Tenth Anniversary Issue of Lucidity Letter

Virtual Worlds

Copyright 1991 by Lucidity Association


Part VI: Applications

1.Introduction Stephen LaBerge

Section A: Clinical Issues

2. Mental Health Applications: A Panel Discussion Patricia Garfield, Judith Malamud, Jean Campbell, Ann Sayre Wiseman & Gordon Halliday

3. Some Relations Between Clinical and Transpersonal Approaches to DreamsHarry Hunt

4. Training for Lucid Awareness in Dreams, Fantasy, and Waking Life Judith Malamud

5. Limitations in the Utility of Lucid Dreaming and Dream Control as Techniques for Treating Nightmares Kathryn Belicki

6. The Phenomenological Use of Dreams in Psychotherapy P. Erik Craig

7. Letter to the Editor [The Importance of Lightheartedness] Paul Tholey

8. Clinical and Transpersonal Issues With Lucid Dreaming Voiced Jayne Gackenbach

9. Response to Gackenbach Stephen LaBerge

10. Letter From Scott Sparrow G. Scott Sparrow

11. Ethical Issues for Applications of Lucid Dreaming: An Introduction Joseph Dane

Section B: Other Applications

12. Applications of Lucid Dreaming in Sports Paul Tholey

13. The Creative Process: Paintings Inspired from the Lucid DreamFariba Bogzaran

14. Healing Through Lucid Dreaming Stephen LaBerge

15. A Personal Experience in Lucid Dream Healing E.W. Kellogg, III


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Back to Lucidity Letter 10th Anniversary Issue

1. Introduction


Stanford University, California

At first consideration the notion of practical applications for something as ethereal as a dream may seem fanciful at best. Be that as it may, in Lucid Dreaming I recounted a story that is still apt: in the eighteenth century electricity was thought no more than a scientific curiosity and a practical-minded woman is said to have asked Benjamin Franklin, "But what use is it?" His reply is famous: "What use, ma-dame, is a newborn baby?" If today the same question were asked in regard to lucid dreaming, a "scientific curiosity" of the twentieth century, the same answer could justifiably be given. Nonetheless, a variety of anecdotes and observations suggest that, like electricity, the power of lucid dreaming could also be harnessed to aid us in performing a variety of tasks with far greater ease.

Many varieties of lucid dreaming applications have been proposed: scientific exploration, health and inner growth, creative problem solving, rehearsal and deci-sion making, and wish fulfillment and recreation. Part VI (see also other parts of this volume) presents illustrations of many of these applications. For example, there are accounts of lucid dreaming applied to sports (Tholey), creative inspiration for paint-ing (Bogzaran), and healing (LaBerge, Kellogg).

The most interest and controversy has been expressed in the area of clinical application. A panel discussion on clinical mental health applications from the first meeting of the Lucidity Association gives a hint of the range of views. Two reprints put these applications in perspective: a comparison of clinical and transpersonal approaches (Hunt), and an account of the use of lucid awareness in dreaming and waking life (Malamud).

Some of the papers presented here reflect the considerable controversy over the issue of whether lucid dreaming is dangerous or of limited value and the extent to which general development of lucid dreaming should be encouraged. I think it is worth noting that every new idea in history has been accompanied by objections that the invention or innovation is some combination of unsafe, unnecessary, unethical, and unnatural. "If God had intended man to fly, He would have given him wings." Some seem to consider it equally impious to fly wingless in dreams.

Objections aside, in time we shall see what this newborn baby is capable of.


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2. Mental Health Applications:   A Panel Discussion


San Francisco, California; New York, New York;

Poseidia Institute, Virginia Beach, Virginia; Cambridge, Massachusetts;

The Center for Individual and Family Services, Mansfield, Ohio

 Editor’s Note: This panel discussion includes the following presentations:

• Judith Malamud: Interaction With Inner Wisdom Figures

• Jean Campbell: A Therapist Dreams With a Client

• Ann Sayre Wiseman: Lucidity and the Language of Imagery

• Gordon Halliday: Clinical Utility Seen in Lucid Dream Ability

• Patricia Garfield: When and For Whom Is Lucidity Appropriate?

Garfield: We turn now to the application of the technique of lucid dreaming. We’ve looked at a lot of ways to induce lucidity, we’ve seen what it’s composed of phys-iologically. But, what can it do for us? What’s the point? Suppose we can produce this state at will; will that make any difference in our lives? And if so, how? What we’re going to consider now is the viewpoint of our different distinguished panelists. We have Jean Campbell, Judy Malamud, Ann Wiseman and Gordon Halliday. I’ll tell you a little bit about each of them before they make their comments and then we’ll consider together different aspects of the value of lucid dreaming.

Judith Malamud: Interaction With Inner Wisdom Figures

Garfield: Judy is a psychologist from New York City who practices psychotherapy; she leads dream and lucidity workshops. In 1979 she completed her doctoral disser-tation on lucid dreaming.

Malamud: Let me tell you how I first started to get interested in lucidity. Ever since I was a teenager in college and was learning about dreams in courses, it seemed to me there was something really weird and self-alienating about waking up from a dream and then using a symbol system, Freudian symbolism, to translate the im-ages, as if I were translating a foreign language. I knew I was creating my dreams myself, that I was expressing myself through dreaming, so I wondered why I had to consult some system of dream symbolism in order to understand what I, myself, meant to express. I know what I mean to express when I’m awake or when I’m talk-ing to you, so why don’t I know what I mean to express when I’m dreaming, which is when I’m really talking about the most personal, meaningful aspects of myself? I wanted to get in touch with that side of myself that creates dreams, so that I could become unified within myself.

When the time came to do my doctoral dissertation, I read Patricia Garfield’s book, Creative Dreaming, and thought, "Why not put dreaming to constructive use? Why let this time to go to waste? Maybe there can be actual constructive personality change within the dream itself." So I began working with pilot subjects, instructing them to perform various "positive" behaviors in their dreams, like the "Senoi" tech-niques for confronting and conquering danger, exploring mysterious situations, bring back treasures [Editor’s Note: Although this solution is less than satisfying, we are enclosing "Senoi" in quotes in this paper to indicate the Western traditions that paradoxically evolved out of Kilton Stewart’s anthropological work. This usage is meant to differentiate American and European so-called "Senoi" dream control from the traditional dream theory and practice of Malaysian Senoi peoples as stud-ied and described by anthropologists like Dentan and Domhoff as well as dream-workers Faraday and Wren-Lewis. See the History section of this issue of Lucidity for views endorsed by most anthropologists.] —until I encountered one pilot sub-ject who was frank enough to tell me, "Judy, I know you’re right that I should do these things, but I really don’t like being told what I should do in my dreams." I realized she had a point. Who was I to tell her what is good, positive, constructive dream behavior?

At that point, my interest in lucidity increased, because I realized that the lucid dream state is a state which is inherently totally free and totally safe and therefore permits one to be maximally creative in whatever way one wishes. I figured I’d change my approach. My new approach would be to teach people to become aware that they’re dreaming and aware of the implications of the fact that they’re dream-ing. I would teach them that they the are the ones creating everything that goes on in dreams, that everything in the environment reflects aspects of their own thoughts, feelings, wishes, or perceptions of the world, and that the dream state is an alternate reality. The dream world is not the concrete world, which means that the physical body cannot be hurt by what goes on in the dream. Dreamers can do things in a dream that no one will know about in waking life unless they tell, after waking up. The dream state can become an arena for trying out or discovering what your inner wishes and fantasies might be. You can sleep with people that it would be totally unacceptable to do that with in waking life, and discover what pleases you in a safe, private environment.

Recently, I’ve been developing ways of teaching people to get in touch with the side of themselves that uses dream language. For example, I have people practice correlating their feelings and wishes with waking imagery, to familiarize them with how they naturally use imagery for self-expression. I also teach people to become aware of the implications of the fact that they’re dreaming. I feel that it’s not enough, for therapeutic purposes, merely to know you’re dreaming, because—so what? What you really need to know is that you’re creating the dream, you’re safe, the dream world reflects yourself, and therefore, you can learn about yourself.

The most recent development in my life has been—I’m sure Jean will talk more about this kind of phenomenon—getting in touch with an inner wisdom figure who has been communicating with me mentally, and has even told me, "Judy, you’re worried about what you’re going to say on this panel. Don’t worry about it. I’ll write your position paper for you." She’s trying to teach me to be lucid in waking life. Being lucid in waking life means being aware of the extent to which you are con-tributing to creating what’s going on, and being aware that what you perceive some-how reflects your own wishes, thoughts, feelings, etc. Waking lucidity is realizing that there are always alternative possibilities. Just as in a dream, there are many alternative possibilities that you can choose among, and so there’s this kind of freedom in waking life as well.

Let me read you a brief section of my inner wisdom figure’s position paper. Her name is Role Model. She said:

Once upon a time, there were few people who understood that dreams reflected their outlook on life. Freud changed all that. Now, everyone and his brother interprets dreams and purports to understand dreams. What they don’t yet realize is this: Morsels of knowledge about the self are not enough to uproot the fundamental fallacy of human existence, which is that we are victims of reality rather than its creators.

By the way, I don’t know that I agree with everything she says. She’s rather radical. [Role Model’s position paper continues:]

The victim posture has been a useful one for humankind for millenia, but this is be-ginning to change. Lucidity is the fastest way to undo the fundamental error. It is better not to understand too much before one has gained the benefits of error, hence dreams are not ordinarily lucid. The struggle to become lucid represents a first step toward willing-ness to see into the power of one’s true nature. Fortunately, there is no harm in delaying knowledge or wisdom. They come by themselves to everyone, in time. But the clinical use of techniques for becoming lucid in dreams promised to speed up that process of gaining self-knowledge, for those who are in a hurry.

Garfield: We’ve seen here the values of lucid dreaming as experienced by Judy: a sense of freedom, of an environment to test out different possibilities, of a safe place to make discoveries and of a place to get in touch with wisdom—that’s very precious, no matter what his or her name is.

Jean Campbell: A Therapist Dreams With a Client

Garfield: Jean Campbell is director of Poseidia Institute, an institute in Virginia Beach. She’s the author of a book called Dreams Beyond Dreaming and she has been actively conducting dream research, particularly along the lines of dreams as an altered state of consciousness, for the last 12 years. Her current research project is called "Dreams to the Tenth Power."

Campbell: I’m not a psychologist, I’m a parapsychologist and Poseidia Institute is a parapsychology research organization. What that means is that the bulk of my re-search has been in dreams as an altered state of consciousness, that is, looking at consciousness as a continuum from waking state to a whole variety of other states, dreams being only one of them, and lucid dreaming being part of that continuum of consciousness.

Recently we have been doing some research called "Dreams to the Tenth Pow-er," which is a study in group dreaming. That is, not only is it possible to have people dream lucidly, but is it possible to control the dream state? Is it possible to have people dream simultaneously, dream together, dream on some regular basis with each other? There are a lot of people by this time who appear to be proving that that might be true. That is, if we decide as a group that we want to dream tonight, together, pick a place, pick a time, and see what happens. We could do it. We’ve tried this with people who are not regular lucid dreamers and people who are regular lucid dreamers.

Since that is not really the subject of this panel, I don’t want to go any further with that except to say that although I am not a counselor myself, we do counseling at Poseidia. I have seen what looks to me like one of the most beneficial uses of lu-cid dreaming or lucidity in therapy in the past few months. That is, one of the ther-apists who works through Poseidia Institute, in addition to doing some work with clients in terms of dreaming with each other, had a client who had a particularly difficult problem with nightmares. The client would only fragmentarily remember the nightmare but knew that it was tremendously traumatic. What the therapist did, having already been trained in lucidity, was dream with the client.

She first dreamed the dream as the client was having the dream, that is, she saw the dream through the client’s eyes, while she was asleep. Then she proceeded, be-cause she knew she was asleep, to see the dream from her own perspective. That is, from her own clinical perspective. What this gave her was insight into, or awareness of, the client’s dream. It gave her awareness of how to cope with the dream and then in the next counseling session she was able to work with the client with the dream content and get through what the nightmare was and how to deal with it. This I see as only one aspect of what lucidity is able to do for all of us. Since we’re not all therapists, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll be doing that particular kind of thing, but being lucid, being able to draw on all of our capabilities, all of the aware-ness that are available to us in lucidity, certainly seems to me to be a marvelous thing to have.

Garfield: Assuming that it is possible for a group of people to simultaneously dream together, what would you see as being the benefit of that?

Campbell: Let’s see. Say we (signifying the panel) had a problem, and say that at a waking level we, for our own anxiety reasons, wanted to keep a lot back. The rules are different in the dream state. We allow ourselves different things in the dream state. Like Judy was saying, you can sleep with a lot of different people in the dream state. I’m not suggesting that that’s what we would do with the problem. However, say that we decided as a group to dream together. I’m not saying that we would have to be lucid, but certainly being lucid would be of some use. That is, being aware that we were dreaming together might be of some value to us. But, because the rules are different in the dream state, if our problem was that we had a problem together, but we happened to live and be at home in California, and New York, and Virginia Beach, it’s a great way to call a conference. It costs less than the telephone and allows you to solve some things.

