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Lucid Dreams

One of the most intriguing types of dream is the lucid dream. This is a dream in which you suddenly realize you are dreaming ; yet you remain asleep and the dream continues, so you can experiment with the dream or intervene in the activity of the dream. For most people lucid dreams are rare; for other people they are commonplace.

What is a lucid dream?

A classic report of a lucid dream comes from van Eeden (1913, in Tart, 1973):

On September 9, 1904, I dreamed that I stood at a table before a window. On the table were different objects. I was perfectly well aware that I was dreaming and I considered what sorts of experiments I could make. I began by trying to break glass, by beating it with a stone. I put a small tablet of glass on two stones and struck it with another stone. Yet it would not break. Then I took a fine claret-glass from the table and struck it with my fist, with all my might, at the same time reflecting on how dangerous it would be to do this in waking life; yet the glass remained whole. But lo! When I looked at it again after some time, it was broken.

It broke all right, but a little too late, like an actor who misses his cue. This gave me a very curious impression of being in a fake-world, cleverly imitated, but with small failures. I took the broken glass and threw it out of the window, in order to observe whether I could hear the tinkling. I heard the noise all right and I even saw two dogs run away from it quite naturally. I thought what a good imitation this comedy-world was. Then I saw a decanter with claret and tasted it, and noted with perfect clearness of mind: "Well, we can also have voluntary impressions of taste in this dream-world; this has quite the taste of wine." (p.47)

Students report that lucid dreams often end with a surge of self-consciousness. The dreamer becomes increasingly self-conscious and wakes up. This can be frustrating if the dreamer wants the lucid dream to continue.

Lucid dreams can be cultivated, according to Stephen LaBerge (1980). He developed an intensive, 5-step method for inducing lucid dreams:

How did LaBerge increase the frequency of lucid dreams?

1. During the early morning, I awaken spontaneously from a dream.

2. After memorizing the dream, I engage in 10 to 15 minutes of reading or any other activity demanding full wakefulness.

3. Then, while lying in bed and returning to sleep, I say to myself, "Next time I'm dreaming, I want to remember I'm dreaming."

4. I visualize my body lying asleep in bed, with rapid eye movements indicating I'm dreaming. At the same time, I see myself as being in the dream just rehearsed (or in any other, in case none was recalled upon awakening) and realizing that I am in fact dreaming.

5. I repeat steps 3 and 4 until I feel my intention is clearly fixed.

LaBerge says this procedure increased his frequency of lucid dreaming "to a peak of 26 dreams a month." The fact that he was doing his PhD research on lucid dreams may have helped to keep them on LaBerge's mind, but in studies since then, LaBerge has shown that most subjects can be encouraged to have lucid dreams. LaBerge suggests that the phenomenon can be useful to clinicians. For example, "people who suffer from chronic nightmares can create new endings for their dreams." (Blakeslee, 1988)

Lucid dreaming intrigues many people, so it has inspired many training courses. LaBerge's own institute, the Lucidity Institute, is at this URL:


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