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Dreaming… Vivid and Lucid

Completely gratuitous youtube video of my favorite ‘dreaming’ song (which happens to be in Japanese…)

In the dream, I woke up, and looked around, and noted that it was about an hour before my alarm would go off. Then I wondered why he wasn’t home yet. “Does he know I’m here, and so he’s avoiding me?” I wondered. And then, there was panic. OMG. Why am I here? What am I doing here? I don’t want to see him! I need to get out of here before he arrives and finds me here!

And then I woke up, highly agitated, and re-assured myself that I was in my own bed, and remembered all the things I had done after work and before sleeping, to reassure myself that all my time had been spent and I hadn’t driven up to SF at all, much less gone to his house. I was home. I was safe. And so I sighed and went back to sleep. – Personal DreamLog, Oct. 14th, 2010

I’ve experienced Vivid dreams for most of my life. As a child, I used to dream that I would rescue my family from the bears. They would be gone, and I would have to go hunt down the cave, and then sneak in to free them from the large burlap bags they’d been tied up in when the bears were out. As I got older, sometimes the dreams would build upon one another. I would remember something in a dream that had taken place in another dream, and sometime after waking, I would be thinking it was a memory rather than a dream. Otherwise why would I have remembered it? It had to be real. Right? Or not…

As a teenager, I used to have recurring nightmares which were so vivid… I can still remember them in detail. It was always a scene of me being chased. I would be in a house (I can still remember the basic layout), and I was hiding from someone. Not a person, but more like a corporation or an agency. I would hear them arriving, and I would exit through the backdoor, or a window, as they entered through the main entrance. Then I would run. Endlessly, I would run, through all kinds of neighborhoods, over fences, through homes and businesses, I would run and run… until I woke up.

Vivid Dreams can be pleasant also, but the biggest downside to Vivid dreaming is that such intense dream states can deprive us of the actual REST we need to get while sleeping. If we are breathing more shallowly, because our hearts are beating faster and there is adrenaline pumping through our system, our body isn’t getting all of the rest and healing that it should be getting while we are asleep. I have noticed previously that I sometimes feel more rested after zoning out for several hours watching a TV show or reading a book, than I do after 8 hours of sleep. Sometimes, waking up after a particularly Vivid dream, I am unable to go back to sleep. More causes of Insomnia, I really do NOT need.

When I was about 14, I read an article in National Geographic about dreams. I wish I still had it, so I could share. I don’t remember everything it said, but what I mostly took away from it was that it was possible to have some control over my dreams by controlling what I thought about before falling asleep. What we are thinking about right before sleeping is what is most likely to get transferred to our subconscious.

This was wonderful, let me tell you. The article didn’t describe in depth how to go about it, but I was determined to try. I was tired of being terrorized in my sleep. I developed a mantra that included a trigger. I don’t remember it anymore, but was something along the lines of, ‘If I feel threatened, I will pray, and this will wake me up.’ Those words I repeated to myself endlessly each night as I lay in bed trying to sleep. Eventually, this DID yield results. This continued to work for me through my mid-twenties, even though I no longer repeated the mantra. Anytime I felt threatened in my dreams, I would pray… and then I would wake up.

Of course, that was nearly 20 years ago (oh dear, I have dated myself). These days, this is a well known thing about which a lot more is known, and we call the ability to exert conscious control over our dreams Lucid Dreaming. If Vivid Dreams are a problem, Lucid Dreaming can possibly be part of a solution. A friend suggested this to me today, after I recounted the dream I quoted at the beginning of this post. He said that he exerts control over his dreams by keeping the mindset that ‘This is MY MIND and I will control what goes on here!’

I wouldn’t claim to be GOOD at Lucid dreaming, but I have noticed in recent years that sometimes if I go back to sleep after waking up from an unsatisfying dream, I can kind of go back to the dream but be in control of it this time, and make it turn out how I want it to. Earlier this week, I had a dream about driving in my car, where it slid over a cliff… and as I was falling, I was thinking, “I’m glad this is a dream…” Between this and my friend’s suggestion, I’m thinking that further experimentation with Lucid Dreaming is in order.

Today, I found this article in wikiHow about How to Lucid Dream. It says that one good way to prepare for Lucid Dreaming is by learning to perform reality checks:

During the day repeatedly ask ‘Am I dreaming?’ and perform some reality checks whenever you remember. With practice, if it happens enough, you will automatically remember it during your dreams and do it.

I have never done this during a normal day, but I HAVE had dreams so Vivid, that I learned to perform spot reality checks after waking. When you dream that you are in your own bed, dressed in the clothing you are actually wearing, but are unable to move while something you cannot see controls you and taunts you, you learn to look for differences in the way the light is falling, and the slight differences in the creases in the curtains and the blankets to reassure yourself that this was ENTIRELY a dream, and NOT BASED in reality.

The wikiHow article recommends keeping a dream journal as step 2, which I had already begun doing recently, so I’m thinking that random reality checks during my waking hours are definitely what I need to work on right now. Yes, I’m thinking about Inception right now, too. I think the entire reason I wanted to see that movie is because I was fascinated by the way it depicted TOTAL control over a dream environment.

While the Wiki-How article gives some great suggestions for reality checks (see section #10), I’m thinking that I want an Inception-style token too. I have no idea what I would use though. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Rena | October 15, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I forgot to mention this in the main post. Yesterday, when I went to the National Geographic site, looking to see if perhaps the original article that I’d read on dreams was there, I found instead this article which talks about how smells can influence the types of dreams that we have: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/09/080923-smell-sleep.html

    I’m not sure I subscribe completely to the accuracy of this test, but it’s worth trying out. Last night, I tried burning some lavender incense in my room when I went to sleep. It didn’t smell much like lavender, but did leave a slightly smoky smell in the room. This morning’s dreams were about woodlands in the mountains.

    I have a feeling my brain has more of a tendency to incorporate the smells directly into my dreams rather than simply influence the emotional content of the dream. I’ve actually noticed this before with both sounds and smells – sometimes the dream will incorporate them, and when I wake up I say, ‘ah, no wonder I was dreaming about that…’

  2. Noelle Hokanson | September 25, 2012 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is fantastic blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

  3. Bachelor's Degree Hoods | September 25, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with with your website.

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