Have you ever been asleep, dreaming, and at some point during your dream realized that you were dreaming? If so, then you have experienced lucid dreaming.
What Is a Lucid Dream?
A lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer is aware that he or she is dreaming. The dreamer may be able to exert control over his or her dreams by doing something like changing the dream’s characters or plot, or the dreamer may simply be aware that his or her dream is not real. Lucidity does not necessarily mean that the dreamer has control over the dream’s content.
In most lucid dreams, awareness that the dream is not real begins midway through the dream, often when the dreamer realizes that some element of the dream is improbable. People frequently wake up at this point, but people who have practiced lucid dreaming may be able to begin dreams with conscious awareness that they are dreaming. Lucid dreaming training programs frequently claim to help dreamers exert significant control over their dreams or use their dreams to work through issues in their waking lives.
Lucid Dreaming Uses
Lucid dreaming is not typically a part of mainstream psychological treatment. However, lucid dreaming may still offer some benefits. For people plagued by nightmares or who dream of traumatic events, gaining control over one’s dream life can make sleep more restful and inspire a sense of control. Other people may use lucid dreaming to prepare for real-life events. For example, a person who is terrified of saying the wrong thing in a job interview may benefit from practicing the interview via lucid dreaming. Some people attempt lucid dreaming simply to make their night life more interesting, to act out fantasies, or to experience different identities.
Strategies to Achieve Lucid Dreaming
Reality testing is among the most popular strategies to induce a lucid dream. Dreamers remind themselves to test their dreams before going to sleep and then, while dreaming, may remember to check to see if things are occurring in the dream that are not occurring in real life.
Planning ahead for lucid dreams is also a popular strategy. Dreamers repeatedly envision the dream they want to have while sleeping, and then they contemplate the dream as they are falling asleep.
There are also several devices available that purport to enable users to have lucid dreams, though these devices have not been scientifically tested or verified.
Lucid Dreaming in Movies
The possibilities for lucid dreaming have frequently come up in film, often with characters exploring the possibility of creating an alternative reality through lucid dreaming.
In the 2001 film Vanilla Sky, the main character, David Aames, decides to embark on a permanent lucid dreaming experiment after being terribly injured in an accident and losing the woman he loves. The film explores the value of living the perfect life as opposed to living an authentic, real life.
In Waking Life, a man is in a perpetual state of lucid dreaming, often engaging in discussions about philosophy, religion, and the nature of reality. He ultimately realizes that he might be engaging in lucid dreaming because he is actually dead.
Some viewers of The Matrix, a movie in which a man enters a dreamlike alternative world, argue that the movie is actually about lucid dreaming.
- LaBerge, S., & Rheingold, H. (1991). Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
- Lucid Dreaming FAQ. (n.d.). Lucid Dreaming Frequently Asked Questions Answered by The Lucidity Institute. Retrieved from http://www.lucidity.com/LucidDreamingFAQ2.html.
- Turner, R. (n.d.). Lucid dreaming movie reviews. World of Lucid Dreaming. Retrieved from http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/lucid-dreaming-movies.html
Last Updated: 08-11-2015
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