Ann Sayre Wiseman: Lucidity and the Language of Imagery

Garfield: Ann Sayre Wiseman is an artist and therapist working with dreams and art in psychotherapy at the Arts Institute of Expressive Therapy at Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her particular focus is an interesting concept based on finding the image of a problem and satisfying it. It locates the style of dialogue need-ed to negotiate self empowering strategies for integration and rebalancing opposing forces inside us. Ann, let’s hear more about that.

Wiseman: We’ve been talking about lucid dreaming. I think what I’m teaching and practicing could be called lucid waking, for lack of a better name. It is similar, it taps the same wave length that is tapped while dreaming but you can, by closing your eyes and going deep inside, tap it in the waking state too. It is the source of imag-ining and picture language that produce dreams and that mirror our feelings.

Since imagery is the picture language, I use a lot of art, and torn paper collage as a medium to restage a dream and work it through to satisfaction. We make a col-lage map of a dream or a problem, a situation or even an illness, whatever the issue is. Then, using closed eye imaging, we invite more information from this lucid source which our dreams have access to. A kind of meditation.

When I was three years old I experienced this lucid awareness on a night trip that acquainted me with my pre-body essence. I had fragments of this dream throughout childhood. It was dynamic elements surpassing the limits of a dream.

I flew through the universe and contacted all the elements, saw color in every aspect of its spectrum, and woke from it with the "why of life" question, and always in my mouth I tasted rust (which of course, is very similar to the taste of blood, which made me think it was a birth dream). This flight changed from limitless boundaries to the confines of my own mo-mentum as I came into a sort of spiraling pattern—the way water begins to spiral down a spout after the plug is out. As my essence drew near the center the rotations quickened and the colors pulled more pigment out of the developing speed, until I began to drown in black lava which ultimately exploded from suffocation. I’d always wake with the taste of rust in my mouth and the "why of life" question. I woke more astonished than frightened. Astonished to find I could breathe and had landed safely.

This recurring revelation has made me believe that probably children know all there is to know from the very start of conception but after entering the human form it takes them a lifetime to become reacquainted with this essence awareness. Guided imagery is very close to it. At least it opens some of the unexercised passages or wave lengths which our culture doesn’t tap very often.

I had another lucid experience at Esalen while doing a work-study program.

I was weeding and clearing land and was sent out onto the cliff alone to turn earth for a new garden. I stood looking out over the vast Pacific and asked the universe, "Why do I think everyone knows more than I do?" and the universe replied, "Because you refuse to take re-sponsibility for what you know." There again, it sounded like the same message only this time I understood it because it was given me in words.

Then about eight years ago, when I started working, training in psychotherapy, Gestalt and Psychosynthesis, I realized art was the language of imagery and feeling and I had a fantastic clarification dream. Again the universe spoke to me. I was like a tiny ant sticking out of the side of the earth and a giant megaphone in the outer space shouted, "Find the image and satisfy it!" No matter what issue we’re working on, it works.

I use this as a guide. It is the basis of my work. The same with problem solving and dream paradoxes. I think it’s absolutely amazing. I wish I had time to share some stories. I will talk abut one piece of art since no one is celebrating art here and it is so important, such a quick helper.

This story is about the successful birth of a threatened baby. The mother was a student in one of my workshops. She was six months pregnant. During this training in working with dreams and self-balancing each student’s body was outlined so they could step outside their body and contemplate the space they took up in the universe.

Then I lead them on a guided trip inside the body to understand what was going on inside, to see how we treat our bodies and observe where strength and blockages are, where creativity is located and dialogue with organs that are complaining or dis-satisfied. Then all this new information is drawn into the body outline so we can see it and acknowledge what it’s like to live inside this state. Then we spend the rest of the week working out dialogues and negotiating changes that create a fairer balance, a new commitment to our bodies, more agreement, more cooperation, new align-ment. For many it is symbolic surgery and dynamic healing can occur. Divorced organs can get reintegrated and the inner child can find a nurturing home at last.

Well, this young mother-to-be found she had three heavy chains binding her body, restraining all action and flow of energy to her arms and legs so she’d become numb. One chain around her diaphragm was constricting the growth of her baby who said, during its dialogue with her, that it was on the verge of suffocation. On her body map she had no mouth and her throat was full of stones (30, one for each of her years), and blocking the birth canal was an "iron vise." Using closed eye imaging she asked the body where to begin and her body said, "First, you need to open my eyes." Please note that only "the self" knows the proper sequence for healing or change. The therapist can only guess and guide and give the power back to the client. I asked her to dialogue with the stones. They were "pellets of anger" which she’d never dared deliver to her father because no one in the family was allowed to oppose her father, who was a survivor of a childhood in the Holocaust death camps. His power over the family, especially his daughter, was supreme. As she was not ready to deliver the stones, she agreed to remove them from her esophagus and keep them at hand until she found words for them, for which she needed a lot more time. In the meantime, she agreed to develop her voice so it could be heard. To undo the numbness she had to drop the shoulder chain, which her body reminded her she could only do if she could remember how to relax. The sequence that led to relaxa-tion was a marvelous detour to Japan, where she remembered she’d last experienced relaxation in the hot tubs. Again, using suggestion, she returned to the source and satisfied the image of numbness. The chain was willing to drop off after the heat activated the immobile arms and legs so she could defend her baby with them.

The sequence goes on and on and each repair was added to this body map until she was in charge of her body. The chain around the diaphragm was a very complex detour that involved demanding the key to the lock from her father, who was used to having everything his way, who it turned out, "owned" her baby and her husband as well as her sexual freedom. I’m telling you this briefly today because she called me before I set out for this conference to say that this baby was successfully born. She was able to dilate only by sitting in a hot shower which she insisted on doing against her doctor’s commands. She had refused to let him take the baby by Caesarian sec-tion. She insisted on a hot shower so she could let herself relax and dilate. I wonder how many doctors understand that their patients are the only ones who know the proper sequence of things that must happen before willingness to deliver, heal or change can begin. Lucid awareness is inside us all and we here are the believers, therefore we must be the teachers. Find the image and satisfy it.

Garfield: That’s a very interesting case. We see here then another possible value, in this case in a kind of lucid waking dream. The "dreamer" drew on the wisdom that comes from within and got actual physiological help in achieving important biolog-ical processes that she might not have and without this kind of self-reflection. Great!

Gordon Halliday: Clinical Utility Seen in Lucid Dream Ability

Garfield: And, finally we hear from Gordon Halliday who is a psychologist working with a community mental health center in Ohio.

Halliday: I’d like to touch on three areas where I’ve used lucid dreaming in a thera-peutic setting. First is for folks with a specific problem of not being able to tell when they’re awake or dreaming. Second, for people with nightmares, particularly recur-ring traumatic nightmares. Third, for individuals who feel absolutely powerless to make any change in their lives. If they make one change anywhere you get a snow-balling effect, and the potential of lucidity is at least one potential that some people can use to start making that one change. I’ll comment more on that later.

Shortly after Hearne’s list of ten criteria for distinguishing the dreaming state from the wakeful state was published in the May 19, 1982 issue of Lucidity Letter, I had a client who came in for hypnotherapy for weight loss. As part of the initial interview, she mentioned she still had problems telling whether she was awake or dreaming. She had been in therapy about a year previously at the mental health cen-ter where I saw her. Her previous therapist said something like, "Grow up, everyone can do that" (distinguish dreams from waking). The therapist’s idea, perhaps, was that this confusion is a fairly normal impasse, occurring at perhaps age five, which most children get through. That is one of the jobs of parents, to help kids separate when they’re awake and when they’re asleep. My client didn’t and it caused her problems, particularly in her social life. She didn’t know, for example, if the conver-sation she had with somebody yesterday occurred in a dream, or occurred when she was awake. If she thought it occurred in a dream (when it really occurred when awake), naturally she wouldn’t continue it and people would get hostile and say, "Why are you snubbing me?" If it actually occurred in a dream but she thought it occurred in the awake state, she would try to continue the conversation but people would look at her and say, "What are you talking about?"

She was a factory worker who was doing pretty well in other areas of her life but she found that this inability to distinguish dreams from reality caused her some difficulty. She was therefore open to some answers to rectify this situation. As part of our second session with this client, we reviewed with her Hearne’s ten tests for differentiating the dream from the waking state. We gave her a copy of these tests and suggested she review them at home from time to time.

One week later she came back and said she had had a dream and she used one of the criteria (to look carefully at the surroundings and see if there is something that should not be there) to know that it was a dream. That was helpful for her; when she encountered a three- or four-foot rat at her factory, she knew that that was a dream because the Orkin man [exterminator] had been around the previous day and there shouldn’t be any rats at all. It didn’t strike her as strange that the rat was three feet tall. She was very pleased with those results. I’ve had another client since then who has also used Hearne’s criteria and also found them helpful.

The second place where lucidity training has been useful is in traumatic night-mares, with the idea that it’s possible to make a change. Somebody in the audience mentioned Vietnam veterans. I haven’t worked much with Vietnam veterans but one of my colleagues worked extensively with them. I mentioned to him the technique of becoming first aware that you’re dreaming and then making a small change. One of his clients who was a Vietnam veteran had a recurring nightmare of being on a boat exposed to lots of machine-gun fire, and there was nothing he could do. So he was encouraged first to make himself become aware that he was dreaming and then make a small change in the dream. He was encouraged, rather than going for the "biggies," i.e., dream content stuff with a lot of emotion, to change the color of some of the bushes, change the type of boat, etc. The client found that method marvelous, and as often happens, as soon as he made a small change, the nightmare ended. So this didn’t result in a continued lucid state but at least it resulted in control of the dream and in this case ending the nightmare.

This case was similar to a case that I had with a fellow who had been run over by a tractor about a year before I saw him (this case was published in Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1982, 54, 413–414). He was seen in a hospital on consultation for sev-eral reasons. He mentioned that he had nightmares about two or three times a week which replayed the traumatic experience. We encouraged him to become aware of the fact that he was dreaming. Some folks just pick up the idea and run with it once you tell them it its possible. He did that. When we encouraged him to make a small change, his nightmare ended. He then found himself in a pleasant dream, the first one he had in over a year, which was dancing with his wife.

There are some limitations to this technique. For instance, a person was in an industrial accident. He complained of recurrent traumatic nightmares where once again he was on the barge and the factory along the river released the toxic gas which caused his choking and inability to breathe. He woke up very upset. What he wanted was Valium. He simply wasn’t willing to consider other alternatives such as lucidity training or keeping a gas mask around!

Similarly, in another case, a fellow who was seen for disability evaluation had a recurring traumatic nightmare concerning his fall from a factory ceiling. He pointed out that he understood how lucidity training could change his nightmare but his disability payments were so important to him that he didn’t want to change any-thing that could remotely affect getting disability!

Another class of cases where lucidity training with change instructions has not worked is with those who believe that dreams form a special source of knowledge, particularly prophetic. It is upsetting to these individuals for them to try to change a dream or try to say they are in control of a dream as they felt that dreams are a direct expression of the spirit or of God. One such case was a woman who had married the pastor of a fundamentalist church. She had worked hard at her strict religious beliefs. She didn’t allow television watching because that was "of the world." Her children weren’t allowed to play football because that was "of the world." One was supposed to spend all of one’s time contemplating the other world and being dutiful. There was, however, one exception. If she had a prophetic dream, coming not from her but from God, instructing her to be lenient about some church rules, her husband had no choice but to grant her wishes. She was extremely reluctant to even consider that dreams could be lucid or even, for that matter, that they come from the unconscious.

Finally, the third use of lucidity is to empower people to make changes. One client had the presenting problem of "being in a daze." She had been in a daze for a number of years. For many years she had been extensively abused both physically and sexually by her father and others. She had a mild mental retardation diagnosis, was divorced, had lost her children to Children’s Services, and was in a bad relation-ship with her boy friend. Because of her childhood abuse, she was terrified of men. She nevertheless wanted to dance with her boy friend. We tried to work out a de-conditioning situation in which she gradually got within a foot of a man and then gradually touched him, etc. She never really got involved with that procedure. We talked about her frequent nightmares and suggested that she try to confront and conquer them. She liked that idea, despite not having any prior experience with it, and reported at her fourth session a nightmare of a hand that was trying to choke her and kill some pets. To her surprise she knew that she could make a change in the dream. She took a baseball bat and beat the hand to death, which was very unlike her waking behavior. It was, she said, "the first time I fought back." She was thrilled with that and subsequently had the determination to successfully dance with her boy friend. Hartmann (The Nightmare, 1984, p. 223) and some others suggest that the change comes first in the personality and then the dream changes, but for this partic-ular patient the nice dream clearly came first. She also did four or five other positive things like watch less television and take walks. Five months after this dream she was still doing relatively well. She was free of nightmares, a situation which she at-tributed to thinking good things—rather than upsetting things—prior to sleep.

