Is it possible to completely realize that I am only dreaming and to completely manage my dream?
According to Psychoanalysis101.org, it is quite rare to be able to control dreams, though apparently it can happen 9according to the article. Lucid dreaming is the term to describe when the person is aware that they are dreaming, further research and scepticism of lucid dreaming are outlined in this section of the article.
Taking Control Of My Nightmares
I am 34 years old, and I have experienced several different problems with sleep for the majority of my life. One of the worst problems is with extremely violent and terrifying nightmares. These are often accompanied by episodes of sleep paralysis or night terrors.
Recently I became aware of the possibility of lucid dreaming, and thought "this might be the answer that I am looking for." If I could learn to master lucid dreaming I would be able to effectively take control of my dreams and even defeat the "demons" (for lack of a better word) that torment me in my sleep. I am a man who is afraid of nothing in the real world. If I could take control of my dreams and face the fears in them it would make an unmeasurable difference in my life.
Is this feasible? Can I actually combat and even defeat my over active imagination in this manner? Can I confront the repressed memories that cause these horrible nocturnal images and feelings?
Kevin: Patrick, you are so right on the money with this it's incredible. You absolutely can use lucid dreams to not only curb your nightmares, but take control of them and use them to help you grow or delve deeper into what is behind them.
It's pretty awesomely easy to see how this can be achieved when we understand how lucid dreams operate. When you become lucid, or gain consciousness, in a dream, you are able to control what happens in that dream--everything from what you do, your surroundings, what laws (i.e. gravity) apply to you or not, you can alter. (Have you seen Inception yet, does this sound strikingly familiar or what?) It takes practice, definitely, and skills must be honed, but it is perfectly possible.
Dr. Stephen LaBerge, the world's foremost expert on lucid dreaming, comes
to our Sleep and Dreams class each year to give a couple lectures on lucid dreaming, and he always reserves a large chunk of time for talking about them in relation to nightmares. Dr. LaBerge loves to emphasize the point that nightmares are almost always passive experiences. In the ordinary frame of things, we just try to get through them and we don't typically consider there is anything to be done. We just suffer through it. But how else can you see it? How else can you frame the situation? The nightmare is something you are constructing for yourself, so why can't you take hold of that construction process? Lucid dreaming can provide you that other frame, a new way of perceiving and responding to nightmares.
Imagine, for instance, that you're in the middle of experiencing a very real nightmare involving a giant, terrifying nightmare. You're a trained lucid dreamer and your skills induce lucidity during the course of the dream. What's stopping you from turning that big scary monster into a cute, cuddly bunny or somethin'? Better yet, why not confront it and ask it some questions. Realize that it can't hurt you and turn the tables on it. It's your dream, you're in control.
Lucid dreaming is such an empowering, awesome phenomenon, and nightmares are definitely one of the biggest things you can use your lucidity to affect. If you're aiming to teach yourself how to do it (or already know how), keep me posted on how it goes. I would love to hear about it.
You should also check out Rebecca Turner's article on escaping from nightmares on her World Of Lucid Dreaming site. Rebecca's an experienced lucid dreamer and I really admire the work and writing she does for this site. It's definitely worth reading.
How to Maintain Dream Control
So what did I do wrong on that occasion? I can think of three things:
- I didn't cement my lucidity at the start. As discussed earlier in How to Stay Lucid, I failed to ground myself in the dream by rubbing my hands together, observing my palms or some other feature close-up, or saying out loud "I'm dreaming" (this acknowledgement came all too late).
- I didn't remind myself I was dreaming. As a knock-on effect of failing to ground myself at the start, I also forgot to remind myself I was dreaming at regular intervals as time went on. Lucidity can fade on its own as the dream evolves and I had no way of pulling it back - so I lost control.
- I didn't set a lucid dream intention. When I became lucid, I remembered to seek out Pete as planned, but I had no idea what to do next. If I'd set a lucid dream intention while awake (say, go swimming together) I wouldn't have been left wondering and open to the dream's will of the dog attack.
(Incidentally, opening my real eyes was just unlucky. I already knew that closing or opening my eyes while lucid would cause this. Sometimes I still can't help myself.)
These three simple actions, taking just a few seconds to implement in the dream world, would have changed the entire course of my lucid dream. Instead, it became a frustrating struggle to maintain control against my dreaming self.
However, this isn't all bad. While at first glance I failed to stay in control and do all sorts of ego-gratifying activities in my lucid dream, I did get to have a potential learning experience with my unconscious dreaming self. And this can be a good reason to relinquish control of your next lucid dream altogether.
How to Change The Scenery
Making a dream scene morph in front of your eyes can be difficult - mainly because you don't expect it to happen.
