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No. 68: Mar-Apr 1990

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Dreams that do what they're told

A few people can dream and, in their dreams, know that they are dreaming, and then take charge of their dreams, directing them to unfold according to their wishes. This all sounds occultish, to say nothing about far-fetched. It is called "lucid dreaming." F. van Eeden, a Dutch psychiatrist, defined lucid dreaming in this way:

"...the reintegration of the psychic functions is so complete that the sleeper reaches a state of perfect awareness and is able to direct his/ her attention, and to attempt different acts of free volition. Yet the sleep, as I am able confidently to state, is undisturbed, deep and refreshing."

Lucid dreams are real dreams. They occur during REM (Rapid Eye Movements) sleep, usually in the early morn ing, and they last 2-5 minutes. High levels of physical and emotional activity during the preceding day can encourage lucid dreaming. When lucid dreaming occurs, there are pauses in breathing, brief changes in heart rate, and changes in the skin's electric potential.

There is even a recipe for triggering lucid dreaming. If you awake from a normal dream in the early morning, wake up fully but don't forget the dream. Read a bit or walk about, then lie down to sleep again. Imagine yourself asleep and dreaming, rehearsing the dream from which you awoke, and remind yourself: "Next time I'm dreaming, I want to remember I'm dreaming."

Lucid dreaming, it seems, is not an isolated phenomenon. There are strong similarities between lucid dreaming and out-of-the-body experiences and even the experiences of UFO abductees. S. Blackmore remarks:

"In all these experiences, it seems as though the perceptual world has been replaced by another world, built from the imagination, a hallucinatory replica."

Some people enjoy their lucid dreams; but others fear them and report that objects in this false world are surrounded by a "strong diabolical light."

(Blackmore, Susan; "Dreams That Do What They're Told," New Scientist, p. 48, January 6, 1990.)

From Science Frontiers #68, MAR-APR 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss