LUCID DREAMING

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     As I began researching I came across a new study of dreaming called lucid dreaming. I found this to be one of the most interesting aspects of the dream world. Lucid dreaming is described as the process in which you are sleeping and dreaming that you become consciously aware that you are dreaming. In this state you are now able to "access the conscious attributes of memory and volition while participating in the events and emotions of the ongoing dream" (Van de Castle 439). This study sparked an interest in me due to the fact that if lucid dreaming is true then there is a whole new door that would be opened to the dream world.  With the study of lucid dreaming, if it is true, then could it be possible for us to understand the full range of our minds and consciousness? One of the most influential psychotherapists in lucid dreaming was Carl Jung. As stated before in my paper he  was the first to propose the theory of lucid dreaming by saying that "we are dreaming all the time and it is only distractions of waking life that keeps us unaware" (Fontana 18). If that were true I believe a whole new dimension of our brains could be opened. By that I mean when we are lucid dreaming we are consciously able to fly and do things that our natural bodies inhabit us from doing. If we were allowed to place ourselves in a lucid dreaming state at any moment we wanted what would the world turn into? Could we individual in our own minds experience our own euphoric pleasure inside our mind? Could we act as our own individual therapists and offer our own selves what we needed? 

     Scientists have proven that Jung was somewhat correct in saying that we are dreaming all the time. Scientific research shows that physical mechanisms of R.E.M. sleep are only slightly functionally inhabited during the day, probably because of other physical or daily life stimulants (Fontana 18). In past religions people were unaware of the actual physical act of lucid dreaming so they referred to these dreams in a very mystical light (Fontana 18). People can practice to somewhat control their dreams during lucid dreaming it is impossible to have full control. Some people believe that our worlds in lucid dreams are only part of a "fake world" (Fontana 19). There are cases of dreams actually resembling being awake are sometimes mistaken for lucid dreams but this occurrence is known as "false awakening" (Fontana 19). False awakening is when dreams are "imbued with a vivid clarity similar to that of lucid dreams, yet the dreamer is not aware of dreaming, but believes that he or she is awake a dream a great deal" of getting up and having real life actions (Fontana 19). Lucid dreaming has been a valuable assistance to researchers trying to determine whether dream events occupy a normal time span or whether they condense time (Fontana 19).

A better way to describe lucid dreaming was said by an unknown author "if dreaming is considered to be an altered state of consciousness, than lucid dreaming can be an altered state of dreaming" (Fontana 20).  I believed that lucid dreaming will be my biggest clue into understanding if dreams are important to understand. If it is possible to be a part of your dreams than our mental capacities can be unlimited. We could fully understand and take part of what our minds are trying to tell us during the middle of the night when we are dreaming. So what happens when we have lucid dreams? We already know that it means to have control over our dreams. But what does it mean to have control? Two scientists named Lynne Levitan and Stephen LaBerge defined lucid dreaming as having enhanced control over their dreams. Control defined by them was "the ability to determine or influence the course of events" (www.lucidity.com). As discussed before in my paper was the ancient view of incubation. Incubation has been compared to being the same as lucid dreaming but according to Levitan and Laberge, incubation is more like predetermination. Predetermination is another way of dreaming in which you decide upon your setting or topic of the dream prior to sleep (www.lucidity.com). Ancient incubation rituals priests or shamans picked and thought of a dream topic in which they believed a higher power would give them answer to.
   
     There are several opinions about the aspect of lucid dreaming. At one extreme stand the view is that sleep in itself is defined as unconscious, meaning lack of "cognition" (www.lucidity.com). Without consciousness clearly one can not consciously will anything. Another kind of opinion is that dreams are to help people achieve better psychological balance. Their theories are that dreams are just things that happen to people (www.lucidity.com). One dream expert named Ullman Zimmerman was asked if we can actually control our own dreams. His response was " if we look upon a dream as a kind of natural resource flowing within us, if liken it to a river, a river shaped by our life and experience, then its flow will not be changed simply by having someone on the shore urge a new direction on it. But if the person on the shore does the work necessary to make a change in direction possible, the flow will be altered as desired". This analogy was meant to show that there has to be more than conscious intent to influence the flow. There has to be a genuine emotional investment (www.lucidity.com). If one were to be able to exude an immense amount of control and actually become lucid in their dreams what is the difference? What is one supposed to feel and see? Hugh Calloway, an English contemporary, who was the first to explore the "aesthetic contours" of the lucid state in dream, described the occurrence in his first lucid dream.  He wrote "Instantly the vividness of life increased a hundred fold. Never had the sea and the sky and trees shone with such glamorous beauty; even the commonplace houses seem alive and mystically beautiful. Never had I felt so absolutely well, so clear-brained, and so inexpressibly free!" (Psychology Today).

Lucid dreamers often speak of the thrill of observing their own dreams. I had read many times that with lucid dreaming one could work therapeutically through ones own issues. If this was the case then surely dreams were trying to express feelings and meanings in our unconscious that should surely be discovered. Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious" and today all forms of psychotherapy use the patients remembered dreams in therapy (Psychology Today). Only through lucid dreaming can a patient confront difficult emotional issues and try to resolve them. One unknown therapists described how working with unresolved issues in a lucid state of dreaming would be an "intrapersonal psychotherapy breakthrough". One could be able to delve deeper and work one your own psychological fears and dilemmas first hand (Psychology Today). There can be a danger in trying to identify the source of your own problems due to the fact that one might mislead themselves. For example say that you were to dream of your brother and in this dream you confront your brother and confess to yourself that you have always feared your brother. But you could be missing the big picture meaning that it is not your brother that you fear but an aspect of yourself that your brother represents. In many instances you may be entirely shut off from your deeper emotions and may need a professional therapist to guide you in the right direction (Psychology Today). There is though several therapeutic advantages to lucid dreaming such as first creating an environment in which the dream ego is less afraid to threatening figures or situations and is more willing to confront them, second the ability to manipulate dream content and "get in touch with places, times and situations that may be desired by the dreamer", and third is the dreamer's ego is often capable of recognizing the complex dynamics that may occur within these interactions (Psychology Today).

     Although I can see lucid dreaming is very influential it must be taken very seriously according to what I have read. Just like with my example about the brother, with the wrong interpretation one may be giving themselves harmful and wrong advice. Lucid dreaming takes skill and work within ones own self in order to have that control. It is said that once one becomes lucid they usually will wake themselves up (www.lucidty.com). This aspect of lucid dreaming seemed very interesting to me and after my research I found that it seems to be the key in understanding our dreams and figuring out if they are useful. It would need to be taken very seriously and the right interpretation would be necessary. Even with the right interpretation could the meanings that are coming out of it still be true? There is no real answer to that question considering it would vary from person to person.