals (every 20, 30, 60 minutes, etc) or use a snooze button. Keep in mind there are many factors that influence your dreams. The time you wake up, your caffeine and alcohol intake, your activity level during the day, your overall diet, and the environment in which you sleep all influence your dreams. If you are not recalling your dreams, play with these factors until you understand what works best for you. Remember to stay motivated and diligently write down your dreams or impressions when you awake.
- Recognize When You are Dreaming: The next step is recognizing you are dreaming. Most likely you already do this. We tend to wake ourselves up when we realize we are dreaming. The key then, is to allow ourselves to continue the dream while we still remain conscious we are dreaming. This can be tough. It is exciting and surprising to realize you are finally doing what you have been aiming to do. With this excitement and surprise, your physical reaction will wake you up.
- Stay Positive: Do not give up. If you have recognized you are dreaming right before you wake up- you just had a lucid dream! Staying positive is important. The more often you recognize you were dreaming right before you wake up, the closer you become to having a longer lucid dream you will be able to experience and work with. Think positive thoughts before sleeping. Tell yourself you will recognize you are dreaming and will have a wonderful lucid dream.
- Staying Asleep: When you reach the point of recognizing you may be dreaming, you will need to learn how to calm yourself down so that your physical reaction does not wake you. The more you recognize you are dreaming, the less surprising this will be. Be patient and give yourself time. You already are lucid dreaming, you are just learning to do it longer.
- Increase Your Confidence: Once you are able to recognize you are dreaming and remain asleep, you can use your dream as you wish. You may choose just to observe, explore your dreamscape, or control your dream altogether. Just remember you are able to use your dream however you wish for whatever you wish and any limitations you experience are self-imposed.
There are many articles, books and websites available that may suggest other techniques or the use of equipment. Everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for another. Dreaming and lucid dreaming are natural. That being said, gadgets at times may give you the confidence you need to allow yourself to lucid dream. Give yourself time to explore what works best for you.
LaBerge, S. & Lly paralizedevitan, L. (2004). Lucid Dreaming FAQ. Version 2.3
Lewin, B.D. (1968). Remarks of Creativity, Imagery, and The Dream. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases. Vol 149, No. 2., page 115.
Have you ever had a lucid dream?
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