What is a lucid dream? The easiest way to define this is: when you are dreaming, and you know it. You are lucid. (Which means having clear perception, or awareness and understanding of what is going on around you.) Most people occasionally have dreams wherein they know they are dreaming. That is a lucid dream. The Lucidity Institute has a great FAQ section that explains this and other similar phenomena.
Why are they interesting? Some people have learned to control them.
Some people can control the dream. That is dream control. It is a bit more exciting than just lucid dreaming.
What can they control in their dreams? Everything. Anything.
To most of us, a dream is like a movie, except we are the main character. We watch it, and react to it. Kind of. Our actions and reactions are often ‘scripted’, meaning they are things we never really would have done, but we do them anyway. This invokes feelings that would be associated with actually doing such a thing. We feel the anger, the hatred, the frustration, the lust, whatever, and then when we wake up, and we feel horrible about it, because we would never actually do those things.
To the lucid dreamer who can control a dream, it is more like being a wizard in another world. You can pretty much do anything you want. If you decide you want you old car from high school back, *poof* there it is. Want that girlfriend/boyfriend in it too? *poof* And they seem real. Their personality is what you would expect it to be. And if it’s not? Tell them what to do, and they do it. (Yup. That, too.)
In researching Lucid Nightmares, I came across many posts by people who lucid dream. There is a whole community out there, exploring the possibilities and trying to help one another learn better control, or just plain learn how. One thing that stuck in my mind was a guy who was tired of having sex in his lucid dreams. The answer the community gave him? Stop trying to control your dreams.
This sounds like an obvious answer, but it’s not. I am no expert, having had only a handful of lucid dreams ever, but from what I can tell, if you become too adept at inducing controlled lucid dreams, you seem to lose your ability to have ‘normal’ dreams. In other words, every night when you go to sleep, it’s a lot like sitting in front a television set with nothing on, until you pick the channel. You have to decide what will happen.
The flip side of that is lucid dreams are very memorable, after all you’re lucid. So if you have a lot of lucid dreams, but you cannot control them, you are stuck ‘living’ through the dream. If you have reoccurring nightmares, this can be very unpleasant. I guess if you have reoccurring sex dreams you don’t want, it could become unpleasant, too. That is just a guess. I would like to do further research into that area…
These examples are not true for everyone, and I am sure experts will disagree with me, but those are common threads I have encountered.
Another common thread is people thinking they are having lucid dreams, when they are not. Often people think that just because they remember a dream, or it was very realistic, it was a lucid dream. A lucid dream is when you are dreaming, and you know you are dreaming, and you are aware of what is going on in the dream.
Dreams are such a complicated and varied subject that whole professions are built around them, but here are two for illustration to show how it gets confusing.
The False Awakening is the dream you see in the horror movies all the time. Killer attacks, girl wakes up- oh it was just a dream. Killer is what woke her up, attacks, girl wakes up again -oh they were both dreams. It is the dream wherein you dream you woke up, but the dream continues.
Out of body experiences (OBE) are reported most often by people dying. This phenomena doesn’t really fit with dreams, but is often mixed into the subject, as many people believe them to just be a type of lucid dream. Are they really out of their body watching the surgeons operate? Or are they having a lucid dream about the operation that they know is taking place?
The lines get blurred between what is a dream and what is not. Sometimes you can be only partially lucid. I know someone who does not have lucidity in his dreams, but when he has nightmares, he wills a ladder to appear, climbs it, jumps off, and wakes up. Obviously, in order to accomplish this, he must reach a point where he realizes that he is dreaming, but for the most part, he does not.
The premise behind my novel Lucid Nightmares started out a bit the opposite of that. The story was originally intended to be about lucid dreaming to the point where the protagonist loses the ability to tell if he is actually awake or asleep. This idea came from a phenomena called a pre-lucid dream, wherein the dreamer is asking themselves ‘am I awake or dreaming?’
But, as most of my stories are wont to do, the story changed and evolved as I wrote it, and that particular idea moved out of the spotlight and into the sidelines. That happens often because of the way write. I’m what is known as a ‘pantser’. I write by the seat of my pants instead of sticking to a set outline. But that is a different topic.