Of course, when it comes to knowing how to control your dreams, there is always another way. Lucid dream research has revealed various ways to change the scenery in conscious dreams.
Once, I wanted to eat while lucid but I was in the middle of a field. So I applied some lucid dream logic. I imagined a restaurant standing behind me, and when I turned around a second later, there it was. I went in and ordered a delicious meal for free!
Sometimes, I find a dream door (a door which stands randomly in the middle of the dreamscape) and step through it. Visualize your destination on the other side, or let the dream take you wherever it wants to. You can also try this trick with mirrors, as they often lead to other places in dreams, acting as portals to alternate realities.
The most important thing is to truly believe that the scenery will change. Otherwise you could end up in a battle of logic with your conscious brain. Make it a habit to say to yourself "this is a dream" every now and then so you don't lose lucidity, and you will soon learn that anything is possible.
Frustrated by my lack of success, I turned to an always reliable source: the internet. On YouTube, I came across Rocky Ullah, a &ldquoformer professional basketball player turned Edible Arrangements driver&rdquo who posts videos like &ldquoHow To BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and Be FEARLESSLY Confident!!&rdquo and &ldquoWhy You Should DISCONNECT Every Evening!!&rdquo
In his video about lucid dreaming, Rocky laid out some simple-ish steps he uses to take control of his dreams:
- Become more aware of your dreams when you're asleep.
- Tell yourself you are going to dream before you go to sleep.
- When you're awake, point at an object every hour and envision this object turning into something else in your head.
The purpose of this last step is apparently to train yourself to be in control, so if you see a lamp in your dream, you can turn it into, say, a can of Campbell's chicken soup with ease (though why anyone would want to dream about eating a can of Campbell's chicken soup, I'm not sure).
While I'm sure this works for Rocky, it did not work for me. When I woke the next morning, I could not for the life of me remember what I had dreamt about.
Why Can’t I Control My Dreams?
While in the dream world (better known as spirit world), there are many instances, when you may meet with a spirit guide, and either learn a lesson, receive a message or simply roam about while experiencing life without the physical senses. In this particular case, I was roaming about as many of us do from time to time.
Keep in mind that even though life existence is all a thought, it’s still Life and it gets as real as it gets for many of us. Our goal is to recognize it as such and detach from it before we could see beyond our reality a much greater purpose to our existence.
ACTION ITEM: To be read at the end of this Transcript.
1 FV asks: If I know that everything is a thought why can’t I control my thoughts (in my dreams)? Why is it that in a dream the thought is kept so alive that I cannot alter it and I have to go through all the suffering, stages of fear, and all sort of emotions throughout the dream? Why can’t I change the outcome?
2 CFKW responds: Because you are so involved in the thought, it is ultimately lived with utmost passion and all other emotions. You have to, at the deepest level, recognize without a shadow of a doubt, that it was all a thought before you could acknowledge that none of this is real, so you can detach from the thought you created for yourself.
3 If you pay closer attention to your dream, all its reality was created by you and lived in its entirety before you could realize none of it existed upon waking up from your dream. It’s that simple.
4 Its complexity lies in truly comprehending and accepting it. If you truly understand and accept it, you would recognize all this as merely a thought. You see?
End of Transcript T120116080714
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Truth is one…interpretations many—Transcript
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How Dreams Work
There is a lot of research being done in dream control, particularly in the areas of lucid dreaming and dream incubation. Lucid dreaming is a learned skill and occurs when you are dreaming, you realize you are dreaming and you are able to then control what happens in your dream -- all while you're still asleep.
Being able to control your dreams would be a very cool thing to be able to do, but it is a difficult skill that usually takes special training. It is estimated that fewer than 100,000 people in the United States have the ability to have lucid dreams.
Although lucid dreaming is mentioned throughout history, it was not until 1959 at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University that an effective technique for inducing lucid dreams was developed, and true research into the phenomenon began taking place. In 1989, Paul Tholey, a German dream researcher who had been involved in the research at that university, wrote a paper about a technique he was studying to induce lucid dreams. It was called the reflection technique, and it involved asking yourself throughout the day if you were awake or dreaming. More research has indicated the need to practice recognizing odd occurrences, or dream signs, that would be a sign that "this is a dream" rather than reality.
Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University, founder of The Lucidity Institute, Lynne Levitan and other current dream researchers have studied lucid dreaming techniques extensively. They refer to a technique similar to Tholey's reflection method that they call "reality testing." This technique and one called MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams) have been among the most successful techniques for lucid dreaming.
