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Dreams FAQ Pt.3/4: About Lucid Dreaming

Dreams FAQ Pt.3/4: About Lucid Dreaming

Posted-By: auto-faq 3.1.1.2
Archive-name: dreams-faq/part3
Revision: version 1.4,  last changed 1994/09/18 23:59:48
Posting-Frequency: biweekly

This is  the third in a  series  of four  postings of Frequently Asked
Questions for  the alt.dreams and  alt.dreams.lucid newsgroups.  It is
the reproduction  of  an  earlier regular  posting  on  lucid  dreams,
written   by Lynne  Levitan <lynx@psych.stanford.edu>  and  originally
titled: Answers to these frequently asked  questions on lucid dreaming
brought to you by THE LUCIDITY INSTITUTE.

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6. Lucid dreaming

6.1. What is lucid dreaming? 

A. The term "lucid dreaming" refers to dreaming while knowing that you
are dreaming. The "lucid" part refers to  the clarity of consciousness
rather than the vividness of the  dream. It generally happens when you
realize  during the course of a  dream that you  are dreaming, perhaps
because something weird occurs. Most  people who remember their dreams
have experienced this at some time, often  waking up immediately after
the  realization.  However, it is possible   to  continue in the dream
while remaining fully aware that you are dreaming.

6.2. If you are lucid, can you control the dream? 

A. Usually lucidity brings with  it some degree   of control over  the
course of the dream. How much control is possible varies from dream to
dream and from dreamer  to dreamer. Practice can apparently contribute
to the ability to exert control over dream events. At the least, lucid
dreamers can choose   how they wish to respond   to the events of  the
dream. For example,  you can decide to  face up to a frightening dream
figure, knowing it  cannot harm you, rather than  to try to avoid  the
danger as you naturally would if you did not know it was a dream. Even
this amount of control can transform the dream  experience from one in
which   you  are    the  helpless victim    of frequently  terrifying,
frustrating, or maddening experiences to one in  which you can dismiss
for a while the cares and concerns of waking  life. On the other hand,
some people are able   to achieve a level   of mastery in  their lucid
dreaming where  they  can  create any  world,   live any fantasy,  and
experience anything they can imagine!

6.3.  Does lucid dreaming interfere with the function of "normal"
      dreaming?

A.  According  to  one way  of  thinking,  lucid dreaming  _is_ normal
dreaming. The  brain and  body  are  in the same  physiological  state
during lucid  dreaming as they are  in during most ordinary non- lucid
dreaming, that is, REM sleep. Dreaming is  a result of the brain being
active,  at the same time  as the sense organs  of the body are turned
off to the  outside  world.  In  this condition,  typically during REM
sleep, the mind creates experiences out  of currently active thoughts,
concerns, memories and  fantasies.   Knowing you are  dreaming  simply
allows you  to direct the dream  along constructive or positive lines,
like  you direct your thoughts  when you are awake. Furthermore, lucid
dreams can  be even more  informative   about yourself than  non-lucid
dreams, because you  can observe the  development of the dream out  of
your feelings and tendencies, while being aware  that you are dreaming
and that  the  dream is coming from  you.  The notion  that dreams are
unconscious  processes that should  remain  so  is false.  Your waking
consciousness is  always present in your  dreams.  If it were not, you
would not be able to remember dreams, because you can only remember an
event you have  consciously experienced. The added "consciousness"  of
lucid  dreaming  is nothing more  than the  awareness  of being in the
dream state.

6.4. Does everybody dream? 

A.   Everybody dreams.   All  humans  (indeed,  all mammals) have  REM
sleep.  Most dreams occur in REM  sleep. [REM=Rapid Eye Movements - in
this sleeping stage  the eyeballs move  around like when awake.]  This
has been  demonstrated by awakening   people from different stages  of
sleep and asking if they  were dreaming.  In  85 percent of awakenings
from REM sleep, people report having been  dreaming. Dreams are rarely
reported following awakening  from other types  of sleep (collectively
called  non-REM sleep). REM sleep alternates  with non-REM sleep in 90
minute  cycles throughout the  night. In a  typical  8 hour night, you
will spend about an hour and a half total time in REM sleep, broken up
into four  or five  "REM   periods" ranging in   length  from 5  to 45
minutes. Most dreams  are forgotten. Some  people never recall  dreams
while  others recall five or  more each  night.   You can improve your
ability to recall dreams.  Good dream recall is necessary for learning
lucid dreaming.  There are two basic things to do  to get started with
developing dream recall.   Begin a dream  journal, in which you  write
everything you  remember of      your dreams,  even  the     slightest
fragments. You will remember the most if you record dreams right after
you awaken from   them.   Before falling  asleep  each   night, remind
yourself  that   you want to  awaken from,   remember  and record your
dreams.

