Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lucid Dreaming

I’ve posted before about lucid dreaming. On my own blog. Lucid dreaming is when you consciously realize that you’re dreaming. Not everyone experiences such dreaming, but most folks have had at least one or two lucid episodes. I’ve actually had a lot of them, and I thought I’d post on the topic here at Novel Spaces. I’ve used my dreams often for inspiration in my writing, and lucid dreaming allows you to “experience” a story in a new way.

Lucid dreaming actually comes in two types. In the first type, you become aware that you are dreaming but can do nothing but observe the events that are unfolding. In the second type, you become aware that you are dreaming and can actually manipulate the dream. When I do become lucid during dreams, I am generally capable of the second type, of manipulating the images. That can be a lot of fun. As you might imagine.

The thing I like to do most when I realize that I’ve gone lucid is to “fly.” Sigmund Freud believed that flying dreams signified anxiety. That’s nonsense. At least for me. Flying is incredibly exhilarating. As soon as I realize I’m dreaming, I take off running for the nearest high point and jump off; I spread my arms and soar like a raptor. I run because I know I have only moments left in which to fly. This is because lucid dreaming primarily occurs only toward the end of the dream cycle, when one is already starting to climb up through the dream toward wakefulness.

Personally, I find that I cannot completely rewrite a dream when I’m lucid, but have to mold or change the images that are already present. In a recent dream, for example, I was in the basement of a building when I became lucid. It would have been nice to just “transport” myself to a mountaintop and fly from there, but I’ve tried it and I can’t make it happen. Instead, I took off running up some stairs, found a corridor, raced along it to an outside door, flung open the door and leaped through into the air.

I’ve also tried at various times to recreate specific people in my lucid dreams. I might want to see Lana, for example. But I’ve found that I can’t build something from nothing. If I’m walking alone on a deserted highway, I can’t just “conjure” Lana to appear beside me. If there is another person there I can “transform” them into Lana fairly easily.

A couple of years back, while in a lucid dream, I decided I wanted to speak to my father, who has been dead since I was 13. I was standing just outside a forest and I tried to “force” my dad’s image to appear at the edge of the woods. I concentrated very hard, but what I got was not a person, only a sort of “lightness” against the dark background that was human shaped. Like a photographic negative. Yet, I sensed that it was my father and I could speak to him. For a brief moment I felt able to reach across the years and communicate with him as an adult, in a way I was never able to do while he was alive.

I still remember how sad it left me when the dream dissolved, like a floating bubble touching something sharp. I never fought harder to hold onto a dream. But it was a dream, and it ended as all dreams must. And today is the first time I’ve written about it. I’m not sure why, but maybe just because that’s what writers do.

30 comments:

Ron Scheer said...

Thanks for writing about this. I've had a very few lucid dreams, and they work just like yours. I've also awakened from many dreams with deeply powerful feelings that I don't have while waking. The strength of those feelings has sometimes really disturbed me.

The connection you make between dreaming and writing reminds me of a comment I heard Robert Bly make once in a conference - that our dreams prove that we are all storytellers.

Ty Johnston said...

I don't have lucid dreams naturally, but to some extent you can train yourself to have lucid dreams. More than 20 years ago in college I took a philosophy class dealing with death and dying issues, which included such things as out-of-body experiences, lucid dreaming, dying and coming back, etc. As part of the class, I took part in an experiment with some kind of scientist (can't remember what type ... maybe a biologist of some kind? ... I do know it wasn't something questionable such as a parapsychologist). Anyway, this scientist told us of different techniques that could potentially bring about out-of-body experiences and/or lucid dreaming. Most of this stuff is more basic than one might think ... certain forms of meditation, keeping a pen and paper next to your bed so you can write stuff down as soon as you wake, relaxing certain ways in bed, comfortable temperature, etc.

I definitely had several unusual experiences. The class, and the instructor, believed they were true out-of-body experiences, but I thought of them as lucid dreams. I didn't "feel" awake, if that makes sense, but felt as if I were conscious within a dream. I flew around a lot, went through walls, etc. Charles, much like your own experiences, I couldn't just make anything happen, like people appear, etc.

It's been years since I've studied such, though I did spend a good while reading material from Robert A. Monroe.

And (wow, this is a long comment), in a matter of serendipity, just last night I had a dream I'm seriously thinking of turning into a Christmas novella with hopes of having it done and ready for self-pubbing on Amazon by the middle of December at the latest. Basically, without giving too much away, I dreamed I was the Scrooge character in a modern, 21st century version of "A Christmas Carol." 'Course I'd change lots of things around to make it a working, better story (I hope).

Ty Johnston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the walking man said...

What does it mean when every time you wake up you only have memory of blackness. No imagery at all, just light less space? And you go from sleep to wake in the pop of the ey sleep Bang awake.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ron Scheer, that’s a good point about dreams proving that we’re all storytellers. Indeed so. I often have very clear storyline dreams and some I’ve written up as stories, or pieces of stories. Some remain to be written.