The MILD technique involves similar reminders to the reality testing method but focuses those reminders at night rather than throughout the day and night. MILD begins with telling yourself when you go to bed that you'll remember your dreams. You then focus your attention on recognizing when you are dreaming and remembering that it is a dream. Then, you focus on reentering a recent dream and looking for clues that it is indeed a dream. You imagine what you would like to do within that dream. For example, you may want to fly, so you imagine yourself flying within that dream. You repeat these last two steps (recognizing when you're dreaming and reentering a dream) until you go to sleep. Using this technique, Dr. LaBerge has been able to have lucid dreams at will. Because this type of technique takes such mental training, however, LaBerge is now doing research using external stimuli to induce lucid dreams.
While lucid dreaming may just seem like a cool way to enter fantasy land, it also has several applications outside of recreation. According to LaBerge, for instance, lucid dreaming can help in personal development, enhancing self-confidence, overcoming nightmares, improving mental (and perhaps physical) health and facilitating creative problem solving. LaBerge also states on the Lucidity Web site:
Finally, lucid dreaming can function as a "world simulator." Just as a flight simulator allows people to learn to fly in a safe environment, lucid dreaming could allow people to learn to live in any imaginable world to experience and better choose among various possible futures.
People With This Special Quality Can Control Their Dreams
Lucid dreamers can take control of their dreams, providing freedom in a hyperreal world.
Neuroscientists have found that self-reflective people — those who tend to notice their own thoughts — are more likely to have lucid dreams.
Lucid dreams are those in which the dreamer has some control over what happens in the dream.
The level of control can vary from a simple awareness of being in a dream up to having some control over what happens.
Most people have had lucid dreams at some point in their lives, but studies generally find that they are not that frequent.
Many people find, though, that lucid dreams are extremely pleasant, given that they provide complete freedom in a hyperreal world.
The new study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that people who have lucid dreams tend to have a larger anterior prefrontal cortex (in red below) — the area which is vital for self-reflection (Filevich et al., 2015).
Dr Elisa Filevich, who led the study, said:
“Our results indicate that self-reflection in everyday life is more pronounced in persons who can easily control their dreams.”
To reach these conclusions researchers asked people about whether, and how often, they had lucid dreams.
Then, while in a brain scanner, they were given a series of tests which involved metacognition, which involves reflecting on your own thinking.
For example, if you suddenly notice that you are worried about work tomorrow and so you need to do something to take your mind of it that is metacognition.
The study’s authors conclude:
“Our results reveal shared neural systems between lucid dreaming and metacognitive function, in particular in the domain of thought monitoring.
This finding contributes to our understanding of the mechanisms enabling higher-order consciousness in dreams.”
The researchers say that the next step is to see if metacognitive skills — a kind of heightened self-awareness — can be trained.
They hope to train people in how to lucid dream and then see if their metacognitive skills also improve.
Lucid Dreaming and Self-Realization
When I went to graduate school, lucid dreaming was a concept everyone knew of, yet knew nearly nothing about. Generation X missed the lucid dreaming debates of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. After that, the debates faded out and lucid dreaming became the geeky subject matter of a few liberal intellectuals hardly anyone had heard of. Christopher Nolan’s movie Inception, perhaps misleadingly, brought the concept back into the core of the minds of the masses.
Lucid dreaming is your chance to play around with the extraordinary abilities buried in unused parts of your brain. Regardless of whether your are superhuman in real life or not, lucid dreaming is a way for you to put the deepest areas of your brain to good use while you’re sleeping. You can be a Jane Doe while awake and superman while sleeping. All the obstacles of reality can be set aside, as you make trips to the sun or the interior of the earth or test your craziest science experiments on your worst enemies.
Lucid dream researcher Beverly D'Urso knows everything about lucid dreaming: She has been a lucid dreamer since she was seven years old. She has worked with psychophysiologist Stephen Laberge, the founder of the Lucidity Institute. She was the first person to have a recorded orgasm during a dream. During her lucid dreams, she has tasted fire, visited the sun and overcome a writer's block. She has done it all. We recently conducted an interview with the lucid dream expert.
What does "lucid dreaming" mean?
Even though the term "lucid" means clear, lucid dreaming is more than just having a clear dream. To have a lucid dream you must know that it’s a dream while you’re dreaming. That's it. It doesn't require that you can control anything in your dream, though control is what beginning lucid dreamers often aim at. People get attracted to lucid dreaming because they want to be able to do things they could never do in waking reality, for example, taste fire or fly to the sun. More and more experienced lucid dreamers are realizing the benefits of lucid dreaming. You can use it to explore the boundaries of your own agency and the limits of the universe.
What's the best technique for becoming lucid in dreams?