Patricia Garfield: When and For Whom Is Lucidity Appropriate? P

Garfield: Gordon has added some things for us to consider. We’ve already men-tioned a lot of the values of lucid dreaming, provided the skill is developed, but also we need to consider what is the appropriate population for lucid dreaming. Gordon has just mentioned three cases where it doesn’t apply, people who are getting secon-dary benefits from their "nonlucid" dreams, such as receiving disability payments or controlling your husband. It then becomes difficult if not impossible to interest them in the idea of lucid dreaming.

We might also consider, is lucidity just for us normals versus neurotics? Can lucid dream training be used with a psychotic individual? Can it be used with chil-dren equally as well as with adults?

Assuming you can make a difference, we also need to look at what specifically are the desirable responses in a lucid dream. Some have been suggested and Gordon just added another. Just make a small change, don’t go for the "biggie"; just change the color of the boat. Begin little.

Is it best to confront a hostile dream figure—and one can confront just by say-ing, "Hey, cut it out" or staring into their eyes or resisting or demolishing them completely with a baseball bat? Is that better, in some instances, than getting help? Or should one befriend a hostile dream figure, or integrate with a dream figure? There are many options we can take. Some people take sides, "This is no good, this is the only right way to do it." I wonder if there aren’t specific occasions where specific things are called for, depending on the circumstances of the dreamer. I’d be interested in the panel’s thoughts on this.


Malamud: I’d like to comment on that last question about what’s appropriate to do in a dream. This is a personal value: what’s appropriate to do in a dream is what makes you happy, and that’s what I try to teach people to do in their lucid dreams or in their lucid fantasies. I work mostly with teaching people to be lucid in their fantasies.

I think there are differences in the degree to which certain actions can be called lucid. For example, those who choose to counterattack a dream enemy are lucid per-haps to the extent that they realize that they are dreaming, but they’re not realizing an important implication of that fact, that is, they’re safe; there’s no way that their physical body can be harmed by this image. In order to become more lucid, they have to realize that there’s no need to counterattack. I have found, in working with a couple of my dissertation subjects—I had six subjects that I worked with intensive-ly—that the stage of counterattack was a useful one for learning that you really are safe! In other words, it seemed the subjects had to learn that they had power in the dream, that they could control things, that they could defend themselves and go through the phase of counterattack enough to really realize they were safe and that defense was not necessary. Then the next phase would be friendly encounter: "Who are you? What can you tell me about myself?" But that didn’t happen until they got over being afraid. If you keep in mind that the enemy dream image is a reflection of some aspect of self, then defending against it is also a process of learning, "I’m not going to be overwhelmed; I can keep this aspect of myself under control." Once it’s under control, "Okay, now I’ll talk to you; now I’ll find out who you are and what you have to teach me."

Garfield: We might postulate a developmental situation. Paul Tholey’s work on comparing different types of responses to a hostile dream figure is very interesting. He feels that a conciliatory behavior is most effective. But I noted that he used con-ciliation after he had used a lot of confronting.

Wiseman: I think that it’s very important that the victim reconnect with that fear after making himself safe now that he has empowered himself. The enemy often reflects a polarized position in oneself. Therapy can help people modify. Most of us are just "either/or," we don’t automatically exercise the options in the middle.

Garfield: I think that one of the things that we need to work out as explorers in this dream field is this very kind of thing. Do we need the power? I would say, yes. This is my own personal bias, so I’m not really sure if I’m right or not, but it’s what works for me. I think that there are stages beyond that are important to move to, including integration with whatever figure you need to have. Paul Tholey’s work is important and is moving in the direction of making sense out of this question. How do we build a hierarchy? How do we make these choices?

Campbell: I’d like to respond. I’ve not only worked with a lot of groups of people in the area of lucidity, but for a couple of years we did a call-in radio talk show, with groups of people talking about lucidity with each other. I don’t think there is an ap-propriate group. I don’t think that it’s a judgment that I feel comfortable making for somebody else. That is, I feel that the powers, or the word that we’ve been using here—personal powers, ability of the individual to be creative or whatever—I think it’s something that is inherent. We traditionally have not looked at it, not allowed ourselves. As you were saying, children have appeared to have the ability. I was teaching a high school class once and mentioned the idea of lucidity. I was grading papers the next day and one of the kids came in and said, "It works."

I said, "What works?"

She said, "I looked at my hands and it works just fine." No trying to learn how to be lucid or anything. Just a matter of very natural "working." Although I think there’s usefulness in support, and if you’re talking about people who are psychotic or people who are very afraid, there’s a need for support groups. I don’t think it’s necessary to limit who can do these dream techniques.

Audience Question: Would you see the use of such techniques as coming from one’s personal interest in the topic, or could it be used with any group?

Campbell: With the radio show God knows who was listening in at any particular time, or what kind of people they were, but I know they were excited. In the hour in which we dealt with dreams and lucidity the phones were all lit up.

I’d like to give some speculations on the personal use of lucid dream tech-niques. I haven’t worked with enough people to be able to really know, but I would think that readiness for lucidity and the ability to benefit from lucidity would cut across these categories of normals, neurotics, psychotics, children, and adults. I agree that what would be essential is wanting the lucid attitude. That is, wanting to be aware of your power to create reality. Wanting to know yourself better by recog-nizing yourself as you’re reflected in what you experience around you. Wanting to feel that you have freedom. We all, to some extent, want to hide from what we create, from the fact that we do have input into our situations. We want to hide from who we are and can be terrified by facing some aspects of ourselves. Often, para-doxically, we want to feel that we have no choice, that situations are forced on us. In my experience working with people, I’ve found that those are the kinds of obstacles you come up against. If you focus on those three aspects of lucidity, people become very aware of what their resistances are and become more free and more aware of their power.

Garfield: That’s all the time we have today for touching on these issues but they are definitely ones to take home with us from the conference and to use in our own settings. Those of you who have read Theodore Roszak’s The Dream Watcher, per-haps got a flash as some of these people were talking. He proposes that dreaming can go a long way and that it can really change the world.


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3. Some Relations Between Clinical and Transpersonal Approaches to Dreams


Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

The complex relations between clinical (more or less psychoanalytic) and "transpersonal" approaches to dreams can be clarified by the notion that there are natural varieties in dreaming experience and that these may suggest appropriate ways of using dreams. In other words we can use and/or interpret dreams with or against their own natural grain.

I’ll start with the existential approach of Erik Craig and his colleagues (as exem-plified in Psychotherapy for Freedom, a Spring, 1988 special issue of The Human-istic Psychologist). Its strength is its emphasis on dream experience as such—prior to any different dream forms or interpretive strategies. The dream exemplifies our mode of being-in-the-world, as oneself, with others, and ahead of ourselves in the curiously open dimension of lived time. For Heidegger there are two ways we can "face" within our being-in-the-world—although since each is complementary and implied by the other the present separation will have its artificialities. First we can locate a mode of everydayness, where our embeddedness in daily projects shields us from the openness of time, at the price of a forgetfulness of our sense of Being. Then there is the mode of openness, our potential to sense being-as-such. Heidegger im-plies that such "being experiences" are the spontaneous core of mystical experience. They confer a powerful sense of presencing—a feeling of "being real."

Already we can see that Deirdre Barrett’s approach to dreams, based on Freud’s views of disguise and repression, is dreaming within the mode of everydayness and that Jayne Gackenbach’s descriptions of the immediate subjective power of lucid dreams mark them as potential experiences of being in Heidegger’s sense (Barrett, 1989; Gackenbach, 1989).

Following Craig, each of these ways of facing might be said to have its own "constraints" and its own specific "potentialities"—which indeed may help to under-stand how the attitudes of everydayness and transcendence are ultimately comple-mentary and necessary to each other (Craig, 1989). I mean this in Kierkegaard’s sense, where the despair of finitude is the lack of infinity and the despair of infinity is lack of finitude. The psychoanalysts Kohut and Winnicott distinguish between two forms of conflict which would show the negative or constrained side of each of these "ways of facing"—and which more generally show more than an analogy with Hartmann’s distinction between thick and thin boundaries (Hartmann, 1984). Thus, Freud’s unconscious and repression point to the mode of conflict within the heart of everydayness, where we defend ourselves against the dilemmas of love and work. Narcissistic dilemmas and self pathologies would correspondingly appear as the conflicted side of what D.W. Winnicott termed the "dimension of being," where grandiosity, idealization, and withdrawal block a potential for feeling real, alive, and present.

We can illustrate this dialectic through a brief look at the actual dreams of Freud and Jung, where very different methods of using the dream are a natural outcome of the kind of dreams each had. Freud’s own dreams are clouded, frag-mented, and vague, with numerous sudden changes in scene. No wonder he used free association to further deconstruct what was already in process of dissolving into a complex of everyday memories, hopes, and fears. Consider his dream of old Brucke. He dreams that his first physiology teacher has set him the task of dissecting his own pelvis. He sees it eviscerated, fishes out bits of tinfoil (that later in his free associations remind him of his early study of the nervous system of fish). His friend Louise N. helps him (later he is reminded of her challenge to him to produce his own book). Abruptly he finds himself in a cab being driven into a house and out again. Then he is being carried by a guide into mountains, where he sees Indians (later re-minding him of Rider Haggard’s She, which he loaned to Louise N.). Finally, there is a house on the other side of a chasm and he realizes he is supposed to cross over to it on the bodies of children (Freud, 1900).

Freud’s free associations take him, as ever, into his intensely political world of scientific recognition, reputation, and would-be fame. He largely ignores what later psychoanalysts like Richard Jones and dreamworkers like Delaney or Ullman would see as the dream’s positive potential for emergent metaphors expressing on-going life issues, beyond issues of disguise, showing the dream’s inherent possibilities of disclosure. Here we can see self dissection as a marvelous metaphor for the rigors and limitations of Freud’s self analysis (which he mentions), and the bodies of children as the text of psychoanalytic discourse—or Craig’s treatment of Freud’s Irma dream as a poetic depiction of his later concepts of transference and resistance (Craig, 1988).

There is even less hint in Freud of that dimension of dreaming filled out by Jungians and lucid dreamers, where we find an openness to an immediate sense of totality and wholeness. Although we could follow Grinstein’s approach to Freud’s dreams (Grinstein, 1980) and (in Freud’s associations only) find some distant allu-sion to his identification with Moses or even see some hint within this dream of his later preoccupation with narcissism and thanatos, as precursors of notions of self pathology.

Jung’s dreams are as coherent and subjectively powerful as Freud’s are frag-mented and allusive. We find vivid detail, numinosity and ineffably significant encounters. No wonder Jung stayed with and amplified dreams already so full of felt significance and portent—although this approach may be ultimately as one-sided as Freud’s transpersonal blind spot.

Consider Jung’s dream of being with his deceased father in the court of Sultan Akbar the Great, in a vast hall shaped like a geometric mandala pattern—Jung’s symbol of wholeness of self. His father indicates the room above, where lives the "highest presence," Uriah, the Hebrew general betrayed by David. Jung tries to bow his head to the floor, along with his father, but he can’t quite manage it (Jung, 1961).

For Jung this dream has a directly given archetypal or transpersonal signif-icance. It also anticipates, he says, his later Answer to Job, where he discusses how a creature can surpass its creator by virtue of the capacity to doubt. Jung totally ignores what leaps out if one knows anything of his life—his potential guilt over his relation with his father and later with Freud, as the betrayed Hebrew general. In-deed, Winnicott suggests that a mark of those persons where the dilemma of being and feeling real predominates is failure to experience or recognize guilt.

It is within these very different modes of dreamt being-in-the-world that we can locate Barrett’s and Gackenbach’s recent research.

Clearly, each form or dimension of dreaming would have its own characteristic constraints and potentialities for genuine development. Barrett concentrates on the constrained end of ordinary normative dreaming, with its clouding, confusion and hallucinatory intrusions. She manages to locate experimentally the defensive constel-lation at the core of Freud’s theory of dreaming. One of her measures of repression correlates with low dream recall and shorter length. What needs defending against here becomes clear if we follow Van de Castle and Hall on the typical "Oedipal" structure of dreams—negative relationships with members of the same sex, positive with the opposite sex, and for male dreamers considerable aggression from older men (Hall & Van de Castle, 1966). It is interesting that Barrett reports higher sexual and aggressive content from the dreams of high repressors—typically initiated by the dream others. Craig might see this as part of the thrownness or facticity of the every-day mode. (Certainly it is also of interest that Hall found an inverse or negative Oedipal pattern in Freud’s dreams, perhaps hinting at the later necessity of develop-ing a model of narcissism and the barriers Freud would face in that attempt. Mean-while, the dreams of Jung show the more typical Oedipal configuration that he may not have faced as fully as his more personally compelling path of individuation).