Ty Johnston, at times in my life I’ve made greater efforts to remember my dreams and to experience lucid dreaming, typically when I’m off work and can afford to perhaps miss a bit of sleep. Practice and concentration do indeed help, and I’ve even found that I can convince myself at times (with effort) to dream about something I want to dream about. I’ve got notes on some of my dreams that I think would make good stories that I need to get written up.

Mark, I don’t imagine the blackness means anything. People do spend less time dreaming as they get older. Many people also do not remember their dreams. That’s because many folks do not wake up fully after dream periods end. I tend to waken quickly and be pretty alert, although not quite “bang awake” as you describe it here.

Evan Lewis said...

I have one about every other month. Wish I could have more. I always go through a period of suspecting I'm asleep before becoming sure enough to take action. By then, it seems I'm pretty close to a waking state, and have only a few minutes of fun before my eyes pop open.

Charles Gramlich said...

Evan, I know. I regret that I have such little time to play by the time I catch on.

John Harmon said...

Okay, have any of you guys ever had a dream where you're reading a book? You actually see the pages turning and the text on the page?

I had a dream about 15 years ago in which I read from beginning to end a Stephen King novel, one that has yet to come into existence. Fortunately, I remembered the gist of the story and it became my short story "When the Cows Come Home." It's nowhere near as good as something King would do, I admit, but I've still always felt guilty as if I plagiarized from the man.

ArtSparker said...

Haven't done this for some years, but I do remember flying was a frequent choice when I did.

Charles Gramlich said...

John, I've actually had a fair number of dreams where I'm reading, and often I'm reading something that in my dream is just amazing. Yet, when I wake it isn't quite as amazing as I'd thought during the dream. I have written poems in my dreams too.

Artsparker, flying is always good. I haven't had a good flying dream in a while.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Very few lucid dreams for me and when I have had one it usually is because something is too foolish to my eyes rather than something important. When I fly in a dream, I flap rather than soar. And I mean flap with my arms folded in half. I wonder what that means.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patty, I usually fly by just holding my arms out to the side and turning them this way and that to gain or lose altitude. I have flown with my hand over my forehead and moving up and down to make course adjustments. This style of flying is worth a post on its own.

Demon Hunter said...

That's awesome that you're able to manipulate your dreams. The story I'm working on for NanoWrimo involves dreams. Awesome.

And that was amazing that you got to see your dad and communicate. Thanks for sharing, Charles.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's wild you were able to see your father. I often become aware in dreams, usually when I realize something is out of order. The anomaly either rights itself or I wake up. My wife says I know how to ruin a perfectly good dream!

Natasha Fondren said...

Wow, that's so cool! I wish I could do more of that. Last one I remember, I was in Taekwondo class. It was wonderful. (I loved Taekwondo.) It felt SO real!

Then Glenn woke me up, and I was so bummed!

Terence Taylor said...

Well, the number of responses shows that this topic strikes a lot of folks! I had a lucid dream a few years ago after seeing Waking Life, in part about that, and I was in a restaurant having lunch with friends when a six story blue cowboy walked by, to no reaction by anyone. I went outside, and watched him recede into the distance and remember saying to myself, this has to be a dream, things like that don't happen in real life. If I am dreaming, I thought, then I can fly, so I spread my arms, lifted off, and the alarm woke me up.

A few days or a week later, after excitedly telling friends about it, I had another dream when I realized I was dreaming and immediately went to sex(a topic of discussion in Waking Life) and had this erotic but surreal mix of body parts. I decided that was a waste of good dream time and wouldn't waste a good lucid dream again.

The last so far was being in a large room with a woman who was semi-conscious, and needed help -- though she was a stranger to me, I sensed that I cold help her and consciously decided to go to her side, bathe her and saw that it helped -- this was in the middle of the years I was primary caregiver for my mother, fading from Alzheimer's, and the metaphor was obvious as I woke, feeling I had done, and with my mom, was doing the right thing. It was the most therapeutic a lucid dream has been for me, and I look forward to more.

As to waking from blackness, that sounds too wildly Dean Koontz for me to analyze, but I am curious if that has always been the case or only recently...

KeVin K. said...

I know I'm not writing enough when I start remembering my dreams. I go for months without remembering a dream. (I would say without dreaming, but every mind dreams, whether it retains the memory or not.) If I start remembering dreams, I figure I'm wasting muse and replace some of my sleep time with writing time.

I've never dreamed in color nor with particular detail. (Come to think of it, the same's been said of my writing....) Sometimes when I'm particularly stressed and can not fall completely asleep, I have those half-awake replays of the day. Those "what I should have said" things. On occasion I've had to step in and do thought stopping* to get some rest. These episodes are not dreams.

I used to have a coworker who believed she had a gift for interpreting people's dreams. I'd keep her entertained for hours trying to unravel the meaning of stuff I made up.