The best technique for becoming lucid is to actually become more aware and look and listen and pay attention to details, because when you see things that don’t fit, that’s a clue that you’re dreaming. To facilitate the process you can form the habit of examining the environment or your state of awareness during the day. Mental habits you practice during the day tend to continue in dreams. So you examine your environment during the day, you examine your awareness, and then you may notice that something is different once you start dreaming. Someone who has become lucid has much higher levels of awareness—and obviously, I think that’s one of the biggest benefits of lucid dreaming.
What is the phenomenology of lucidity?
Here is an example. I was playing around in a lucid dream and happened to be at a campsite. Since I knew I was dreaming, I thought I might as well jump into the camp fire. I didn't get burned. I was kind of playing around with the flames. I then decided to eat the flames. I actually put them in my mouth. And I remember having the sensation of them being salty! I was already pushing limits. So I decided to fly to the sun. I started to fly sort of superman style—faster and faster and faster, almost exponentially faster.
As I got closer and closer to the sun I couldn't really see anything. I couldn't really feel my body either. But I noticed a sense of vibration and sound and light. Obviously, there was a lot of light coming from the sun, and I kind of stayed in this state which I can’t really describe. So the phenomenology of lucid dreaming really is very different from the phenomenology of regular experiences.
As lucid dreamers you occasionally participate in dream psychic contents. What happens at those contests?
We have an online conference once a year that lasts two weeks. It was founded by the International Association for the Study of Dreams, which I’ve been involved with almost since the very beginning about 26 years ago. A friend of mine actually started it. We get about 10 or 20 people who present either a short paper or lead a workshop.
During that two-week period we usually have three contests. A typical one is the picture content. Prior to the conference an outsider collects thousands of images. During the conference a random picture is picked, and a self-proclaimed psychic person will then attempt to send that image to all the dreamers one particular night.
The next day when you wake up, you submit a report of what you dreamed, and the following day they’ll show you the picture and you can check what kind of connections your dream had to the picture. We have a panel of judges, and we also allow people to look at other people's dreams and say what they think matches. Finally, there’s a first, second, and third place winner.
Have you ever engaged in mutual dreaming?
Well, I’ve had a lot of experiences with at least attempting mutual dreaming. You set it up in advance. You agree to meet somewhere, for example the Bahamas. Then while you both dream, you travel to that place. When you get there, you tell your partner a secret. After you both wake up you can check whether you really succeeded in meeting by asking each other about the secrets you told each other in the dream. I haven’t succeeded in this particular exercise.
A lot of people live out their fantasies in dreams. Does that ever seem to suffice as a replacement for the same fantasies in real life?
Yeah, dream fantasies are usually much more exciting. There are so many things you can do in dreams that you cannot do in waking life. You cannot taste fire or fly to the sun or have sex with strangers without potential serious consequences. But you can do all that in your dreams.
Have you ever experimented with sex in your lucid dreams?
Yeah, many times. At one point we were attempting to record sexual activity during lucid dreaming in the Stanford Sleep Lab. I was hooked up to electrodes and vaginal probes. My goal was to have sex in a dream and experience an orgasm. I dreamed that I flew across Stanford campus and saw a group of tourists down below. I swooped down and tapped one dream guy, wearing a blue suit, on the shoulder. He responded right there on the walkway. We made love, and I signaled the onset of sex and the orgasm to the experimenter. We later published this experiment in Journal of Psychophysiology as the first recorded female orgasm in a dream.
How is lucid dreaming used as therapy?
Let me give you an example. Back in the early 80s I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation. I’d done all my class work and I already had a topic, but I wasn’t actually writing it all up. I wasn’t actually completing the degree. My friend suggesteded, “Well, why don’t you work on your writer's block in your dreams?”
I decided to give it a try. In one dream I dreamed I was in my bedroom, but my computer was in the wrong place, instead of being on the left it was on the right, so I knew it was a dream. The first thing that happened was that I became totally paralyzed. Even though I knew I was dreaming I couldn’t move my body. All I wanted to do was get to the computer to start writing, and I kept telling myself, “This is my dream. I’m in a dream. I should be able to this.” And slowly—like in slow motion—I got to the computer. The seat had a hole leading down to hell. It was very scary but I sat down and let myself fall into this pit in hell—and then I woke up. Since then I have had no trouble writing.
What are the spiritual benefits of lucid dreaming?
Well, it certainly makes you a more enlightened person. You learn to be in the present moment and to notice your surroundings and take in things without being sidetracked by random thoughts or the past or the future.
That’s what all big spiritual teachers teach you now: The importance of being in the present moment. That’s what lucid dreamer have been doing all along. They are aware of the present moment with more than just their physical body, because their agency is expanded to include a higher self.