There is of course a positive, expressive pole of "dreamt everydayness," where defensiveness is minimal and dreamworkers look for creative metaphoric insights into specific dilemmas. Here we might find, in Barrett’s terms, those subjects with higher manifest anxiety and capacity to tolerate imaginative absorption, at least in some contexts.

The dimension anchored by Barrett’s research is very different from the form of dreaming studied by Gackenbach, where lucid dreaming is a subjective "empower-ment" directly conveying a sense of openness and feeling real. Here an experiential impact predominates over specific personal insights to be gained from the dream.

Gackenbach concentrates first on the positive potentialities of this dimension—its own "freedom." She places lucid dreaming in the context of meditation, in terms of cognitive psychology, physiology, and phenomenology. We see the same devel-opment in lucid dreaming and meditation of a contemplative, receptive attitude and the same vividness and sense of immediacy that Heidegger called "presencing" and Maslow termed "peak experience" or "being experience." Gackenbach has also located the cognitive factors associated with lucid dreaming—imaginative absorp-tion, vivid imagery, visual-spatial skills, and physical balance. I found the same measures associated with subjects who dream in an archetypal form and, indeed, the same nonverbal visual-spatial skills predict responsiveness to meditative techniques and proclivity to spontaneous mystical experience. These states, dreaming and awake, seem to entail a symbolic intelligence that falls outside the linguistic construction of everyday social existence (Hunt, 1989). And for Heidegger our most direct expres-sions of sense of Being-as-such are "presentational," not representational.

However, Gackenbach also calls our attention to some unintended consequences of an exclusive absorption with lucid dreaming that involve much of what Kohut and Winnicott term self pathology and narcissism. Indeed, we can start to see a parallel between miscarriages of lucid dreaming and the self dilemmas that can constrain long term meditative practice. Engler has shown how grandiosity, lack of a sense of self, and/or withdrawal can be mistaken by some for the goals of med-itation, while Wilber has suggested that the experience of the numinous—with its fascination and power—can actually create similar narcissistic vulnerabilities (Engler, 1984; Wilber, 1984).

Gackenbach shows how lucid dreaming can miscarry in these same ways. Thus we find the potential sense of openness and releasement that can come with lucidity instead deflected into inflation and grandiosity. Craig has located something like this in the over-emphasis in some lucidity research on control, perhaps demonstrat-ing the inability of such researchers to accept the thrownness and limitation inherent in any developmental path. In addition some experienced lucid dreamers begin to report panic attacks and grotesque nightmares, as the dread denied by defensive idealization and grandiosity breaks through—not despite, but because of exagger-ated efforts at control. Finally, preoccupation with the "powers" of lucidity—what Kastrinidis in Psychotherapy for Freedom in another context calls the premature "being one" with beauty and wholeness—can be associated with a narcissistic flight from the real complexities of everydayness, masking despair and futility.


We can locate from the present perspective two dimensions of dreaming and methods of using them—a dimension exemplifying pragmatic relating and doing, and a dimension of openness to Being. Each would have its own developmental stages and forms of relative constraint and pathology or fullest expression and realization. Dreaming, like much of living, would be a developmental dialectic across these dimensions.

Freud’s own dreams and Barrett’s research show the first dimension, Jung’s own dreams and the research of Gackenbach and myself show the second. With regard to Freud and Jung the blind spot of one is the special strength and open possibility of the other. Jung misses the dilemmas of love and work that pervade Freud’s dreams and dream interpretations, Freud misses the possibility of an open self-validating dimension that intuits wholeness and Being.

With respect to dreaming in both the therapeutic and transpersonal traditions, dreams will be encountered which in their disorganization, confusion and brevity ask to have their defensiveness and disguise undone. At the other extreme of this dimension there will be dreams whose direct presentation of creative metaphors in the manifest dream offer new insights into specific life issues. There is another dimension of dreaming where we find "self-state" expressions of narcissistic dilemma—whether in terms of overly rigid idealizations and illusory perfections or persecutory and grotesque horrors. Here dreams split apart the fusion of uncanny dread and open releasement in Heidegger’s version of "Being-experiences." At the other extreme from dreams thus caught in narcissism, there are those spontaneous dreams—often lucid—where a "calm abiding," receptivity, and resulting sense of energy and clarity become temporary approximations to the goals of the Eastern meditative traditions. Of course, the same dream may shift across these forms of expression.

Finally, at times reports of no dreaming will reflect that dimension whose pole is anchored in Freud’s repression. On other occasions, it will not be a lack of recall of probably existent dreams, but an actual inability to stand the tension and dilemma in sense of self involved in having any dream experience at all—leading to those blank and stuporous states in place of REM dreams that would be the true opposite of lucid dreaming, just as they are the ultimate failure of meditative practice.


Barrett, D. (1989). Dream recall and content as a function of defensiveness. Lucidity Letter,

Craig, E. (Ed.). (1988). Psychotherapy for freedom: The daseinanalytic way in psychology and psychoanalysis. Special issue of The Humanistic Psychologist, 16(1).

Craig, E. (1989). The phenomenological use of dreams in psychotherapy. Lucidity Letter, 8(2), 60–61.

Engler, J. (1984). Therapeutic aims in psychotherapy and meditation. Journal of Transper-sonal Psychology, 16, 25–61.

Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams. New York: Avon Books.

Gackenbach, J. (1989). Clinical applications for consciousness in sleep. Lucidity Letter, 8(2), 62–68.

Grinstein, A. (1980). Sigmund Freud's dreams. New York: International Universities Press.

Hall, C.S. & Van de Castle, R.L. (1966). The content analysis of dreams. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Hartmann, E. (1984). The nightmare. New York: Basic Books.

Hunt, H.T. (1989). The multiplicity of dreams: Memory, imagination, consciousness. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Jung, C.G. (1961). Memoirs, dreams, reflections. New York: Pantheon Books.

Wilber, K. (1984). The developmental perspective and psychopathology, part I. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 16, 75–118.


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4. Training For Lucid Awareness in Dreams, Fantasy, and Waking Life


New York, New York

In this paper, I would like to focus on lucidity as a concept, and on lucidity training as a means of fostering psychological growth.

What makes dreams seem so strange? My work with lucidity grew out of my desire to overcome, in myself, first of all, that paradoxical split in consciousness wherein I "know" that my dreaming is uniquely self-expressive and reflects my deepest personal concerns, yet I frequently do not understand my own dreams. Many of us who are mystified and fascinated by dreams like to think of dreams as precious gifts to be opened, sacred texts to be faithfully recorded and analyzed, or secret coded messages, sent from one "part" of the self to another "part" of the self, to be decoded and translated. These metaphors, though enchanting, are misleading, because they make dreams seem like things we receive from elsewhere, rather than creative action (Schafer, 1976) that we undertake as unified beings. My approach to lucidity training aims to overcome this kind of alienation from self by fostering awareness of ourselves as active dream-creators, of the cognitive and emotional processes by which we create dreams, and of the unique safety of the imagination as space for acquainting ourselves with all of our human psychological potentials. What would it mean to be able to dream consciously? It would mean being at one with oneself, fusing spontaneity with purpose, and acting freely with full awareness.

Just as I would rather learn to paint than study "art appreciation," so would I rather learn to dream than study dream interpretation. Interpretative approaches may increase the ability to understand dreams, but by requiring that the dreamer take the stance of audience to the dream, they reinforce the dreamer’s sense of alienation from his or her own creation. I found that I would have to go beyond interpretative approaches to my dreams in order to work toward my aim of being able to dream the way I can paint or dance—freely and spontaneously, yet with creative purpose and full awareness that I am the creator of my experience. In lucidity training, I use active fantasy, which requires a participatory stance. By using fantasy as a bridge between the waking and dreaming modes, lucidity training is hands-on practice in conscious "dreaming" during the waking state, and tends to facilitate a direct aware-ness of one’s own intended meanings.

Aspects of Full Lucidity

I find lucidity in dreams so intriguing because it provides a model for expanded awareness. However, minimal lucidity—realizing you are dreaming during a dream —does not yet amount to much. In order to explore the possibilities of lucid dream-ing, you still need to clarify what kind of reality the dream is, how dream reality differs form waking reality, and what unique opportunities it offers. I differentiated three characteristics of dream experience which the dreamer must keep in mind in order to be fully lucid:

1. The creative source. You are the primary creator of your dream world and dream experience.

2. The connection between self and environment. The apparent separation between yourself and your dream environment is an illusion. In creating your dream images, you are expressing yourself and unique perceptions of reality.

3. Alternate realities (LeShan, 1976). Your dream experience is but one subjective reality contained within the larger reality of the waking world. As an alternate real-ity, the dream offers different possibilities and limitations from those of ordinary waking life. Within the dream, you can choose among alternative ways of structur-ing and responding to your experience.

Lucidity in Fantasy and Waking Life

While lucidity in dreams obviously offers exciting possibilities for experimen-tation and self-confrontation, what excites me even more is the realization that the concept of lucid awareness can be extended to apply to fantasy and waking reality as well (Malamud, 1982). The essence of lucidity, in any state of consciousness, is awareness of the subjective aspects of a seemingly objective reality. Fantasy, like dreaming, is an internal, imaginary form of reality, and therefore full lucidity during fantasy involves awareness of essentially the same three characteristics as those I just stated for dreams. Although waking reality is significantly different from the imaginary realities, in that it involves more objective and concrete elements, lucidity in waking life is analogous to dream lucidity and involves awareness of three parallel characteristics:

1. The creative source. You are continuously contributing to the creation of your waking world and waking experience.

2. The connection between self and environment. The apparent separation between yourself and your waking environment is an illusion. As an interdependent co-creator of your waking experience, you are continuously expressing yourself and your unique perceptions of reality.

3. Alternate realities. Your waking experience is one, relatively subjective reality which offers different possibilities and limitations from those of the more encom-passing reality you might experience if you "awakened" from your ordinary waking life. Within waking reality, you can choose among alternative ways of structuring and responding to your experience.

Lucidity Training

In 1979, I completed a doctoral dissertation (Malamud, 1979) in which I differ-entiated these three aspects of lucid awareness, extended the concept of lucidity to apply to the fantasy and waking states, devised continua to define levels of lucidity, and developed procedures for lucidity training. In the principal training procedure, subjects "re-dreamed" their dream lucidly, during waking fantasy, with the aim of increasing their satisfaction in the dream. I hypothesized that practicing the lucid attitude and consciously striving for satisfaction during these dream-inspired fan-tasies, or waking dreams, would result in both increased lucidity, and a greater capacity to achieve satisfaction when confronting problems and opportunities not only in waking dreams, but also in sleep-dreams and in waking life.

I explored this hypothesis through an in-depth study of six subjects, using a dia-lectical rather than classically experimental research design. That is, I used feedback from the subjects to revise and improve the lucidity training methods as the study progressed, giving particular attention to the varied capacities of each subject.

The subjects were sent orientation materials and training instructions for having lucid waking dreams, including a lucidity training manual, an outline of the lucidity continuum, and a lucidity checklist. The checklist covered five dream situations in which a dreamer might benefit from lucidity: "problematic relationships," "threat-ening situations," "frustrating situations," "improprieties" and "impossibilities."

The subjects were instructed to mail me at least one dream each week, with lucidity work, for eight to twelve weeks. I responded with detailed feedback letters offering suggestions for heightening awareness of dream feelings, becoming more fully lucid, and working toward more satisfying resolutions of dream situations.

The criteria that I used to assess changes in the subjects were self-report and my own observations of 22 variables, including lucidity, satisfaction, attitudes toward the imagination, and values concerning personal growth. The raw data, which con-sisted of taped interviews and written correspondence between me and the subjects, is extensively quoted in the dissertation.

The most frequent result was that the subjects became more lucid in their waking fantasies. That is, they became more aware of their imaginative power and creativ-ity, they behaved more freely, fearlessly, and uninhibitedly during their fantasies, and they gained insight into themselves by recognizing the self-reflecting nature of their own imagery. There were less data available to assess whether changes oc-curred in the subjects’ sleep-dreams, waking lives, and other outcome categories, but there too, the results encouraged me to believe that with further development and refinement of the training methods, lucidity training could be very effective in increasing awareness and satisfaction in living.

Common Concerns About Lucidity

My thinking about lucidity has continuously been stimulated by dialogue with subjects and colleagues who often raise questions and objections. Here are some of the concerns that come up most frequently, and a brief summary of my current views:

Question: Is it not possible that if we give free play to our fantasies, won’t we be flooded by unacceptable thoughts and feelings that may lead us to behave immorally or irrationally?

