Lucid Dreaming

I would like to start by defining what Lucid dreaming is: as Andrea Rock describes in her book The Mind at Night, “Lucid dreaming is a state in which a dreamer becomes aware that he or she is dreaming while the dream is still in progress.”

Lucid dreaming happens when we can be aware, and perhaps control, what happens in our dream…it is as if we can see ourselves from outside in a world which is our own dream.  We can be aware of our dream as being a dream while we can feel and experience what is happening within the dream. Plus we get the benefit of being aware that we are in a safe place since it is a dream, and we can actually do things that otherwise would be dangerous or impossible…

Very few people really experience lucid dreaming, but we can actually work on becoming lucid dreamers, some of us can actually achieve to become lucid dreamers and in doing so we can have a whole new world of experiences to explore while in the safe environment of our own bed.

Rock also points out that “some lucid dreamers also can consciously manipulate the setting, characters and action taking place in their internal dramas.” This is the best thing that could happen to us when we are having a nightmare, and if that nightmare is recurrent, it is possible to consciously change it to have a nicer and less frightening outcome. It is actually a strategy that is taught to children who do not sleep well at night because they have nightmares, when they can change the terrifying part of their dream into a nicer part, then they can achieve to get a good night’s sleep at night, every night.

While most of us are unaware that we are dreaming while the dream is in progress, something unusual that happens in our dream can trigger our awareness within our dream. The triggers that work are different for each person and each individual dream. Turning on our self-awareness during dreaming is a skill that can be learned with practice.

Got a Problem: Sleep on It!!!

When we are stuck with a problem to which we cannot find a solution through our logical thinking, even though we’ve tried all different options that would make sense, there might be a chance in solving it in our dreams.

I remember when I was in middle school I had a math deduction to do, for extra credit, at night I tried many different options, but did not get to the desired outcome. I could not allow myself not to get it, I was good in math, I loved math and I could not allow myself not to do it, so I tried for around an hour or two to get to the right deduction. It was just before bedtime that I was still trying different options until I noticed it was late and  was tired, so I went to bed…sure enough, when I woke up I had the answer in my head. I went straight to my homework table and wrote it down and I had it! I felt so proud of myself. When I got to school I was one of three that actually got it, and I was selected to do it in front of the class…

Now I know that my brain was working through the night, making connections, different connections that allowed me to get to the right path of deduction, connections that my logical thinking did not explore. I’m not saying the answer was illogical, it was just a different view point that was needed to get to it.

There is a technique known as Incubation. It is used to focus on any type of problem before sleeping and expects to encourage the brain to find out an innovative solution in its chaotic and creative state during our sleep. This technique involves different steps: briefly reviewing the problem before going to sleep; then, while in bed, visualizing that we are dreaming about the problem and suggesting ourselves we will do so as we dream. We should be prepared to recall and write whatever we recall of our dream as soon as we wake up.

If we are successful through this technique, the solution we get has come from unexpected, nonlogical paths that emerge from the nature of the brain connections that happen as we dream.

Not surprisingly, I kind of did all the steps of Incubation technique without knowing it long ago, and I got my answer in the morning…I

Creativity In Our Dreams

We can find that lots of our creativity happens when we sleep…this is because our brain is working all the time making connections, and when we sleep, the connections we make with all the information we have and the information we get from outside can many times lead to nocturnal creativity.
Some times this creativity shows up in our dreams, we can dream about a new thing, a new creation. We might just think we might have known that from a previous experience, but it might not be that way. It might be that we created that thing in our brain and it came out in our dreams.
One famous example that illustrates this is when Paul McCartney woke up from a dream with a tune in his mind, a beautiful tune running in his mind, he remembered listened to that tune played by a classical string group in his dream. He liked the tune so much that he got up from bed to play the notes in the piano next to him. It was May 1965, he was in London filming Help. He was convinced this song was someone else’s because he heard it in his dream, that somewhere at some point he had heard it before, but he could not identify where. So he tried searching around to find it, and since he did not find any evidence of this song existing outside of his mind, he started playing it to friends and other musicians. They just told him the had never heard it before, and that it sounded like his own creation. He could not believe that he had created this song in his dreams at first, so he did terrible in making up the lyrics for it. It was until he finally believed it was his own creation that he composed the lyrics of “yesterday”…
Other times we can wake up with solutions in our heads, even if we don’t recall dreaming of it, we wake up with just the right solution to a problem we have been trying to solve for days, weeks or months. Suddenly we wake up with the right solution in our head, a solution that happened in our sleep, just because our mind was working making different connections that resulted in such a breakthrough.

A great deal of moments of inspiration happen during sleep. Not only musicians like Paul McCartney have reported this occurring to them. Also scientists, athletes, mathematicians, writers and artists have revealed this happening to them as well.

Meaning In Our Dreams

Many people have explored the idea that dreams have meanings in them, there are movies where dreams determine the outcome of the movie, like in the legendary Fiddler on the Roof where the way the father convinced his wife that their daughter would be marrying the taylor and not the butcher was through a made-up dream that appealed to his wife’s belief that the dead visit us in our dreams and give us messages.

And the legendary Sigmund Freud who suggested that the driving force of our dreams are repressed sexual wishes and desires, this theory has now been scientifically proven wrong. However it is true, as Freud said, that our dreams are driven by strong emotion together with basic instincts and they are created from our memory, both recent experiences and those that happened during childhood (Rock, 2005).

There are also books that give universal meaning to symbols we can have in our dreams, which can be really inaccurate as I will describe later. There are also multiple attempts to give universal meaning to symbols we can find in our dreams, like books that give universal meaning to symbols we can have in our dreams. This is completely inaccurate, instead, as Jung stated, our dreams do carry individual personal meanings in their scenes, symbols, and narratives, but they are particularly valid to each one of us, something that means one thing to one person is likely to mean a complete different thing to another.

If we view things scientifically, it is
From a scientific standpoint, it is not likely that it will ever be possible to say definitively that a given dream has a standardized universal specific meaning. But we can use our dreams as helpful tools to gain insight into our emotional worries, being aware that our interpretative system is creating a narrative about the meaning of our dream, moreover being also aware that it was the same system that created the dream narrative in the first place.

Over all, dreams may not be messages, but they are our most intimately personal creations as they are worlds created by the contents of our minds…

Our Brain as a Story Creator In Our Dreams

We have an interpretative system in our brain that creates a reasonable story out of information we have from our present and previous experiences in our lives, as discussed in the previous post.

When we sleep, our brain uses the same story making ability, but with the difference, of non-congruence with the real world: in a dream, we can change scenes without warning, we might be in our living room at one point, and the following scene we are in our favorite theme park with our friend, who was not in the previous scene. Or maybe our house is composed of the living room from our childhood house, and the kitchen is our current kitchen, and the back yard is from our grandparents’ house, but we dream it as our house. Then we step foot out of the house and with no surprise, the beach is there in place of the city!

In this and similar cases, what happens when we dream is that the outside world provides almost no input making possible to our brain to make broader connections. So when we represent a house, our brain seeks out our memories of houses, resulting in a peculiar combination.

In our dreams, not only do settings shift, but characters also sometimes transform without warning…the person we are talking to at first is no longer the person we are talking to later, and the person in the next scene might have appeared out of nowhere, or the one talking to us just disappeared. Metamorphosis of people, objects and animals also may be present in our dreams. Yet our brain creates a sense of continuity in our dreams out of different scenes, places, objects, people and emotions.