Have there been any studies attempting to measure personality changes before and after regular lucid dreaming?
Sure. There are people who have looked at the characteristics of lucid dreamers. One study which I remember reviewing for a journal was about lucid dreamers noticing things in change blindness and inattentional blindness paradigms faster than most people.
Lucid dreamers are typically better at noticing things because of the heightened awareness I mentioned before.
Could lucid dreaming be dangerous? Suppose people mistakenly think they are dreaming and start doing crazy things.
No, it's not a potential problem for lucid dreamers. By definition, lucid dreamers know they are dreaming, so they are not confused about when they dream and when they are awake. However, non-lucid dreamers that could become confused between dreaming and being awake. People who are just starting out might want to take it easy and not stuff fire in their mouth or jump out from a cliff to see what happens. I don’t think an experienced lucid dreamer would ever jump off a cliff without first testing whether they could float in the air.
Does lucid dreaming ever make you tired? Do you ever feel being lucid in your dreams doesn’t let you rest as much?
People often say that, but I think it’s almost the exact opposite. I think there is some value in non-lucid dreams, but those are the ones that are tiring. I mean, who wants to be breaking up with a high school boyfriend all over again and be feeling all miserable? Who wants to take that test and worry about some test result when you’re not even in school anymore? It’s the lucid dreams that are refreshing and fun. Lucid dreams, not regular dreams, give me energy and make me wake up feeling refreshed. You should try it!
Berit "Brit" Brogaard is a co-author of The Superhuman Mind
Can you control your dreams?
(CNN) -- Life doesn't always go the way you want, but sometimes dreams do.
A lucid dreamer is a person who is aware that he or she is dreaming and is able to manipulate the plot and outcome of the dream, like a video game. It is not uncommon, and in children it can happen frequently, even as an expression of creativity, said Gary Schwartz, professor of psychology and neurology at the University of Arizona.
It appears that Jared Loughner, allegedly responsible for the shooting at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, took a keen interest in the phenomenon. In the YouTube video called My Final Thoughts: Jared Lee Loughner! that is said to belong to him, he talks about conscious dreaming and reflects a blurring between waking life and reality -- "Jared Loughner is conscience (sic) dreaming at this moment / Thus, Jared Loughner is asleep," he writes.
Loughner likely was referring to lucid dreaming, experts said, which has been studied scientifically and shown to be a real phenomenon. In fact, humans have known about lucid dreaming for centuries Tibetan Buddhists began practicing "dream yoga" more than 1,000 years ago as a means of attaining a purer form of consciousness through awareness in dreams.
How to have a lucid dream
Research suggests that various techniques can increase the frequency of lucid dreams. For instance, you can remind yourself before you go to sleep that you want to be aware that you're dreaming when dreams happen, said Deirdre Barrett, psychologist at Harvard University and the Cambridge Health Alliance and editor of Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
You can also do certain checks to see whether you're awake or dreaming in the dream. According to the Lucidity Institute, these include reading letters or numbers and then looking at them again after a moment (they will most likely change or seem weird in a dream). If that doesn't convince you, visualize yourself in a dream and then imagine yourself in a dream activity (nothing will happen if you're awake).
Such reality checks played a prominent role in the movie "Inception," in which dreamers had "totems" to help them distinguish the two states of mind, such as a metal top that can stop spinning only in real life.
When dreams go too far
While characters in this movie began to lose their grip on waking life, confusing dreams with reality is actually a sign of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, Barrett said. That confusion is not nearly as neat or clear-cut as what is portrayed in "Inception."
Getting interested in lucid dreaming is a "completely innocuous activity," as is keeping a dream journal, she said.
But saying that dreams are more vivid than waking life, and having trouble distinguishing between one's dreams and reality, are red flags for mental illness, she said. If you know someone like this, encourage him or her to talk to a therapist, she said.
This does not mean the person is dangerous in any way, but he or she should seek help, she said.
"If you become extremely confused due to psychotic illness, you might be confusing dreaming and waking while confusing right and wrong," Barrett said.
There is the possibility, however, that in combination with mental illness and other factors such as hostility and drug use, an obsession with lucid dreaming could become harmful, Schwartz said.
"If you develop the belief that what you do in the dream world, you can do in the real world, in the hands of someone who is mentally deranged, it can become extremely dangerous," he said.
Getting to the point where waking life seems like a dream is rare, Schwartz said.
"Most people who practice lucid dreaming and take it seriously are people who are sane," he said. "They are very aware of what it is, and aware of the need to discriminate what is and what is not their dream. It's completely safe."