Ordinarily, no. Awareness of a wish does not automatically lead to action; choice and decision intervene. We may be more likely to act inappropriately on our irra-tional or immoral motives if we are unaware of them. Becoming conscious of our wishes enables us to choose consciously whether and how we will act on them. An exception: people who have difficulty telling the difference between their fantasies and reality probably will not want to attempt lucidity training unless others are avail-able to provide support and help with reality-testing.

Question: One of the most valuable and delightful qualities of dreams is their spon-taneity. If we learn to direct our dreams consciously, won’t we lose that spontaneity?

Unlikely. The development of the capacity for conscious control does not necessi-tate indiscriminate use of that capacity. Lucid dreamers can allow their dreams to proceed spontaneously, if they prefer.

Question: Isn’t there a danger that lucidity training, by teaching us to control the un-conscious mind, may stifle its wisdom and impose the one-sided attitudes and val-ues of the conscious mind?

No. In the first place, it is a mistake to equate ordinary dreaming with purely uncon-scious behavior. Most dreams involve both conscious and unconscious processes. For example, one may be aware of deciding how to respond to a dream situation, without being aware that one is also creating that situation at that very moment.

Secondly, as a dreamer, one acts as a unity and dreams what one predominantly wants to dream, whether consciously or not, within the limits of what one believes is possible, given one’s perception of reality. Conscious intentions will not prevent the expression, in some form, of stronger, opposing unconscious wishes.

Finally, I think it is a mistake to assume that ordinary, nonlucid dreams neces-sarily offer a wiser or deeper picture of personal reality than do lucid, consciously created dreams or one’s conscious waking thoughts. While the spontaneity of ordi-nary dreaming may break through the inhibitions and self-censorship of waking life, it frequently does not. Why? Because the nonlucid dreamer falsely assumes she or he is awake, and therefore subject to all the limitations and moral taboos of waking life. On the other hand, when we dream with maximum lucidity, we are aware that we do not have to be bound by such limitations, and we therefore have the maximum opportunity to give free play to our imaginations for self-discovery without inhibi-tion or self-deception. As an example, consider the nonlucid dreamer who shies away from acting on, or even admitting, sexual feeling during a dream because the situation would seem improper—for waking life. The same dreamer, if lucid, would feel free to explore and enjoy his or her own sensual feelings during the dream, without fear of waking-life consequences.

Question: Is it not unrealistic to believe that one can ever have total conscious con-trol in dreams?

Yes. Since the development of awareness is a gradual process with no end-point, and since dreaming, like any other activity, is meditated by many situational factors, the concept of total lucidity is offered here as a theoretical ideal.

Question: Is one really totally safe in dreams?

Dream imagery often expresses fears that are valid responses to real threats. How-ever, threatening dream images are not the real dangers they represent. This lucid perspective enables one to take the threatening life situation as seriously as is about the situation to experiment fearlessly with creative responses.

Question: Doesn’t the practice of lucid fantasy, like ordinary daydreaming, encour-age retreat into a world of imaginary gratifications?

On the contrary, lucid fantasy, unlike ordinary daydreaming, inherently leads to facing oneself more realistically as one consciously confronts one’s own projections in one’s imagery. Like ordinary daydreaming, lucid imagining can be used to re-hearse positive behaviours and to develop life-shaping aspirations.

Applications for Lucidity Training

The ultimate value of lucidity is its potential to increase satisfaction in living. Because lucidity and the pursuit of satisfaction enhance each other synergistically, lucidity training incorporated satisfaction as a goal and as a continuously monitored felt sense (Gendlin, 1981). Some of my subjects could not, at first, achieve clarity about their actual feelings, values and desires because they were irrationally afraid of having any thoughts or feelings which they considered "bad," and were too busy cen-soring their spontaneous reactions. Maximal lucidity, which involves the thorough-going knowledge that imagining and acting-in-the world are not the same, leads to the realization that it is both useful and safe to use dreams and fantasies to strip away conventional restraints and to use one’s spontaneous reactions of satisfaction and dis-satisfaction as a source of inner guidance. Because lucidity involves recognition of one’s creative powers, of alternative possibilities, and of previously unrecognized inner potentials, it also increases the likelihood of obtaining satisfaction. Conversely, a satisfaction-seeking orientation, by continually posing the question, "How can I make the best of this situation?" acts as a stimulus to creativity and provides motiva-tion to apply lucid-awareness.

Lucidity training could be integrated into psychotherapy, where specific applica-tions might include the treatment of nightmares and phobias. I have been particularly interested in developing group exercises to foster shaping, mutual helpfulness and intimacy among friends, couples, family members, and workshop participants. I would predict that many students of lucidity training will find, once they have con-solidated all the basic principles and techniques, that they can continue to use the method on their own. Lucidity training can also be used as a path for spiritual growth. The clearing away, through lucidity, of cobwebs of projection, can lead to a newly vivid and profound perception of oneself and others, whether in dreams, fantasies, or waking life, may ultimately foster a cherishing of the precious qualities of each individual being.


Gendlin, E.T. (1981). Focusing (2nd ed.). New York: Bantam.

LeShan, L. (1976). Alternate realities: the search for the full human being. New York: Evans.

Malamud, J.R. (1979). The development of a training method for the cultivation of "lucid" awareness in fantasy, dreams, and waking life (doctoral dissertation). Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, Order No. 8010380.

Malamud, J.R. (1982). Lucidity in waking life. Dream Network Bulletin, 1(5).

Schafer, R. (1976). A new language for psychoanalysis. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Uni-versity Press.

Editor’s Note: This paper was presented at the American Psychological Association Annual Convention, Symposium on Lucid Dreaming, August 27, 1982, Washington, D.C.


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5. Limitations in the Utility of Lucid Dreaming and Dream Control as Techniques for Treating Nightmares


Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

In the past several years I have been studying nightmares and in that context have examined the factors that prompt people to seek treatment for these exper-iences. Given that over the years, many articles in Lucidity Letter have addressed the positive and negative aspects of lucidity and dream control, I thought I would add my reflections on this issue with respect to treating nightmares.

As an aside let me begin noting that I separate dream lucidity from dream con-trol for the very simple reason that they are quite unrelated (if not negatively related) in my own experience. I exercise a fairly high degree of control in my nightmares almost always in the absence of any lucidity. On the other hand I periodically exper-ience lucid dreams (rather mundane ones I must admit) but in these am usually sim-ply aware that I am dreaming and do not act to control the experience. I have tried in a few lucid dreams to be controlling of the experience; in some the dream quickly turned malevolent, in others the dream scenery promptly faded or became achro-matic. This differentiation between control and lucidity is not particularly important to my thoughts as outlined below, but I include it because of the growing documen-tation (and I have seen it in my clients) that these experiences can lead to what could be described as unpleasant side effects. It seems to me that we need to know more about this and I find myself wondering if this unpleasantness is a side effect of lucidity, control, either or both. From an applied perspective (e.g., of treating night-mares) this would be very useful information.

Turning to nightmares, let me begin by summarizing what we know about why people seek help for these dreams. The first thing to note is that many people who have nightmares are not very distressed by them even though their dreams are as unpleasant as those who are distressed. Certainly during the nightmare everyone is unhappy, but after the dream is over people differ tremendously in the amount of upset they subsequently experience. This gives us an important clue: it may not be that the dream is the problem so much as it is the person’s reaction to the dream.

Before examining what leads to these differing reactions we also need to con-sider different types of nightmares. We have a lot more to learn in this area, but there a few distinctions that are worth noting. Some nightmares are clearly post-traumatic in nature in that they began after a trauma and the content of the nightmare is clearly linked to the traumatic event. In the simple case of these nightmares beginning im-mediately after the trauma, they are often part of the person’s natural reaction and they tend to go away spontaneously as the reaction is worked through. Alternatively, techniques directed toward changing the nightmare, such as desensitization to the content, often are swiftly successful. In the more complex situation in which the nightmares (and waking symptoms) persist in a chronic fashion and/or begin several months to several years after the event, these symptoms are usually part of a larger picture of a poor psychosocial adjustment and massive sleep disturbance. In this case treatment is very difficult no matter what the approach.

A second type of nightmare to note are those which are secondary to a physical condition such as disease, medication, drugs, etc. Given the possibility of these, I always have my clients undergo a thorough medical examination.

The nightmares I spend most of my time studying are those creative dreams which often occur throughout the person’s lifetime from childhood onwards. While the predominant emotion is frequently terror, it may also be another such as rage, grief or guilt. I have become aware that some of these are hidden post traumatic nightmares. For example in the case of individuals who have been sexually abused as children, they often do not dream explicitly about the sexual abuse and therefore their nightmares can go unrecognized as being post traumatic in origin. Similarly in two cases Denis Belicki and I have treated, in which the people spontaneously started having nightmares as an adult without any prior history of nightmares, and without any detectable physical contributors, nor any awareness of precipitating trauma, we subsequently uncovered in therapy a precipitating traumatic event, the traumatic nature of which had not been consciously appreciated by the client. It may be impor-tant to detect such hidden post traumatic dreams as it has been my increasing exper-ience that the distress attached to these experiences does not resolve until the person gains insight into, and works through, the impact of the precipitating trauma.

Finally, we are left with those long-standing, creative nightmares which do not appear to originate in major trauma or a physical condition. The key to treatment here lies in the difference between people who are very distressed with these exper-iences and those who are able to live with them quite well. From my research and clinical experience it would appear that distressed people have one or more of the following characteristics:

1. They take their dreams too seriously;

2. They have difficulty containing the emotion of the dream, or distracting them-selves from it, after awakening; and/or

3. They are experiencing a great deal of life stress and/or have problems in their waking psychosocial adjustment.

Let us consider each individually.

Taking Dreams Too Seriously

What do I mean by too seriously? I have several things in mind here. One ex-ample is the person whose waking life is in fine order but simply because they have nightmares, concludes there is something terribly wrong with themselves or their lives. The problem is that they are assuming both that dreams are always profoundly meaningful and that the emotional "volume" of the dream is to be fully trusted. My own opinion on these issues is that dreams, like waking thoughts, can deal with quite trivial issues. Secondly, the nature of dream experience—its strong tendency toward single-mindedness with corresponding lack of proportion, its perceived reality, its lack of concern for the constraints of reality, etc.—means that the emotional vol-ume can be very easily inflated: the quality of the emotions can be trusted but not necessarily its strength.

Similarly the person who assumes that all dreams are deeply meaningful, and correspondingly feel that their waking thought and judgment has very little merit is at considerable risk to be disturbed by nightmares. Such an attitude becomes partic-ularly problematical if they tend to always take their dreams literally and not meta-phorically. For example, individuals have described to me cutting off relationships, usually for a short period of time, simply because a person behaved despicably in their dream. While dreams do occasionally provide direct insight into interpersonal dynamics, these individuals need to be taught (or reminded) about the possible meta-phoric or symbolic nature of dream content.

People who feel they have prophetic dreams can be deeply disturbed by night-mares. An example is a woman I spoke with briefly on two occasions. The first time I spoke to her she had not driven a car in ten years because she had had a nightmare about driving a car which had seats that turned into grave stones. This dream haunt-ed her because on other occasions she had had dreams which had seemed prophetic. In my conversation with her I pointed out that:

1. No one has dreams that are always prophetic (and she agreed that most of her dreams were not);

2. Dreams can be metaphoric so that this could be "death" of another kind; and

3. Everyone has tragedy in their lives and everyone dies, and that to be overly pre-occupied with these facts only reduces the quality of life.

This initial conversation lasted only 15 to 20 minutes. A year later she contacted me to let me know that she had resumed driving after our conversation. Further-more, a subsequent encounter with a car like the one in her dream had led to an event which she felt was the fulfillment of the original dream. It did involve a "death" but of the metaphoric variety, and in fact was a very happy outcome for her.

With all these individuals, the problem is not the nightmare itself, but their atti-tudes and reactions to the nightmares. If we were to quickly strive to teach these people how to control or change nightmares, we would not only overlook the real issue but in the long term might even exacerbate the issue. Specifically, while in the short term we might treat these individuals’ distress by giving them greater control over the experience, if they turn out to be one of those who in the long term develop unpleasantness as a side effect of lucidity or control, they would be uniquely un-equipped to handle that distress as evident in their original distress. It seems to make much more sense to first of all teach people how to comfortably live with the unpleasant dream experience before exposing them to techniques which occasionally result in more unpleasantness.

As a final aside, if the individual truly wishes to eliminate the distressing con-tent rather than focus on their reactions, there are techniques which are usually much faster than inducing control or lucidity: sleeping with a light on, daily practice of deep relaxation, systematic desensitization, waking rehearsal of the dream changing the ending to a more positive one, etc.