(The mental health guy in me has to say: This is not an endorsement of thought stopping as a cure. Thought stopping is a psychological field splint. Like immobilizing a hiker's broken ankle until you can get her off the mountain and have the ankle attended to properly. Thought stopping suppresses a thought without dealing with the cause. It just puts something you will need to deal with on hold until you are ready to deal with it.)

BTW: On the off-chance you might only *think* you're dreaming, Charles, I'd use some caution with that running-jump-off-the-highest-point thing.

Liane Spicer said...

Intriguing post, Charles. I'm endlessly fascinated by the complexity of the dream state(s).

I have lucid dreams now and then, but invariably wake up disgruntled when I try to manipulate them. And I've had poems and stories delivered to me whole while dreaming. The difference between these and regular dreams seems to be the uncannily high level of recall when I awaken.

Charles Gramlich said...

Demon Hunter, dreams are just flat out cool. I enjoy mine so much. Thanks for the kind words.

Alex J. Cavanaugh, I fight like heck to stay in dreams sometimes but we always have to wake up at some point. I read a great novel by John D. MacDonald years ago called “Wine of the dreamers.” Very modern. A kind of matrix like story in some ways.

Natasha Fondren, I tell Lana not to wake me up if she suspects I’m dreaming, especially if I’m having a nightmare. I want the experience.

Terence Taylor, I only rarely have lucid dreams that have therapeutic elements to them. But it’s memorable when they occur. The “waking from blackness” does sound kind of Koontzian. I almost always am having some kind of mental experience when I awaken. That’s a wild dream about the blue cowboy.


KeVin K., if I’m really physically or mentally exhausted I will either not remember my dreams or will remember only fragments, but when I’m rested I remember them very well. I generally doubt the accuracy of dream interpretation. Most dreams probably don’t have much deep meaning, and if they do only the dreamer is likely to be able to understand them. I couldn’t interpret someone else’s dreams, only my own. As for the jumping off the highest point, I’m OK as long as I’m dreaming or sober!

Liane Spicer, I know it’s a fascinating experience, and enjoyable to talk about. I tend to recall best those dreams that do have clear story lines, and I have a lot of those. The problem with the lucid dream is that it occurs so close to wakefulness anyway that the lucid state doesn’t usually last very long before you wake up.

Jodi MacArthur said...

Charles, great post and topic. The dream abuot your father is very touching and i"m glad you were able to connect in way that you've been unable too in your adult life. I'm curious if you are able to push the restart button on your dream if you find it's not going the way you prefer aka nightmare? I do this all the time, but often I make the same mistakes I made in the first dream, so then I'll restart again...on and on it goes all night until I get it right. Sort of like problem solving.

Rick said...

Hi Charles! Loved your choice of topic and listening to your experiences with it. One of my teachers told me long ago that embedded within lucid dreaming was the opportunity to bring back both understanding and power into the waking state. She was, as they say, an intriguing woman.

David J. West said...

I have borrowed a number of things for writing from regular and Lucid dreams, course the lucid ones are always more fun.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Charles, I was actually considering making my next post about dreaming, before I read your post. I am a lucid dreamer and I can both manipulate the dreams and observe. Sometimes I get writing inspiration from them and wake up and write like crazy. Sometimes when I reread it later it's a bunch of garbage, other times,it's very clear and useful.

I can also manipulate what I dream about by imagining a story before falling asleep, but it soon takes a path of its own.

Lot's of people I talk to say they don't dream. I think every body dreams when they sleep, but only remember the ends of the dreams when the sleep is interrupted by waking. I assume that I remember most of my dreams because my sleep is interrupted so often.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi MacArthur, I've acttually only tried once to sort of reset a dream. One night, and I think it was because of some meds I took, I got locked into this one particular nightmare and it kept recycling all night. I woke up several times and tried to essentially reset my mind but wasn't able to do so.

Rick, I do also think that's possible, and next time I have enough time to get good sleep I'm gonna try to induce some more lucid dreams and see what happens.

David J. West, there are several scenes in Cold in the Light that came to me in dreams, at least in their original forms.

Jewel Amethyst, I wake up often during the night too, and I'm sure that's why I remember my dreams well. It does appear that everyone dreams, but those who don't wake up after their dreams have very poor recall most of the time.

Steve Malley said...

The end of that post really moved me, man. Thanks. :)

laughingwolf said...

manipulating the dream is what i do as well... as a teen, i'd heard in 'flying', if one hits the ground, one dies... curious to prove/disprove it, i forced myself to plummet from a great height, and hit... but it was gently... and i found myself on the floor of my bedroom, unhurt and alive....

wv: bless

jodi said...

Charles, I do not experience these types of dreams, but I love that you saw your father! Very cool..

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, thanks, my friend.

laughingwolf, I've never crashed while flying but I have died in my dreams several times with no ill effects in reality.

jodi, Many people don't. I don't know what the differences are between thsoe who do and don't.

X. Dell said...

Fascinating subject. It's really interesting what you could control, and what you couldn't in these dreams.

Charles Gramlich said...

X-dell, I'm trying to come up with a theory about that and I think I have one but I'll need more time before I write it up.