Eyes wide shut: Can lucid dreaming unlock your dormant power?

Learning techniques to achieve this state could be the antidote to your nightmares and help release creativity and psychological healing

09 January 2022 - 00:00 By Paula Andropoulos
Lucid dreams can be characterised as those fabulous meta-situations when dreamers realise they’re dreaming, mid-dream.
Lucid dreams can be characterised as those fabulous meta-situations when dreamers realise they’re dreaming, mid-dream.
Image: Unsplash

For two years at university, I shared a strange little second story apartment in Cape Town, a shoebox with a lone interleading door that connected two master bedrooms. This unorthodox arrangement meant that I found out about my poor roommate’s night terrors fairly early on in the course of our cohabitation.

She was regularly prone to nightmares and, worse, bouts of sleep paralysis: a feeling of consciousness or wakefulness combined with a terrifying inability to move. Sometimes, alerted by proximity to her plaintive squeaks for help, I would wake her up. But more often than not, I unwittingly slept through her muted grumbles, and she simply had to wait for her limbs to come back online in their own good time.

It’s little wonder that children are often terrified of going to sleep. Sleep is so proximate to death by nature, and we don’t really understand enough about the operations of our sleep-related disorders to assuage childish misgivings about them, however hard parents and caretakers may work by day to dispel the spectres of ghosts in the hallways and ghouls under the floorboards.

Sleep paralysis in particular is often accompanied by creepy hallucinations, predatory ephemera that can leave dormant sufferers feeling like hapless deer frozen in thrall to some intoxicating supernatural malefactor.

On the upside, new scientific insight into the world of lucid dreaming means that we may be able to gain more mastery over what goes on once we’ve closed our eyes than we’ve ever had before.

Lucid dreams can be characterised as those fabulous meta-situations when dreamers realise they’re dreaming, mid-dream. Most of us have experienced this first-hand at least once or twice during our lives, and it’s a fabulously liberating experience (unless you have just won the dream equivalent of R50m in the dream lotto, in which case I’d imagine the “Eureka, I’m dreaming” moment is something of a let-down.)

‘Lucid Dreaming’ by Robert Waggoner
‘Lucid Dreaming’ by Robert Waggoner
Image: Supplied

Learning how to activate lucid dreams might be the antidote to nightmares that children and adults alike have been praying for since time immemorial: if one realises one is dreaming, by extension one could have agency over the outcome of the dream’s events.

Furthermore, according to Robert Waggoner (author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self), a regular practice of self-initiated lucid dreaming could facilitate greater creativity and psychological healing in everyday life.

While this is by no means yet an exact science, a number of techniques can be employed to equip sleepers to experience lucid dream states.

Routine reality checks throughout the day, for instance — “is this wall solid?” — will encourage you to integrate this habit into your dreaming life, thereby making it apparent when your “reality” is actually just the stuff of dreams.

Pre-sleep affirmations and meditations that focus on the goal of having lucid dreams may also be effective, while keeping a dream journal could make it easier for you to recognise a dream — mid-dream — on the basis that you’ve had it before or are recycling elements from a past dream.

Move over, Inception, indeed.


subscribe