Difficulty Containing the Emotion of the Dream

Creative individuals who are hypnotizable and tend to become engrossed in fantasy and aesthetic stimuli (a tendency called "absorption" in the literature) are prone to nightmares. Such high absorbers tend to get very emotionally involved in events they attend to: these are the individuals who get totally wrapped up in books and movies, experiencing them as real. It is not surprising that after they awaken from a nightmare, they have difficulty distracting themselves from the experience, and the emotion can extend right into the next day. This is very similar to the issue discussed above: the nightmare is not the problem so much as the reaction to the nightmare. The reaction however, is not caused by attitudes but by an attentional style driven by personality. Again I think a treatment strategy directed toward changing the dream is misguided here. These individuals need to be taught how to control or "box" their emotions and imagination, and how to distract themselves from the memory of their dream.

Life Stress and Problems in Psychosocial Adjustment

Nightmares are common in adults. Many people with nightmares, even those with frequent nightmares, are as well adjusted as individuals without nightmares. However, quite often (although by no means always) the subset of individuals who seek help for their nightmares also have other problems in their waking life. These problems may be exacerbating their nightmares, and at the very least will increase their sensitivity and lower their tolerance to unpleasant dream experience. With such individuals I fairly often choose the nightmares as the first thing to tackle as it is something we can usually have quick success with, which is tremendously empow-ering to them. It occasionally happens that by reducing their distress with nightmares (either by changing their reactions to the nightmare or by reducing nightmare fre-quency) the individual feels so much more capable of changing or coping with their other problems that therapy is no longer necessary. In other cases therapy has to address the entire presentation of problems and sometimes the waking issues must take precedence over the dream problems.

My general bias in working with individuals presenting with both waking and dreaming problems is that troubled people tend to be very preoccupied in a non-productive way, and I am therefore hesitant to use techniques which encourage a deepening of that preoccupation (one obvious exception would be when treating repressed trauma); therefore, generally I avoid most dream work, even interpreta-tion (and I include the induction of lucid dreaming as dream work), with any person who lacks a firm "grounding" in the world.


When dealing with individuals who are troubled by their nightmares I use a wide range of techniques depending on the type of nightmare, the reason(s) for the distress, the personality of the individual and their current circumstances and psycho-social adjustment. However, as is now apparent, development of lucidity and/or dream control is noticeably absent from my therapeutic armamentarium sometimes because it simply does not address the problem and other times because there are more efficient, and perhaps safer, ways of dealing with the distress.

Nonetheless I think the development of lucidity or dream control is valuable in work with nightmares (or dreams more generally) with individuals who wish to pur-sue self growth and who are able to live with some subjective distress in the process. As mentioned above I regularly use dream control to interact more productively with disturbing dream characters or to work through and change unpleasant dream sequences. Furthermore I have encouraged certain individuals with nightmares to develop similar practices. For example, with some clients, after they have mastered their distress associated with nightmares, we have gone on to do active dream work. Ultimately I view dream work as a set of techniques ideally suited for self explora-tion and development, but not necessarily useful for establishing equilibrium in distressed individuals.


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6. The Phenomenological Use of Dreams In Psychotherapy


Center for Existential Studies and Human Services,

Worcester and Cambridge, Massachusetts

This paper focuses on the application of phenomenological perspectives, prin-ciples and methods for the use of dreams in the psychotherapeutic situation.

Upholding the appeal of the European philosopher and "founder" of phenom-enology, Edmund Husserl,"to return to the things themselves," existentially oriented psychotherapists (e.g., Binswanger, 1963; Boss, 1958; 1963; 1977; Craig 1987a; 1987b; 1988; Stern, 1972) seek to illuminate the meaningfulness of dreams by invit-ing patients to explicate in detail the concrete episodes of their manifest dreamt ex-istence. As the two partners of inquiry, the therapist and the patient, continue open-mindedly to observe the specific events and elements of a particular manifest dream, the once obscure meaningful forms and structures of that dreamt existence gradually reveal themselves directly. Such an "unambitious reading" of what dreams them-selves disclose does not require symbolic interpretations which rely more on the authority of the clinician’s theory than on the authorship of the dreamer him- or herself. Indeed, for phenomenologically oriented clinicians theoretical-symbolic interpretations are in general highly suspect with reference to their existential valid-ity for the patient.

But, it may be asked, what is it that is seen with this kind of unpretentious, phe-nomenologically discriminating observation? The answer is simply those possibil-ities of existence, of being-there-in-one’s-world, to which the dreamer was him- or herself open while dreaming.

The critical and clinically significant point with this perspective is that, while dreaming, individuals tend to be more open to certain of their own existential possi-bilities than they are while they are awake. Thoughtful observation of dreams usu-ally reveals that, during dreaming, individuals seem to select certain, typically fairly limited, domains or topics in their lives and then examine these relatively defined areas under microscopic light. Although the sequestered domains under considera-tion often appear magnified in such bold, vivid relief that the original concerns are barely recognizable, the intensive microscopic seeing of the dreaming eye offers a paradoxically wider and richer vision of things than is usually possible in waking when an individual cannot afford the luxury of such close-up laboratory-like investigation.

The first challenge for the clinician is therefore simply to discern the particular meaningfulness of the individual’s dreaming existence precisely as it was given to the dreamer. The second challenge is to identify those features of this dreamt exis-tence that announce the dreamer’s own existential constraint as well as his or her heretofore unclaimed possibility. Psychotherapeutic readings of the dream therefore trace the ever changing borders between freedom and constriction in the existence of the dreamer, pointing always to both sides of the existential frontier: retro-spectively to the ways in which the individual has lost touch with his or her own inheritance as a human being and prospectively to ways in which he or she might still lay claim to a more fully realized authentic existence of his or her own.


Binswanger, L. (1963). Being-in-the-world. New York: Basic Books.

Boss, M. (1958). The analysis of dreams New York: Philosophical Library.

Boss, M. (1963). Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis. New York: Basic Books.

Boss, M. (1977). I dreamt last night . . . New York: Gardner Press.

Craig, E. (1987a). Dreaming, reality and illusion: An existential- phenomenological inquiry. In F. van Zuuren, F. Wertz and B. Mook, Advances in qualitative psychology: Themes and variations (pp. 115– 136). Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger; Berwyn, PA: Swets North America.

Craig, E. (1987b). The realness of dreams. In R. Russo, Dreams are wiser then men (pp. 34–57). Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Craig, E. (1988). (Ed.). Psychotherapy for freedom. Special issue of The Humanistic Psychologist, 1(1).

Stern, P. (1972). In praise of madness. New York: W.W. Norton.


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7. Letter to the Editor

[The Importance of Lightheartedness]


Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Germany

I would now like to comment briefly on "Proceedings from Lucid Dreaming Symposium" (Lucidity Letter, June 1986). . . . I come to an important statement by Bouchet, that for "those who see life as a movie, a drama or game, something to be played," the question "Am I dreaming or not?" is not a problem. "It seems that one of the characteristics of the psychological field is a kind of serenity in the face of the diversity of life" (p. 218). I agree with this notion and would so formulate the idea: "a composed and lighthearted attitude towards reality and one’s own self is condu-cive to the learning of lucid dreaming." Such an attitude is also an important condi-tion for the solution of problems we encounter in our lives. . . . Allow me to illustrate the argument by means of a crucial experience I myself had. At the beginning of my first semester in psychology (November of 1958) one of our professors asked the following question: "Why is it that we do not see objects in our heads, although physiologists claim that our perception of things is due to brain processes?" We were to give the question some thought and had to deliver a written answer by the end of the semester. Shortly before the appointed time, I was out walking and was thinking about this question. I stopped to take a closer look at a tree. First of all it occurred to me that this tree could not possibly fit inside my head. Immediately afterwards, an enormous head appeared in my imagination which encompassed the entire perceptual world, including my perceptual body. I then also realized that my own body was represented in my brain through sensory processes. After this it was no longer a problem for me that perceptual objects are outside the perceptual body, in the same way that physical objects are outside the physical body. . . . Once I had grasped the fact that the world we see is simply a phenomenal (mental) world, I developed a completely new attitude to it. For the first time, the idea occurred to me of comparing the experienced real world with the dream world. . . .

As I was able to acquire a different attitude toward reality through the sketched epistemological model, I have tried in all my lectures on lucid dreaming to convey the model to my students. . . . I believe that my combined [induction] technique has been successful with my students because:

1. I have tried to convey to them—in the manner described—a lighthearted attitude towards reality;

2. My lectures on lucid dreaming were not compulsory, so that only motivated students attended them; and

3. In telling of their lucid dreams, the students were able to motivate each other.

. . . In our book (Tholey, P. & Utecht, K. (1987). Schöpferisch Träumen: der Klartraum als Lebenshilfe. Niedernhausen: Falken-Verlag) we have also attempted to convey to the readers a lighthearted attitude towards reality, so that lucid dream-ing may be learned without anxiety. Naturally, our techniques should be varied according to the persons involved.

Since in our opinion, many mental disorders stem from an egocenteredness which limits our perception, our thoughts, our emotions, our motivation and our behavior, being able to convey to someone a flexible and lighthearted attitude to the world and one’s own person can be regarded as an important therapeutic step. When the person then uses an induction technique, which can be varied according to the nature of the disorder, a further therapeutic effect is usually observed before the patient has his/her first lucid dream. Once the patient has mastered the art of lucid dreaming and behaves in the appropriate manner during dreaming, then an impor-tant step toward self-healing has been made. Lucid dreaming should finally lead to "creative freedom" as it is referred to in Gestalt psychology (psychologie de la forme). I believe that there is an interdependence between the ability to have lucid dreams and "creative freedom"—in the sense of a positive feedback. In other words, a person in possession of a certain amount of creative freedom, will have less dif-ficulty learning lucid dreaming and someone who has mastered the technique of lucid dreaming and behaves appropriately during lucid dreaming will be able to attain greater creative freedom. . . .

                                                                                                                                    Paul Tholey


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8. Clinical and Transpersonal Concerns With Lucid Dreaming Voiced


Athabasca University and University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Because the phenomenon of dream lucidity has become a field of inquiry for scientists, clinicians, philosophers, and dreamers, I would like to highlight a few concerns which have been mounting in my mind with regard to widespread access to lucid dreaming. We so often experience the lucid dream as pleasant and so sel-dom hear about "bad" experiences. Therefore it is easy for those interested in dream lucidity to gloss over potential problems. During my sabbatical year from the Uni-versity of Northern Iowa, I have had the opportunity to talk to many people both in the United States and abroad about lucidity. Although there is much excitement about its potential, those who voice concern about its abuse are also being heard. This excitement is normal and often accompanies the "discovery" (in this case redis-covery) of any new state of consciousness. However, it is incumbent on the leaders of this emerging field to also voice concerns. My concerns with this field include clinical or personal experiential applications of working with parts of the self in the dream, as well as issues regarding the transpersonal nature of the experience.

Clinical/Experiential Concerns

It seems to me that clinical and experiential concerns center around issues of dream control, dream interactions and questions of the fabric of reality. (Several articles and letters address these concerns, [especially in the December, 1987 issue] of Lucidity Letter. Should one have control over one’s dreams? Some would say no, that you should leave the content of the unconscious untouched as it appears in the dream. Most, however, agree that some control of the content could be beneficial (full control is probably impossible). Dream control is clearly tied to expectations but we may not always be conscious of the nature of our expectations, either while awake or while asleep [Editor’s Note: See the panel discussion,"Should You Con-trol Your Dreams?" in the December, 1990 issue of Lucidity Letter for a lively dis-cussion of this particular issue].

I would particularly bring to the attention of the reader the work of Paul Tholey for advice as to the nature of applications of dream control in both clinical and nor-mal populations. In the fall, I was fortunate to meet and visit with Paul in Germany where he continually stressed that in their research/clinical program they have found that the dream provides its own safety mechanisms. That is, he claims that the dreamer will only experience and change the lucid dream to the degree that he/she is able to cope with the outcomes. The reason I point so strongly to Tholey’s work is that our clinical/experiential work in the United States lags far behind his even though we have provided the major psychophysiological and psychological research founda-tion for dream lucidity. Unfortunately, much of his work was still in German but an English summary of the clinical/experiential applications of lucidity can be found in Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming (Gackenbach and LaBerge, editors; Plenum, June, 1988). [Editor’s Note: After this was written, Lucid-ity Letter also published more on Tholey’s work; see the three extended articles reprinted in this commemorative issue, Volume 10(1&2).]

A second concern about working with lucid dreams is the extent and quality of interactions with dream characters/situations. Tholey specifically addresses this con-cern in the chapter referenced above. Further, during my visit he pointed out that the question "Who am I?" should be posed to other dream characters/situations while lucid. This notion of a receptive attitude to the dream experience rather than an ag-gressive manipulative one has also been pointed to by clinicians in the United States.

Are lucid dream interactions relevant to waking state behaviors? This question of the transfer of information from lucid dreaming to waking life is crucial to the potential applications of the state. Tholey’s work clearly shows that such transfer is not only possible but desirable. Relatedly, I would caution against taking an attitude toward the lucid dream state of it being unrelated to waking life. This could result in undue absorption in lucid dreaming, leading potentially to addiction (see the letter by Barroso in [the December, 1987] issue of Lucidity Letter for an excellent example).

