1 Aug 2010

Are You Dreaming?

The whole Inception hype is still going around, and I think a lot of people's minds have been blown by the movie. But more people are also becoming more interested in dreams, particularly lucid dreams(dreams in which you are conscious that you are dreaming, while dreaming). They've seen the guys in the movie do it several times with a special machine, but unfortunately we have no such equipment to help us consciously participate in our own dreams! Still, it is possible to initiate lucid dreaming, although it would take a LOT of practice and determination to achieve such a state.

I can say that in almost all your normal dreams, you just simply "go with the flow" of the dream, not realizing that you're actually dreaming, until you wake up. Then you act all surprised/bewildered/angry/frustrated etc. that your dream didn't last longer and you just want to return to that dream, but you can't! So how do we make sure that we know when we're dreaming???

Interestingly, most methods are mainly about putting ideas deep in your head, kind of like performing self-inception! I heard many sources recommend that before sleeping, you have to consciously tell yourself that you WILL have a dream and that you WILL remember that you're dreaming. Sounds silly if you're saying that out loud, but that fixes that idea in your head, so that even if you drift into sleep, that idea may still resurface while you're dreaming. The more you do this, the more likely you'll succeed.

Another possible method is by telling yourself what will happen if you're inside a dream. For example, you say "I will be looking at my handphone if I am in a dream", and if you instill this idea long enough, maybe one night you'll suddenly see your handphone in front of you! Or you tell yourself "I'll be sitting on a chair in my dream", and eventually you might suddenly find yourself sitting on a brown chair and realize that you're dreaming!

A different approach is by noting down what you remember from your dreams. Usually people do this by keeping a "dream journal" next to their bed, so that the moment they wake up from a dream, they can immediately record down the dream as detailed as possible. Some people may find that something keeps recurring in their dreams, like a dream pattern. Maybe there is always a blue bird flying in the sky, or you're always wearing brown slippers which you don't actually own. Then the next time you are in a dream, and you spot that recurring feature again, then you'll know that you're dreaming.

All the methods mentioned above only talk about Dream-Initiated Lucid Dreaming (DILD), in which you only deduce that you are dreaming after you have entered the dream state. Actually, there's also Wake-Initiated Lucid Dreaming (WILD), where the dreamer simply crosses from "awake" to "dreaming" without loss of awareness! This is harder to accomplish mainly because you need strong willpower, but it's found that this is easier to achieve for a short afternoon nap than for a long night sleep. Apparently there is a stage between "awake" and "dreaming" called the hypnagogic stage(complicated name), so if someone is still aware while going through this stage, then he can enter the dream with full awareness that he is dreaming!

But even if you do realize that you're dreaming, it's very hard to stay in that conscious dreaming state. The moment you gain consciousness, you may suddenly wake up, or at least start to feel the sensation of your body lying on the bed. And that becomes a problem when you want to remember your dreams clearly or see where the dream is "supposed" to end. So how do you prolong your state of conscious dreaming? One experiment tested two ways of prolongation: spinning yourself or rubbing your hands. This is supposed to distract you from the sensation of your body on the bed. The experiment showed that more than 90% of those who did so actually did stay longer in the dream! There have been other methods that worked, but basically they all require you to focus on what you perceive in your dream, i.e. what you feel/smell/see/taste/hear.

So for those of you who want to have a go at exploring your dreams at will, I hope this helped. Mind you, this takes a LOT of practice so I'm not too sure on trying it myself. But maybe you'll achieve lucid dreaming, and pretty soon become the master of your dreams! :D