Lucid dreaming is when “the dreamer becomes consciously aware that he or she is dreaming and is able to access the conscious attributes of memory and volition while participating in the events and emotions of the ongoing dream” (Van De Castle, pg. 444). It is becoming aware that you are dreaming, while you are dreaming, and being able to control the outcome of the dream. You can use lucid dreaming to improve the quality of your waking life in many ways. Research has shown that lucid dreaming can enhance and improve skills, problem solving, self growth, and physical health in waking life, as well as overcoming nightmares in the dream world.
What is Lucid Dreaming
In most dreams, you will not know you are dreaming because the dreamscape is so vivid and real that it fools the mind into thinking you are in the real world. Sometimes the dreamer will notice something very abnormal within the dream and will realize that he or she is dreaming. Dream signs, which are common elements in every dream, are important to learn to induce lucid dreaming (Paulsson, pp.22-35). Lucid dreams can usually be remembered with great detail because the dreamer is as conscious as normal waking life (Hamilton, pg. 83). To become lucid, dreamers must have “emotional readiness and willingness to enter the lucid state” (Van De Castle, pg. 457). You need to challenge and question the reality which is presented to you throughout the day and by doing so you will question the reality in your dream, then realize it is a dream. Anyone can learn to lucid dream, it just takes practice.
There are several types of lucid dreaming. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreaming (MILD) is a technique that focuses on motivating yourself to have a lucid dream. Before you go to sleep, you tell yourself that you will have a lucid dream. Another type of lucid dreaming is electronic lucid dreaming which uses lights and other external signals to let you know you are dreaming. Wake initiated lucid dreams (WILDS) involve falling asleep without losing consciousness. The dreamer will begin to fall asleep and let their imagination run wild, while remaining conscious. Eventually they will be in a dream and completely conscious. These techniques are all being studied in great detail by many people at Stanford University (LaBerge, pg. 73-116).
Lucid dreaming has been around for centuries and has been practiced by many different cultures, including the Tibetan Buddhists as early eight century AD (Van De Castle, pg. 441). In his 1975 doctoral thesis at Hull University, Keith Hearne discovered a way for lucid dreamers to use eye signals during REM sleep to inform the outside world that they were consciously dreaming. The same test was also conducted by Stephen LaBerge in 1978 at Stanford University (Paulsson, pp. 22-35). This was a major advance in the study of lucid dreaming because it was scientific proof that lucid dreaming does exist. Many scientists are now studying lucid dreaming and are beginning to understand the power of it. Many scientists now believe that it can be therapeutic (Hamilton, pg. 85). Even though lucid dreaming is still in its infancy in the realm of scientific research, many people claim that they have improved their life with this practice.
Your greatest wishes and adventures can be fulfilled in dreams. Many people who experience an adventurous or wishful dream that they remember, lucid or not, have feelings of happiness and pleasure when they awake. Once you learn how to become lucid, you can do anything you want. You can fly to another galaxy or save the world from a nuclear attack. You can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do. By fulfilling these fantasies, you will make yourself happier as a person.
Lucid dreaming can also help you to improve your future. You can have dreams and imagine that you are rich and healthy, living in a nice house with a nice car. Albert Bandura, a psychologist at Stanford university, states that “images of desirable future events tend to foster the behavior most likely to bring about their realization” (LaBerge, pg.199). Lucid dreams can reinforce our wills of being successful. Seeing how you want to be helps to motivate you into doing them in the real world.
In lucid dreaming, the unconscious and conscious meet. You may have something in your unconscious that is limiting your happiness in waking life and you can unlock those things from your unconscious in your dreams and face them. Realizing you are dreaming during a dream can be quite a thrill, but lucid dreaming can be used for more than just flying and doing whatever you want to do.
Peak performance is the term to describe when someone is at the top of their game, both mentally and physically. You can improve your skills in a sport or game by practicing in a lucid dreaming state. The dreams world is the perfect place to practice anything from sports to surgery. Dreams are so vivid that they seem as real as the everyday waking world. When you are in a dream and you eat an orange, you really believe that you are eating an orange. All of your senses are present, and sometimes they are even amplified.
When people are dreaming, “bodies and brains respond as if they were actually doing it, except that their muscles are paralyzed by the REM process. The neural impulses from the brain to the body are still active and very similar to those that would accompany the same acts in waking” (LaBerge, pg. 187). A study on cats was conducted by Michael Jouvet to block the process that causes muscular paralysis during REM sleep. Since they had this process blocked, the cats physically acted out their dreams (LaBerge, pg. 187). This proves that the brain sends out the same messages for movement while sleeping, but they are just being blocked by the REM muscle paralysis.
A researcher and sports psychologist, Paul Tholey, has done a lot of work dealing with lucid dreaming and motor skills. He suggests that “sensory-motor skills which have already been mastered in their rough outlines can be refined by using lucid dreaming” (Tholey, 2007). He also stated that “sensory-motor actions can be perfected by test runs carried out in a lucid dream state” (Tholey, 2007). If we are practicing something in a dream, we are only going to improve how we complete the task. He also states that “new sensory motor skills can be learned using lucid dreaming” (Tholey, 2007). Also, “Studies have shown that new skills can be learned to some extent just by thinking about performing them” (LaBerge, pg. 186). Thinking about doing a new skill in lucid dreaming should be no different than thinking about doing them in the waking world.