Another clinical/experiential danger is that extensive exposure to dream lucid-ity might, in some individuals, lead to questions of the nature of reality both while sleeping and while awake (see the [June, 1987] issue of Lucidity Letter for an excel-lent example). The question "What is real?" has always intrigued philosophers and appeals to the philosopher in us all. But such questioning either as induction of lucid dreams and/or as a result of extensive, premature exposure to lucidity may in some people lead to quasi-psychotic splits with reality. This is illustrated by Bruce Marcot’s comment about his lucid dream experiment: ". . . I was beginning to become con-fused as to various states of mind (sleep, awake, dream-conscious). I dropped the experimentation shortly thereafter" (p. 72) [Editor’s Note: June, 1987 issue. See also the reprint in the 1991 issue].

Norbert Sattler, a German psychologist in private practice in Frankfurt, acknow-ledges that he screens all his patients for reality-testing problems and if they seem to have such problems he does not introduce the concept of dream lucidity. To his re-maining patients he introduces dream lucidity and with about one-third of them, he works with lucidity as the therapy technique of choice. However, for persons simply picking up a popular book, reading the April [1987] OMNI article or hearing about lucid dreaming from a neighbor, such screening does not occur. Dare we so whole-heartedly recommend lucid dream induction practices which require reality testing?

However, is it the moral responsibility of the leaders of the field to withhold in-formation because of potential misuse and/or misunderstanding by a few? Perhaps not, but it is their responsibility to caution their audiences for the benefit of those for whom such advice may cause a slower unfolding of lucidity in dreams. The MacTiernan letter in the [December, 1987] Letters to the Editor section is a case in point. His experience was based on reading an article in OMNI by Steve LaBerge and myself. Are we at fault for what happened to him? Clearly no. But we are at fault if we do not routinely caution audiences about abuse or even dangers in accessing an incredibly powerful state of mind.

After hearing about Tholey’s training of an Olympic athlete with dream lu-cidity, a colleague spontaneously remarked, "Dream lucidity is really the ultimate drug!" Yes, the state has that potential. But so too comes the potentiality of abuse through ignorance of proper use and possibly addiction.

Transpersonal Concerns

I have found in my reading, research, and personal experience with dream lucidity that it is indeed fertile ground for truly transpersonal glimpses into the nature of being. However, I have become aware that there are different approaches to the transpersonal experience of consciousness during sleep. This happened ini-tially in my work with colleagues at the Maharishi International University and later as I talked to others more widely about the transpersonal aspect of lucidity. And I began to be confused . . . in fact, I am still confused!

It seemed to me on the surface that the central question here, too, was with dream control. It became clear on closer inspection that the attitude towards the dream is the key question. Should one engage in an active, involved attitude of dream con-sciousness or should one engage in a passive, uninvolved attitude while conscious that one is dreaming? A third option might be that one could use either attitude inter-changeably as the demands of the state require.

What does all of this have to do with transcending ordinary consciousness, albeit dream consciousness? This question centers around the relationship of dream lucid-ity (active attitude) to dream witnessing (passive attitude). Essentially, dream wit-nessing is claimed to represent a fourth state of consciousness which is "higher" than waking, sleeping, and dreaming. One is said to have "transcended" these ordinary states of consciousness (see especially talks by Harry Hunt and Charles Alexander and a research report by Gackenbach, Moorecroft, Alexander, and LaBerge about these questions in [the December, 1987] issue of Lucidity Letter). So what is the concern?

Two concerns have struck me thus far in my thinking about the transpersonal aspects of lucidity. First, if one finds a natural passive "consciousness" during their dream and then hears that they can manipulate their dreams, should they? Or if one naturally tries to manipulate the dream should they force a passive attitude? It seems to me that we should honor what comes naturally to each individual and not try to force unfamiliar styles on each other during dreaming any more than we should during waking.

Of even more concern to me is the possibility of pursuing the "spiritual highest" while lucid as a sole end. If this occurs to the exclusion of all other dream activities, might we not miss the value of lucidity for helping us work out our daily problems? Might not such "spiritual egocenteredness" serve as another form of denial of waking problems?

What is the Proper Attitude/Behavior?

How do we find out what is the proper attitude/behaviors to engage in while lucid in sleep? We go SLOWLY. We ask other lucid dreamers what works for them, we consult other colleagues, whether scientist, clinician or philosopher, and we consider models from both ancient literature as well as from contemporary clinical practice. An excellent example of a blend of these approaches is Ken Kelzer’s recent book, The Sun and the Shadow. By combining the spiritual and the clinical, the mundane and the sublime Kelzer offers a tour de force of the proper attitude we should have in working with both our lucid and our nonlucid dreams.

I don’t think any of us can stop the increasing interest in and experimentation with the state of dream lucidity. But what we can do as pioneers in the area is to ad-vise caution when we hear of someone who has discovered their lucid dreams. Bad examples do exist. Read the first two letters to the editor in [the December, 1987] issue of Lucidity Letter as well as the panel discussion on ethical issues in the sym-posium proceedings in order to arm yourself with specific illustrations.

Finally, write to Lucidity Letter about your own experiences with dream lucid-ity, BOTH GOOD AND BAD. We can all benefit from each other’s accounts. Only if we share our experiences, thoughts, reflections, research results, clinical insights, and philosophies can we all learn about this exciting "new" state of consciousness.


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9. Response to Gackenbach


Stanford University, California

Jayne Gackenbach reports that in conversations with many people in the United States and abroad she has heard voices expressing concern about the potential for "abuse" of lucid dreaming (1987). Gackenbach feels that "it is incumbent upon the leaders of this emerging field to also voice concerns" (p. 4) and claims that "we are at fault if we do not routinely caution audiences about abuse or even dangers in ac-cessing an incredibly powerful state of mind" (p. 6). While I share some of my col-league’s concerns, if not apprehensions, I believe it is premature and inappropriate to "routinely caution audiences" about supposed "dangers" that have not yet been convincingly demonstrated. I do not really believe that there is cause for alarm. I have already discussed my own concerns regarding the proper use of lucid dreaming in my 1985 book, to which I direct readers interested in my views. Here I will limit myself to a few comments on the issues addressed by Gackenbach.

Gackenbach asks, "Should one have control over one’s dreams?" An important question, but this formulation seems to me too broad to be useful, as can be seen by parallel questions such as "Should one have control over one’s thoughts? actions? life?" I believe the more useful questions regarding dream control are first, "How much is possible?" and second, "What kind is desirable?" Before answering either question, of course, we need to ask, "For whom?" For people interested in using lucid dreams for personal growth I have recommended control of the dream ego rather than dream content control (LaBerge, 1985). The reason for this is that what we learn when we learn to control our responses to dream characters and other con-tent "applies to our waking lives as well—thus we dream in order to learn how to live better both by day and by night" (p. 106).

Gackenbach quotes with apparent approval the statement that "dream lucidity is really the ultimate drug!" and warns of the concomitant abuse and addiction poten-tial. "Really?" Is lucid dreaming a drug? and if so, what kind? antibiotic? narcotic? psychotomimetic? Assuming that narcotic is the metaphor intended, is there any reason to believe that lucid dreaming is more "addictive" than any other pleasant experience including sleep, nonlucid dreaming, or sex? If all that is being claimed is that people enjoy lucid dreaming, and like any other pleasurable experiences, will want to experience them again, do they really have to be warned about this?

As for the issue of whether "reality testing" is dangerous for some, I have two comments. First, the proper question for inducing lucid dreams is not "What is real?" but rather, "Is this a dream?" or "Am I dreaming or not?" (see Tholey, 1983, and techniques summarized in LaBerge, 1985). Practice with this questioning should lead people to an enhanced understanding of the difference between dream-ing and perception, not a confusion of the two. The formulation, "What is real?" on the other hand, seems to lead people to the kind of problems reported by MacTiernan (1987). While on the topic of the MacTiernan letter, Gackenbach seems to regard this as an example of the dangers of lucid dreams. What exactly is the danger? Yes, MacTiernan experienced extreme panic in his dream, but it sounds to me that by that point his lucidity had failed, otherwise the apparent realism of his surrounding would not have caused him to question whether or not he was still dreaming. "Dreams are more readily distinguishable from waking perceptions on the basis of their instabil-ity rather than their vividness" (LaBerge, 1985, p. 112). In any case, MacTiernan states that after he woke up, "I felt a new outlook on my life. I felt more good to be alive than I ever did before."

The other comment I would like to make on the question of whether "reality testing" and lucid dreaming in general is dangerous for some is that, as the proverb puts it, "nothing is without danger for the foolish." This is probably even more true of the mentally unstable, but to put things in proper perspective, we have to ask whether lucid dreams are more dangerous than nonlucid dreams, out-of-body ex-periences, horror movies, and everyday social life. My impression is that anyone who is likely to get into trouble with lucid dreaming is just as likely to get into trouble with almost anything else. As Idries Shah has observed, "People are always being driven off their heads by something or other, however respectable the creed, and nobody has yet found any method of preventing this" (1978, p. 263).

I would like to make one final comment on the issue of the "ethical" use of lucid dreaming.

Gackenbach ends her essay with the question, "How do we find out what is the proper attitude/behaviors to engage in while lucid in sleep?" The answer she pro-poses is that "we ask other lucid dreamers what works for them, we consult other colleagues . . . and we consider models from both ancient literature as well as from contemporary clinical practice." Gackenbach promotes Kelzer’s book as an excel-lent example of what she thinks is "the proper attitude we should have in working with both our lucid and nonlucid dreams." I cannot say that I agree with her assessment, but I have a different point to make here. Gackenbach’s principle for determining the right thing to do seems to be social proof: "Look around and see what your neighbors are doing." While there is nothing wrong with observing what others are doing, I have proposed (LaBerge, 1985) that dreamers listen to their own consciences in determining which courses of action to follow in their own lucid dreams. Dreams are, after all, private, not public experiences.


Gackenbach, J. (1987). Clinical and transpersonal concerns with lucid dreaming voiced. Lucidity Letter, 6(2), 4–7.

LaBerge, S. (1985). Lucid dreaming. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

MacTiernan, V. (1987). Letter to the editor. Lucidity Letter, 6(2), 157–160.

Shah, I. (1978). Learning how to learn. New York: Harper & Row.

Tholey, P. (1983). Techniques for inducing and manipulating lucid dreams. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57, 79–90.


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10. Letter From Scott Sparrow

[On the Advisability of Widespread Lucid Dream Induction]


Virginia Beach, Virginia

I agree that it’s time we tackled the question of the advisability of promoting widespread lucid dream induction. It’s somewhat surprising that a more heated debate hasn’t sprung up before now. But now that lucid dreaming has been estab-lished as a legitimate focus of research enquiry, and has been found to be available to a large percentage of the populace, it’s certainly time to ask, "What is the appro-priate context in which to encourage lucid dream induction?" With regard to this question, I’m going to share some ideas without going back to arrange them. I know if I try to do that, I’ll never find the time to finish a letter to you. So please forgive the disjointed nature of this response.

One reason I haven’t participated much in the lucid dreaming field over the last few years is that I ran into some unpleasant experiences in the late 70’s following a period of almost nightly lucid dreaming. I didn’t want to assume that it was lucid dreaming per se that was acting as a catalyst for these experiences—maybe it was unique to my situation that my pursuit of lucidity had inadvertently thrown me off balance. In any case, I found I had to back off from the pursuit of lucid dreaming until several years later, when I again resumed a more concerted and less ambitious meditation and dreamwork regimen. I realize now that this strange time was a period of growth; but there were times I was quite anxious about what was going on. For-tunately, the whole ordeal left me feeling grounded and seasoned. In fact, it seems to have contributed to my ability to empathize with others who are passing through destabilizing, albeit developmental, periods.

From my reading of the Tibetan literature, which is the only sophisticated his-torical source I’m aware of on lucid dreaming, there is every reason to assume that lucid dreaming (yoga of the dream state) is a dangerous pursuit, especially when the seeker does not practice meditation. "The expounders of Tibetan yoga emphasize that the Path of Form [the six yogas, including dream yoga] . . . can be dangerous and is more difficult than its companion Path Without Form, the Mahamudra [medi-tation]" (Evans-Wentz, 1958, p. xxxv). Further, aspirants without a guide are en-couraged to pursue the meditation path, rather than the path of the six yogas. One reason for their concern was apparently due to the powerful energy (kundalini) which was activated through the six yogas (and through Mahamudra to a lesser ex-tent), which has to be managed very carefully if it is to promote development, rather than mental illness.

The Tantric principle of the equivalence of consciousness and energy (prana) is central to the Tibetan system. It implies that when we manage to increase one, the other is sure to follow. My own observation that the kundalini (experienced as powerful electricity-like energy coursing through my body) often awakens during my lucid dreams supports this Tantric principle at least at a subjective level. Gopi Krishna’s autobiographical account of his difficulties with the kundalini provides ample reason to approach with great care any consciousness-enhancing technique that arouses this psychophysical force (Krishna, 1971).

