I’m a dreamer….not in terms of Peace on Earth, winning the lottery, etc. but more in the line of trying to keep an eye on my own internal, nocturnal landscape. When I wake up, if I remember a dream, I write it down. I have dream diaries going back about a decade now, and take a Jungian approach to what Freud called ‘the royal road to the unconcious’.
I’ll occasionally go back over my diaries, look for patterns or recurring issues, think things through and generally get some good insight in to my inner workings by examining my dreams. I’ve also been known to do a little analysis work for friends and family.
So, I was interested to read this article on the BBC website looking at the area of lucid dreaming. In case you’ve not come across the concept, the idea is to condition yourself to be able to take control of your dreams by bringing yourself to a state of semi-wakefullness when you’re dreaming that will then allow you to affect the dircetion of the dreams to soem degree whilst still staying in a dreaming state. This can be done (with practice) by a fair percentage of the population, and there are now technological aids that will either make you more likely to enter a lucid state when going to sleep by a light / sound display or that will play a sound, give you a mild electrical shock, flash a light, etc. by detecting when you are dreaming.
So far, so good – sounds like a good source of cheap, realistic (albeit rather unpredictable) entertainment! When I was a kid I had a few episodes of lucidity when dreaming – that moment when you realise ‘Oooh…I’m dreaming….can I fly?’ or those nightmares where by sheer will you manage to wake yourself up before unpleasantnesses occur. And I quite fancied the idea of lucid dreaming when I read about it in my teens, but didn’t follow through – back then the technology was less easy to come by and my capability for any sort of mental discipline was….scarce.
Then I started recording my dreams, got in to Jungian psychology, and decided against the idea of ever ‘going lucid’. Why?
Well, I believe that my dreams are essentially of three sorts. The first is reactive stuff – I watch Aliens on TV before going to bed, eat a cheese and marmite sandwich and then have nightmares. Or my cat lays across my chest and I dream of being suffocated by a cat…
The second is the ‘bread and butter’ dreams of my sub-conscious mind trying to tell me something, to varying degrees of success. These reflect my inner anxieties, concerns, etc. Sometimes I get dreams that I recognise as anxiety dreams when I feel OK – then after a few minutes thought I realise that there are a few things causing me concern. I find that much of the time when I address these issues in my conscious mind then the dreams disappear or change form. Job done, I guess.
The third, and rarest, type of dreams for me are what Jung called the ‘Big Dreams’ – these are the ones where for days afterwards I’m chewing it over. the ones where I may wake up in tears of joy or sadness. The ones that really speak from deep down inside me.
And the latter two types of dream I value the most – the unpredictability, the weirdness, the insights. None of which would come were I to be in control of my dreams to even a small degree by lucid dreaming. These are the dreams that tell me stuff that I conciously don’t realise about myself, and I wouldn’t be the man I am today (for better or worse!!) had I not had these dreams. Spending my dreaming hours in various ‘fun activities’ would be a waste.
And we don’t know the long term impact of taking control of such a fundamental part of sleep. For very competent lucid dreamers would there be massive ‘American Werewolf’ problems – in the film ‘An American Werewolf in London’ a character wakes from a nightmare, then after a while he finds he’s still dreaming – a dream within a dream. Would we get people starting to question whether they are awake or whether they have reached some high degree of lucidity?
Quite a bit to ponder; for those who dream lucidly, dream wisely.