6.5. Why would you want to have lucid dreams? 

A. The laws  of physics and society are  repealed in  dreams. The only
limits are  the reaches of your  imagination. Much of the potential of
dreams is  wasted   because people do   not  recognize that they   are
dreaming. When we are not lucid in a dream, we think  and behave as if
we  are  in waking reality.  This  can lead  to pointless frustration,
confusion  and  wasted energy,   and  in the  worst   case, terrifying
nightmares. It is useless to  try as we do to  accomplish the tasks of
waking  life  in dreams.  Our misguided  efforts  to  do so result  in
anxiety  dreams    of  malfunctioning   machinery,  missed  deadlines,
forgotten   exams,  losing the way,  and   so on.  Anxiety  dreams and
nightmares can be overcome through lucid dreaming, because if you know
you are dreaming you  have nothing to fear.   Dream images cannot hurt
you.  Lucid dreams,  in addition to  helping  you lead your dreams  in
satisfying    directions,   enjoy fantastic  adventures,  and overcome
nightmares,  can   be  valuable  tools for    success  in your  waking
life. Lucid  dreamers  can  deliberately employ  the  natural creative
potential   of     dreams   for   problem     solving  and    artistic
inspiration.  Athletes, performers, or  anyone who gives presentations
can prepare, practice   and   polish their performances   while   they
sleep. This  is only a  taste of the variety of  ways people have used
lucid dreaming to expand their lives.

6.6. How do you have lucid dreams? 

A. There are several methods of inducing lucid dreams. The first step,
regardless of method,  is to develop your  dream recall  until you can
remember at least one dream per night. Then, if you have a lucid dream
you will  remember it. You  will also become   very familiar with your
dreams, making   it easier learn   to recognize   them while they  are
happening. If  you recall your dreams you  can  begin immediately with
two   simple techniques for  stimulating  lucid dreams. Lucid dreamers
make  a  habit of  "reality  testing."  This  means  investigating the
environment to decide whether you  are dreaming or awake. Ask yourself
many times a day,  "Could I be dreaming?"  Then, test the stability of
your current  reality by reading  some words, looking away and looking
back while trying to will them to change. The instability of dreams is
the easiest  clue to use for distinguishing  waking from  dreaming. If
the words  change, you are dreaming. Taking  naps is a way  to greatly
increase  your chances of having lucid  dreams. You have to sleep long
enough  in  the nap to enter  REM  sleep. If you  take  the nap in the
morning (after getting up earlier than usual), you are likely to enter
REM sleep within a half-hour to an hour  after you fall asleep. If you
nap for 90  minutes to 2  hours you will have plenty  of  dreams and a
higher probability of becoming lucid than  in dreams you have during a
normal night's sleep. Focus on   your intention to recognize that  you
are dreaming as you fall asleep within the nap.

External  cues to help people attain  lucidity in dreams have been the
focus of Dr. Stephen LaBerge's  research and the Lucidity  Institute's
development efforts for several years. Using the results of laboratory
studies, they have designed a  portable device, called the DreamLight,
for this  purpose. It  monitors sleep  and when  it detects  REM sleep
gives a cue -- a flashing light -- that enters the dream to remind the
dreamer to become lucid. The light comes  from a soft mask worn during
sleep that  also contains the  sensing apparatus  for determining when
the sleeper is in REM sleep. A small custom  computer connected to the
mask by a cord decides when the wearer is in REM and when to flash the
lights.

6.7. Is there a way to prevent yourself from awakening right after 
     becoming lucid? 

A. At  first,  beginners may have difficulty   remaining in  the dream
after they attain lucidity. This obstacle may prevent many people from
realizing   the  value of   lucid    dreaming, because they  have  not
experienced more than the flash of knowing they are dreaming, followed
by immediate  awakening. Two simple techniques  can  help you overcome
this problem. The first is to remain calm in the dream. Becoming lucid
is  exciting, but expressing the   excitement can awaken you. Suppress
your feeling  somewhat and turn your   attention to the  dream. If the
dream   shows  signs of ending,  such   as the  disappearance, loss of
clarity or depth of  the imagery, "spinning"  can help bring the dream
back. As soon as the dream starts to "fade," before you feel your real
body in  bed, spin your  dream body like  a top. That is, twirl around
like  a  child trying to  get dizzy  (you probably  will not get dizzy
during dream   spinning because  your physical  body   is not spinning
around).  Remind yourself, "The next scene will be  a dream." When you
stop  spinning, if it  is not  obvious  that  you  are dreaming,  do a
reality test. Even if you think you are awake, you may be surprised to
find that you are still dreaming!

6.8. How can I find out more about lucid dreaming, or get involved 
     in lucid dreaming research? 

A.  Contact the Lucidity Institute, an   organization founded by lucid
dreaming researcher  Dr. Stephen LaBerge  to support research on lucid
dreams   and to  help  people  learn  to  use  them to   enhance their
lives. The Lucidity Institute's mission is  to advance research on the
nature and  potentials of consciousness  and  to apply the  results of
this research to the enhancement  of human health and well-being.  The
Lucidity Institute    offers a   membership society,  whose  quarterly
newsletter, NIGHTLIGHT,  discusses   research and development in   the
field of  lucid dreaming, and  invites the participation of members in
at-home  experiments.   Workshops and  training programs are available
periodically.    The   Institute  sells    books,  tapes,   scientific
publications and the DreamLight.

Write or call: 
The Lucidity Institute
P.O. Box 2364
Stanford, CA 94309 
(415) 321-9969

Or email: lynx@psych.stanford.edu

For additional information: 
LaBerge, S., LUCID DREAMING (Los Angeles: Ballantine, 1985).
LaBerge, S. & Rheingold, H. EXPLORING THE WORLD OF LUCID DREAMING 
(New York: Ballantine, 1990). 

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To be continued...

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