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What are lucid dreams?

Dreams… Some of us believe they have significant meanings hidden behind them and some of us believe that they just occur as a result of our brain not being able to shut off while we sleep. But what about Lucid dreams? A lucid dream is a dream during which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. Lucid dreamers are able to control what happens within their dreams due to the high levels of awareness. The difference between normal dreams and lucid dreams are that lucid dreams have been studied for many years and as a result many different theories have emerged around this topic. 

Professor Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist highlights that “much of the brains activity is totally unconscious, just as predicted by Freud Sigmond.” He continues on to add that humans are “in a constant battle between our egotistical desires and our conscience” and this is seen in brain scans. This means that it is in our nature to contemplate over whether we want something for our own personal gain because it generates pleasure or whether we want something because it is in alignment with whom we are within our conscience. For example you might want to go and binge eat your favourite sushi because that will feel good for you but you might debate about this because you know that it is not good for you and your entire being due to health concerns. This debate happens quite literally within out brains and Kaku highlights that the physiological process has been captured in brain scans. 

As of 2013 the Max Plant Institute in Germany lucid dreams became declared as a scientific fact because they were able to show that lucid dreams are testable and they can be reproduced. When we dream we are all 100% paralysed meaning that we cannot move our body at all while we are asleep. The Institute in Germany was able to prove that lucid dreaming is real by asking their test subjects to clench both fists while dreaming. Scans from this study showed that the conscious brain send signals to the body requesting for the fists to become clenched. This means that the test subjects had consciousness whilst dreaming proving that lucid dreaming is real. 

In Eastern culture lucid dreaming has been practiced for many centuries. For example in ancient Indian Hindu culture there is the practice of yoga Nidra and the Tibetan Buddhist culture there is the practice of dream yoga. There were also early references to this form of dreaming an ancient Greek writing. The philosopher Aristotle wrote ‘often when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness, which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream’.

 In addition to this a letter written by Saint Augustine of Hippo in 415 AD captivates the story of a dreamer, Doctor Gennadius, whereby lucid dreaming is referred to. Lastly in 1867 French Sinologist Marie-Jean-Leon, Marquid d’Hervey de Saint Denys (yes this is all one name) anonymously published ‘Les Reves et Les Moyens de Les Diriger; Observations Pratiques whereby he stated that anyone can learn how to lucid dream. There are many others who refer to lucid dreaming such as Cecelia Green, Dr Keith Hearne, J. Allen Hobson, Frederik van Eeden and more but these are the historical examples I will be focusing on today.

A study conducted by Stephen LaBerge over a period of 50 years concluded that 55% of 24,282 people claimed that they had experienced lucid dreaming. Around 23% of that population said that they experienced it on a regular basis. It is said to be more common among adolescents than adults. A 2015 study showed that those who practice meditation are more likely to have lucid dreams. Another study in 2017 published in Neuroscience of Consciousness found that: “Lucid dreaming is a hybrid state of consciousness with features of both walking and dreaming” – Julian Mutz & Amir-Homayoun Javadi. 

Those who suffer from nightmares could benefit from learning how to lucid dream and this was proven in 2006 whereby lucid dreaming therapy was found successful in reducing the frequency of nightmares. This was done through mastering the technique, being exposed to the idea and performing lucidity exercises. An Australian psychologist names Milan Colic applied aspects of narrative therapy into clients dreams in order to successfully reduce nightmares, depression, self-mutilation and a range of other problems. 

Other people who can benefit from lucid dreaming might be those who are looking to get in touch with their creative abilities according to Deirdre Barrett. Her book ‘The Committee of Sleep’ captures the experiences of some lucid dreamers who learned how to remember specific practical goals such as artists looking for inspiration or computer programmers looking for a screen with their desired code. It is important to note though that most of these dreamers failed to recall all of the information from their dreams upon waking. 

This is why many people who believe that dreams have significant symbols within them tend to keep a dream diary and upon waking up they choose to immediately record every detail about their dream so that they do not forget. I personally love to keep track of my dreams whether they are normal dreams or lucid ones because I do believe in some aspects of Freudian psychology. This means that I try to pay close attention to my unconscious mind wherever I can as well as my conscious mind, as I understand that my unconscious mind has the most influence over my actions. 

Michio Kaku stated that one day “we might be able to brain scan the brain as you dream and put it on a screen.” He continued on to add “in which case somebody will be able to see you dream and know the direction of the dream and you are conscious of the process.” He highlights how this takes the movie ‘inception’ to a whole other level as the concept can easily be achieved. In the modern age of technology I wonder whether this would enable multiple people to hack our dreams? When statements like these are made it also gets me thinking about whether movies like “The BFG” and “Avatar” were trying to convey this concept in the way that they did because of the scientific facts that we know about lucid dreaming?

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