Lucid Dreams

There's a wikibook about Lucid Dreaming. Strictly speaking, a lucid dream is a dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming. I'm not particularly interested in lucid dreams themselves, but I'm fascinated with related (but nameless) topics. I mentioned anosognosia in a previous post, for example, and pointed out that the part that fascinated me the most was not being aware of one's own disability. Similarly, one of the resons I really liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which I haven't reviewed yet because my attempts at articulating why it was such a great film couldn't do it justice) was the uncertainty of what was "real" and what as "dream".

One of the reasons why people are interested in lucid dreams is because when one is aware that they are dreaming, they can (attempt to) control the dream. I find myself oten able to control my dreams (without getting into the philosophical question of what it means to "be in control"), without actually realizing I'm in a dream. Does this make me a lucid dream? Technically, no, but I'm sure many would agree that I'm experiencing something related.

The book also gives a name to something I've been experiencing before, but when I asked others about it, no one else seemed to have ever experienced it other than myself. The book calls it "False Awakenings".

Sometimes, in trying to leave a dream, you may find yourself waking up in your room. But once there, new things will start happening—for example, someone might visit, or you might wander outside because of an odd noise, or there might be objects all over the place. This happens mostly with nightmares or when your body is very tired, so your attempts to wake up cause false awakenings. It's a good idea to get in the habit of doing a reality check just after waking up so that you'll realize when this happens and become lucid.

When this happens repeatedly in the same night, it can be very tiring and often frightening. Not only can the belief of being fully awake in your room while being exposed to unusual situations be scary, but you also may start fearing you won't be able to actually wake up. And, depending on the content of the dream, since all your dreams tend to start in your room, you may fear what could happen once you actually do wake up.

This is both very annoying and very frightening to me, because I often start to panic, and fear that I will never wake up, or that I will go insane from lack of stimuli and isolation (since I will always, no matter what I do, be in my room, lying face up on my bed).

The book also lists some reality checks one can perform to try to determine whether one is dreaming or awake. This might raise the question: What if I'm dreaming that I'm reading this WikiBook, and so it only gives advice which is known to not work, thus falsely leading me to believe I'm awake? Obviously, this is an unsolvable problem. In theory, it's impossible to with certainty distinguish between dream and wakingness, but in practice, there are usually signs which would lead the average person into strongly suspecting they are in a dream. The wikibook offers advice on how to detect these signs.

  • Do sentences change when you read them? Read, turn away and repeat it to yourself, and then turn back and read it again. Do this twice.
  • Do you have perfect vision? This only works for people who have at least slightly blurry vision in the waking world.
  • Are your hands a strange colour, have too many fingers (sometimes they disappear and reappear when you try to count them!) or have other abnormalities? Can you push your finger through your other hand?

And so on. Each advice is given three numerical ratings: Reliability (how often do dreams fail this check), Speed (will you be able to perform this check before the dream ends), and Discreetness (if you aren't dreaming, how likely are you to embarass yourself by trying these checks). The book recomends, if you become a lucid dreamer, to try these reality checks frequently, even if you are "sure" that you are awake. The reason being that if you are likely to dismiss these checks in wakigness, you are just as likely to dismiss them in dreams.

One of the advice given is the "pinch" test, where you pinch yourself and test if you experience pain. This is given low reliability (though its benefit is high speed), because lucid dreams are often also vivid dreams. A vivid dream is a dream in which your brain receives sensations other than sight or hearing. I often have vivid dreams where I have the sense of touch, for example, and so the pinch test wouldn't work for me. I rarely have dreams where I can smell or taste things, so I could test dreams by trying to eat something, but this is a low speed test (i.e. I'd have to actually go and find some food, and by the time I find it, I might have woken up!)

The book cautions that if you start having trouble, while awake, of distinguishing which of your memories are from dreams and which are from wakingness, you should stop the techniques listed, so as to stop lucid dreaming. Well, I often have trouble distinguishing between these memories (I'm often angry at Kilree for things he's done in my dreams, for example), and I'm not intentionally trying to have lucid dreams, so I guess I'm pretty fucked (or is that "pretty fucked up"?)

The other problem is I that while I suspect whether I'm awake or not, I'm never really sure. When you have control of your dreams, you can want for something to happen, and it might happen.

I am lucid in my backyard, and the scene is nighttime, and pretty dark. I don't like the dark in my lucid dreams because I'm more likely to wake up, plus there could be a monster lurking at every corner. I look at the horizon, and concentrate on the sun rising out from below it. It doesn't happen at first, but I keep going and eventually I see a little light, and then the sun comes out. Strangely enough, the sun is white, but the surrounding sky is still black. I see a sky-blue ring around the white sun, and, in a quick motion, I point my hand to it and shout, ?Blue!?. While this seems stupid now, my command actually got the blue light to spread around the sky, creating a daytime effect.

However, one of my "problems" is that when I'm awake (I'm assuming I'm awake right now, and I want to avoid the philosophical question of how do I know for sure I'm awake), when I want something to happen, it also sometimes happens. I wanted to be financially well off. I wanted to be a drummer in a rock band. I wanted to have an Asian girlfriend. It all happened. So is this a dream, or reality?

The desires that come true in my dreams and the desires that come true in reality are different not in nature, but in degree. E.g. instead of having one Asian girlfriend, I want two, or nine, or a billion. If I want to attend an (otherwise) all girls highschool, and it actually happens, I usually start to suspect I may be in a dream. This isn't always a reliabl, however! Unless this is a false memory, I somehow managed to, in the waking-world, recruit an all-female army in which I was the leader.

The book lists some things which you can try in your dream world for fun, and rates them from easy to hard. Interestingly enough, I've never done anything listed in the "easy" category ("fly", "walk through walls", etc.) but I've frequently done the stuff in the "hard" category ("Have sex — multiple girls from your own fantasy world giving you pleasure in every way imaginable!").

Finally, the book mentions practical uses for lucid dreaming, such as practicing public speechs, or composing songs or poems. Let me warn you that, in my personal experience at least, my sense of aesthetics is extremely warped in a dream-state. More than once I've heard a joke that got me laughing uncontrollably which, when I woke up and remembered it and wrote it down, eventually found it to be not funny at all. Haven't tried composing music while dreaming yet though.

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