We are all curious. It seems to be an inherent part of our nature to discover and learn. It took me a long time to figure out what experience had made me curious recently. However, I realised there was an experience I had recently that had generated a great deal of curiosity for me, lucid dreaming. After this experience, I decided I wanted to figure out as much as I could about this strange, yet awesome, experience and so I researched it. A lucid dream is a dream in which you become aware of the fact you are dreaming, and can hence observe and exercise some degree of control over your dream (Powell 2015).
This control enables a dreamer to experience anything they can imagine, psychiatrist Professor J Allan Hobson regarding flight as one of the most popular experiences initiated by lucid dreamers (Powell 2015). There are many ways to train yourself into lucid dreaming. The most common techniques tend to involve awareness you are dreaming and visualisation. One common technique of visualisation used for this is to tell yourself that you will lucid dream before going to sleep. You must then tell yourself what you want to dream about, and visualise this repeatedly until you fall asleep (Shane 2017). Furthermore, if for whatever reason you are woken out of a dream, visualising yourself back in the dream as you fall back asleep will increase your chances of having a lucid dream (Shane 2017). The second popular technique to induce lucid dreaming involves various methods to make yourself aware of when you are dreaming.
There are multiple tips you can follow in both dream and reality to achieve this awareness. One such tip is to keep a dream journal. This involves writing down memorable aspects of your dreams as soon as you wake from them. Through this, you start to notice reoccurring aspects your dreams, and so may start to be able to recognise these signs while you are in a dream and make yourself aware you are dreaming (Shane 2017). Lucid dreams are also made much easier to initiate when you perform frequent reality checks while awake. For example, while walking to the train station, you start acknowledging your surroundings, taking note of what things look like, their colour, and so on. Ensuring you are frequently observing your surroundings and their realism is a habit which will translate into your dreams. This will enable you to recognise what is and isn’t real in your surroundings in a dream, and thus gain awareness in that dream (Shane 2017). There are also multiple reality checks you can perform in a dream to make yourself aware you are dreaming. These include:
- Trying to read something – upon the first or second glance at something with writing in a dream, you will realise the words are gibberish.
- Looking up at the sky – you will notice the sky will look artificial, as though someone has painted it.
- Look down at your feet – often your feet will not be touching the ground.
- Look at your reflection – will be distorted in some way, for example, exaggerated or stretched features.
- Grab the skin on your hand and pull – often your skin will have a ridiculous amount of elasticity (Shane 2017).
Powell states that studying brain activity during a lucid dream “could help unlock some of the inner workings of our minds and help (scientists) to better understand mental health problems” (2015, para.6). Lucid dreaming may even provide the knowledge to allow scientists to manage conditions such as Schizophrenia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (Powell 2015). Furthermore, in addition to helping people wake up happier, lucid dreaming could also potentially be used to treat phobias and disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress (Powell 2015). Thus, whilst lucid dreaming may provoke risks such as overly-vivid nightmares and sleep paralysis (Shane 2017), the potential and known benefits of lucid dreaming seem to outweigh these risks.
The concept of lucid dreaming genuinely intrigued me. I had no idea of its uses, what caused it, or really, what it even was before having experienced it. However, curiosity from this experience led me to research the topic and make completely new discoveries about it. I believe this demonstrates that, in addition to being a primary part of our nature, curiosity can be incredibly beneficial as it leads us to new discoveries, experiences, and knowledge.
Powell, J 2015, ‘The Power of Lucid Dreaming’, Good Health (Australian Edition), p.62.
Shane 2017, How To Control Your Dreams – Lucid Dreaming, Online video, 3 February, Shane Dawson, viewed 1 March 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7EeZw2F4hA>.