You can also practice dangerous sports or practices in the lucid dreaming state and become very good at it, reducing the chances of you hurting yourself in the waking world. Just as with sports, you can use lucid dreaming to rehearse anything in life. Speaking in front of a crowd in a lucid dream will get you used to the feeling of public speaking and provide you with good practice and self confidence. Practicing what you want in a lucid dreaming state will improve both physical and mental skills.
Since Egyptian times, people have tried to use dream incubation to solve problems. In history, dreams have been regarded as inspirational in every field of study. Many writers, painters and poets have attributed their work to dreams because of their originality and creativity including Paul Klee and Beethoven (LaBerge, pg. 203). German chemist Friedrich Kekule studied the complex molecular construction of benzene, but he could not work out how they were joined together. In 1865 he dreamt that the atoms made long rows that fitted neatly together and twisted and turned like snakes” (Millidge, pg. 37). Many inventions have also been thought up in dreams, including the sewing machine by Elias Howe’s. A psychologist by the name of Otto Loewi, came up with a theory that defines the nature of nerve impulses. Although it was a brilliant theory, he could not think of a way to test it until he dreamt it 17 years later. Through the dream, he was able to come up with the test to prove that chemicals assist in the transmission of information through neurons. He eventually won the Nobel Prize for his discovery (LaBerge, pg. 208). Although there is no way right now to prove that lucid dreaming can improve your creativity and problem solving, it is apparent that dreams have the ability unlock unforeseen solutions. If dreams can unlock unforeseen solutions, then lucid dreaming could be used to harness these abilities.
Lucid dreaming also has the power to help you overcome nightmares. In a nightmare, you are all alone, frozen in fear by your worst personal fears. You may be stuck in movement or unable to speak while being attacked. Nightmares are common among adults, “studies show that one third to one half of all adults experience occasional nightmares” (LaBerge, pg. 223). Fear is your worst enemy in your dreams and the best way to deal with them is in the dream world. When you are having a nightmare, you believe you are in the real world, but if you learn how to become lucid, you will realize you are dreaming and face your fear, since it cannot harm you. You can either face your fear and destroy it or you can try and talk to it and transform it from a low order being to a higher order being to reveal the true meaning of the being. The later is a theory that was introduced by Paul Tholey. Speaking to the monster in a dream may reveal its true purpose for being there and uncover truths about your self.
Psychologist Ernest Rossi stated that “dreaming is an endogenous process of psychological growth, change, and transformation” (LaBerge, pg. 255). Lucidity can help improve this process. Lucid dreamers can identify with and accept their demons as parts of themselves and their personalities that they had previously rejected. Carl Jung stated that rejected parts of the personality are projected in dreams, taking the form of monsters, demons, enemies, etc. (LaBerge, pg. 255). The ego model of the self is not complete until you have integrated these demons as part of yourself. Facing your enemies in your dreams and accepting them will make you psychologically whole and balanced. Being lucid during these dreams where enemies are present will help you realize that it is not real and they are a part of your inner self.
Learning to cope with difficulties will also help us improve our self growth, making us wiser and stronger people. Challenging situations and problems helps us discover who we really are. If you face difficulties in your dreams, they will only make you stronger as a person. Also, facing difficulties and challenges in lucid dreams will help you cope with stressful situations in the real world. Experiencing what it feels like to be under pressure and trust your own judgments will be useful in the waking world. German psychologist Kuenkel states that “the true way to healing is to seek out the barking dogs of the unconscious and reconcile with them” (LaBerge, pg. 263).
When we are having normal dreams we are active in mindlessness, but when we are experiencing lucid dreaming, we are active in mindfulness, since you are conscious. Harvard psychologist Ellen Langet suggests ” that mindfulness, a creatively integrative mastery of life experience, leads to improved health and longevity either directly or by increasing awareness or adaptive responses” (LaBerge, pg. 272). If what she is saying is true, then we are improving our health and longevity. Exercising the mind is important to life.
Lucid dreaming may be useful for physical health as well as mental health. Dr. Dennis Jaffe and Dr. David Bresler have written “mental imagery mobilizes the latent, inner powers of the person which have immense potential to aid in the healing process and in the promotion of health” (LaBerge, pg. 275). Lucid dreams produce vast arrays of imagery and can help improve health in this way. Imagery is also used in a variety of therapeutic approaches. If you see yourself with a healthy body in your lucid dream, this may help your body to heal itself or keep it healthy. “Scientific studies have shown that there is a strong connection between dreams and the biological functioning of the body” (Hamilton, pg. 86).
Lucid dreaming is quite amazing when you think of the possibilities. Lucid dreaming can improve motor skills, social skills, problem solving, self growth, and physical and mental health in waking life, as well as overcoming nightmares in the dream world. The power of tapping into your dreams may help us to unlock more than we would ever know in the physical world. It has been said that different kinds of knowledge are accessible through different states of consciousness. We may find answers beyond our world in the unconscious. Carl Jung suggests that we have a collective unconscious. Maybe one day we will have the ability to examine it through our dreams. Lucid dreaming may be able to take our minds to new understandings and beyond ordinary limits.
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