Dreaming with lucidity
By Sibel Ilter
“Lucid dreaming has considerable potential for promoting personal growth and self-development, enhancing self-confidence, improving mental and physical health, facilitating creative problem solving and helping you to progress on the path to self-mastery.” – Stephen LaBerge
What does it mean to be aware of your dreamful state in a dream? A dream you experience in your sleep is known to bring out mental visions, emotions and sensations to your body, making you encounter certain situations that are out of your control. More concretely, it is seeing yourself meet up with an old friend, going to a nearby boutique to buy yourself your favorite fruit, and traveling to a different continent with one step out of the door of your house. During a majority of these dreams, we have a hard time coordinating our route; we can not sense any inner-directed will of where we would like to go, and so our dreams take spontaneous turns, giving us the show in which we willingly participate in. We can also partake in a dream unwillingly, which usually happens when our dream unexpectedly turns into a nightmare. We will struggle to reverse the effect, which will lead to a night of problematic sensations and a morning of sweaty clothes. In the conceptual meaning of lucid dreams, however, we overcome the state of dreamful unknowing and lull into an active consciousness – from there, we are free to terminate the nightmare. Lucid dreams, also known as vivid dreams, were explained by the Dutch psychiatrist Frederik Willem van Eeden in 1993 as “the re-integration of psychic functions so complete [in ludic dreams], that the sleeper reaches a state of perfect awareness and is able to direct his attention, and attempt different acts of free volition. Yet the sleep, as I am able confidently to state, is undisturbed, deep and refreshing.”
For most lucid dreamers, the most intriguing thing they go through is waking up.
The quotation of the previous statement suggested the presence of consciousness during sleep, a claim that was denied by many for years. Like most dreams, modern studies now suggest that lucid dreams are known to take place during the REM (rapid eye-movement) state of our sleep. Scientific research has found that during REM sleep, the eyes of the dreamer shift in the direction of their gaze during the dream, enabling researchers to communicate with lucid dreamers using eye-movement signals. So what happens during a lucid dream? How is it initiated and where in our dreams does it start? Lucid dreams are known for their variety and can start in different ways. The D.I.L.D. (dream-initiated lucid dream) begins as a normal dream in which the dreamer later on recognizes as a dream. It usually happens when encountering a ludicrous scenario, such as waking up to an elephant in your room or participating in witchcraft with your friends. Being faced with such situations usually sparks a small portion the dreamer’s consciousness which in turn questions the reasonability of the event, eventually concluding it as a dream. For some, such awareness initially wakes up the person from their dream. Although not trained lucid dreamers, these people still experience a small fraction of lucidity in their dreams which induces a signal to wake them up. For others, however, especially those who are more familiar with lucid dreams, the dreams are allowed to go on, even after the dreamer has claimed the dream as a dream. A W.I.L.D. (wake-initiated lucid dream) occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal wakeful state directly into a dream state. This occurs when the person enters REM sleep from a completely self-aware wakeful state. A wake-initiated lucid dream is usually commenced with sleep paralysis. The body is normally paralyzed during sleep so that the movements done in dreams don’t induce reflecting movements in real life. Sleep paralysis can also, however, occur before sleep. This can lead to a state where the person lays awake, and yet is paralyzed all over the body. The wakeful person may then experience an inability to move, pulsating noises and hypnagogic hallucinations (all associated with sleep paralysis) before moving into W.I.L.D. state.
Once the sleeper has moved away from the wakeful sleep, the sleeper carries on to experiencing the different natures of a lucid dream. Although the most logical way of thinking is perceiving dreams and reality as two separates, some experiments concluded that there is no abstract dividing line between a dream and real life. In fact, they suggest that it is a line so indefinite that dreamers usually penetrate the boundary between dreams and real life without really knowing which side they are on, as in whether they are awake or still dreaming. This type of interference between dreams and reality could expose the dreamer’s body to stressful and confusing sensations, one of them being false awakenings. In false awakenings, the dreamer wakes up, usually in the room they fell asleep in, but are in fact still dreaming. In a lucid dream, the dreamer recognizes it as normal awakening and begins with their morning routines like any other day. Sometimes, a cold shower could then wake them up, only to have them realize that they have been dreaming all the while. This is a repetitive sequence that can go on four or five more times (in some profound cases, even more) before they actually wake up, entirely removed from their dream. Van Eeden described these false awakenings as “demoniacal, uncanny, and very vivid and bright, with… a strong diabolical light.”
For most lucid dreamers, the most intriguing thing they go through is waking up. Some argue saying that they can never tell when they are fully awake because of the continuous feel after the dream. They claim being so conscious in their dreams that it almost “feels real”, a feeling that continues all the way through waking up. The only thing that confirms their full state of awakening, is their sudden lack of control, something they fully possessed in their dream.