Even if we choose to ignore the Tantric wisdom because it presumably bears no relevance to our Western tradition (a highly questionable assumption, considering the universality of various transpersonal experiences), we would still have a hard time justifying our ignorance of the time-tested tenets of psychodynamic theory. Even Wilber, who has gone out on a limb in describing an evolutionary framework leading to oneness with God, places great emphasis on the pre-personal stages of de-velopment, and the consequences of repressing the typon (the body-self) and the shadow (Wilber, 1979). Freud’s contributions actually survive quite well in Wilber’s more comprehensive system.

Although I don’t think we should try to prevent healthy individuals from dis-covering their repressed complexes and other pre-personal issues through lucid dreaming (after all, what is therapy if it isn’t, in part, awakening to these issues), I strongly believe that we need to inform and prepare individuals for the possible ordeal of meeting autonomous repressed aspects of the unconscious through the widened aperture of the lucid dreamer’s awareness.

I believe there is no sure way to obtain informed consent from a prospective lucid dream induction subject. Moreover, I believe the desire for lucidity is, to some undetermined extent, insincere. Why? To the extent that one has continued to re-press the awareness of unresolved, possibly painful pre-personal memories and issues (and that probably fits most of us to varying extents), the statement "I want to become lucid," implies a paradox. It seems to say: I am willing to become aware of what I’ve been unwilling to become aware of. How can we know ahead of time what we will suddenly perceive through our wide-open dream eyes? How can we know if we’re ready for it?

It is possible that lucidity alone confers the strength needed to deal with the en-hanced awareness of heretofore repressed aspects. Maybe lucidity is another name for the readiness to deal with the unknown. One friend of mine suggested that lucidity arises to the degree that one is willing to tolerate inconsistency in one’s life. If this is true, then we need not fear the lucid state. But when I look at the lucid dreams of my clients, as well as many of my own, I have observed that lucid dreams are, on occasion, quite overwhelming.

A client of mine reported that she had to take a day off from work two weeks ago after having a lucid dream. True, it was "wonderful" from my standpoint, but it shook her to the foundations of her self concept. In short, she found an old flattened doll beneath a pile of rubbish, picked it up and prelucidly thought, "If I was this doll, I know what I’d like." She began hugging and stroking the doll, and it came to life! As it dawned on her that she was dreaming, she nonetheless felt deeply disturbed to realize that this "doll" was indeed alive in some sense. One can appreciate the sig-nificance of her finding out that her abused child (very abused) was still alive, but it was a fact that went against her ego definition. Wonderful facts can be devastating from the standpoint of a well-fortified ego. Knowing this woman, I feel that she was fortunate to be in therapy when such "good" news became conscious to her.

Perhaps not all of us possess repressed pre-personal issues; does that make the lucid dream a comfortable experience? Not necessarily. Even transpersonal reality can be quite disturbing to the ego (e.g. Tart’s research on the fear of psi). Once again, Wilber is a help here. If it’s pre-personal material, it can be disturbing to the extent that the ego will not include it inside its boundaries. If it’s transpersonal material, it’s disturbing as long as the ego does not wish to be included in a larger whole. To the ego, these fears feel quite similar!

While the example of my client’s dream represents one way that lucidity might leverage an uninformed person (and who isn’t, ultimately?) into disturbing, albeit valuable, realizations, I have a more serious reservation concerning the indiscrim-inate promotion of lucid dream induction. Quite simply, I feel that it is easy for persons to experience the freedom and power it bestows without having to develop a commensurate willingness to surrender old ways. One can easily escape from or destroy a dream figure. Such actions, while far from the endpoint of our growth, often fit into a developmental continuum as intermediate accomplishments (Rossi, 1972). As the therapist, I serve as one who encourages the dreamer not to get stuck in such intermediate stages, and to continue working toward dialogue, reconciliation and integration. I’m concerned that many individuals, who do not have someone to urge them onward, may get caught up in the power of the lucid dream, and provoke the "retaliation" of largely autonomous, repressed unconscious content.

Wilber might say that lucid dreaming can easily become an Atman project because of its Eros-potential—its promise as a cornucopia of personally gratifying experiences. As long as we promote lucid dreaming as a blank check for personally gratifying experiences, I believe we hide a greater truth from a person’s view—that lucid dreaming is inescapably a form of yoga which demands the most of us, includ-ing eventual surrender of power and self-gratification urges. As researchers, do we wish to promote a scintillating but potentially dangerous half-truth, or a less attrac-tive but more complete view?

In my own life, I found that at the height of my lucid dreaming I ran into a brick wall of sorts. Lucid dreaming had become evidence of my evolution, a merit badge of sorts. Of course, I thought I was handling it okay; but I had no idea what I was repressing. Who does? Well, all kinds of very angry people began showing up in my dreams, and turning rather demonic to boot. A black panther walked in the front door and would not go away no matter how much I told him he was only a dream.

Maybe it’s inevitable that we all embark on the Path encumbered by adolescent dreams. Maybe we need to fly, then crash, then pick up and pursue the Path with more sobriety. There’s a lot of evidence to support the notion that a "dark night" is an unavoidable course correction in our path to wholeness (Underhill, 1911/1961), or that at least it’s hard to avoid failure in our early efforts at transpersonal evolu-tion. (e.g. Robert Johnson’s analysis of Percival’s quest in He). If so, we need to normalize a broader range of experiences so that individuals will not conclude erroneously that they are failing just because they are in pain. How I wish there had been someone around me in late 1977 who could have known enough to say, "This is part of it. Pick yourself up, and you’ll make it through okay?" It would have made the path a lot more meaningful (if not easier to tolerate).

Herb Puryear has said that the only thing more dangerous than meditating is not meditating. I believe the same is true of lucid dreaming, psychotherapy and other fertile approaches to growth and transformation. I’m not going to stop pursuing it, and I don’t expect others to. Even so, I feel we have an obligation to let others know that lucid dreaming can usher them into the darkness as much as into the Light. And both are necessary experiences, I believe.

|I hope these ideas can be helpful in the ongoing dialogue regarding the cost vs. benefits analysis of lucid dream induction.

                                                                                                                           — Scott Sparrow


Evans-Wentz, W.Y. (1958). Tibetan yoga and secret doctrines. New York: Oxford Univer-sity Press.

Krishna, G. (1971). Kundalini: Evolutionary energy in man. Berkeley: Shambhala.

Rossi, E. (1972). Dreams and the growth of personality: Expanding awareness in psychotherapy. New York: Braunner/Mazel.

Underhill, E. (1911/1961). Mysticism. New York: E.P. Dutton.

Wilber, K. (1979). No boundary: Eastern and Western approaches to personal growth. Boston & London: New Science Library/Shambhala.

[Editor’s Note: Scott Sparrow is the author of one of the classic books on lucid dreaming, Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light.]


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11. Ethical Issues for Applications of Lucid Dreaming:
An Introduction


Editor’s Note: We present here Joe Dane’s cogent introductory remarks for the panel discussion on ethical issues in the 1987 meeting of the Lucidity Association. It is interesting that, in voicing his concerns about the possibility of disruptive effects of lucidity induction, he also cites an example of a clinically significant reaction from his experience with hypnosis. It might be illuminating to investigate and com-pare disruptive experiences from a variety of imaging disciplines, including non-lucid dreamwork. . . .

I’d like to start out by acknowledging a couple of things. One is to thank Stephen [LaBerge] and Jayne [Gackenbach] for allowing me to participate in this. I feel a little bit like an interloper. It’s been a number of years since my original work, back in 1980, with lucid dream induction on nonlucid dreamers, using hypnosis, person-al symbols and waking suggestion. Since that time I’ve shifted over to a medical set-ting using hypnosis with medical conditions. Nonetheless, I was originally trained as a psychotherapist and, in that context, given that that’s still my main identifica-tion, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this. I should indicate, by the way, that since I’m out of the lucid dream and dream research areas, there may well be current developments or attitudes of which I am not aware. I have to ac-knowledge that right away and apologize right in the beginning, just in case. Again, thank you.

The two general areas that seem to me a good place to start are:

1. Dream control; and

2. Is or is not lucid dreaming "dangerous?"

I’d like to do is go ahead and begin with a couple of general observations on those two topics. The first observation is a matter of curiosity and the second will be a bit of a clinical caution.

Dream Control and Media Hype

First, I’m curious as to whether or not it’s really just the popular press that’s pushing for the idea of what sounds like total dream control. I wonder about this be-cause I have yet to talk directly with anyone who clearly believes that total whole-sale control of dreams by waking consciousness is a desirable goal. I’d welcome being corrected on this, but I would like to ask now just for a show of hands, and this is with all due respect. Is there anyone here who believes that total waking control of dreams is the way to go? [Discussion clarifies that no one does.]

Well, we’ll probably end up in the same place then from what I’m hearing. My concern arises from seeing lots of "dream control" in the popular press. That is what gets touted. As a matter of fact, Stephen, I saw your audio tape entitled "Dream Con-trol." There is a problem with the position of "total dream control," which seems to suggest that dreams have nothing positive to offer in their uncontrolled state. I’m not sure that’s the implication but it would seem to be that to me.

My suspicion is that the seeming differences in opinion about dream control are really based in lack of clarity, or at least specificity, in what we mean by control. Given our presumably mutual enthusiasm for dreams here, I suspect that we really all basically agree that in some cases, yes, conscious control of the dream content is highly desirable. At the same time, however, the dream may have a corrective agen-da, or a message of its own which needs to be respected, which I think gets back to the point of balance, or mutual control.

If we do basically agree on these points, and I again welcome being corrected, then it just may be that the goal of wholesale conscious control of dreams is more a product of media hype than considered clinical opinion. If that’s so, I wonder if we don’t have an ethical obligation to actively oppose such "misverbage" in the press about the desirability of dream control, or rather, total dream control. I wonder if the ethical imperative isn’t to clarify that we’re talking more about conscious control in dreams, not necessarily conscious control of dreams. Not to clarify this seems logically inconsistent with our touted respect for dreams. It’s also contributes by omission to the very dismissal of dreams that we all claim to oppose.

At the same time, the realities of dealing with editors and Madison Avenue types may make such clarification difficult, if not impossible. I would be interested to hear of any accounts of that kind of problem in dealing with this literature.

Potentially Disruptive Inductions

My second general observation is a clinical caution and a concern having to do with lucid dream training. This may be specific to my own experience, so I’d be interested to hear from others on this topic. My own experience is that such training can be psychologically challenging or even disruptive to some individuals who other-wise seem well adjusted. This may be due to the use of hypnosis in my study, and/or the use of personal symbols. In any event, the experience was clearly disruptive for some of the subjects despite my having screened out subjects for psychological vul-nerability. I am disturbed to consider what the outcome for these individuals would have been if there had not been adequate follow-up of their experience during and shortly after the study.

I am aware that my comments may be dismissed by some as alarmist and even proprietary—as if I am promoting the old "only the experts can deal with dreams" argument. I do not mean that. I simply find that my own experience suggests that it’s useful to ask questions like:

"Is lucid dream induction ever dangerous?"

"Are there psychologically vulnerable individuals in whom lucid dream induction might be disruptive or inadvisable?"

"If so, when? to whom?"

"How does one know ahead of time?"

These are types of questions which all workshop leaders probably face with any sort of psychologically oriented material. But they seem especially pertinent with respect to lucid dreaming where rigid boundaries between waking and dream con-sciousness literally seem to no longer exist. They are all the more relevant if one adds the component of hypnosis to the induction procedure. I add this simply because hyp-nosis was a major component of the induction study that I did.

Again, my biases show. I was recently working in the pain clinic with a radic-ular sympathetic dystrophy patient for alterations in blood flow. During our second hypnosis session, she said "Gee! I know why I’m so good at this (i.e. hypnosis). This is what I used to do when my mother beat me!" With that she spontaneously regressed to age three when she was hiding in the closet from her mother. Over the next two or three weeks that person decompensated as she became increasingly overwhelmed by memories of physical abuse by her mother and sexual abuse by her father. She lived several hundred miles away. Fortunately, there was an excellent in-patient setting in her area with an excellent treatment program for sexual abuse, and this person recovered very nicely. She has gradually been able to separate the spontaneous state-dependent recall of the original abuse which was stimulated by the state of hypnosis (I am assuming here that her hypnotic capacity was used as a child to separate herself off from the trauma), and can now use hypnosis for control-ling the pain and swelling without eliciting these memories. The point is there was a very significant clinical reaction to that particular state identified as hypnosis.

I’m not sure if "hypnosis" is as much the mediating variable of these types of reactions as it is the person’s expectations for what hypnosis can do (e.g., uncover painful memories and make one reveal them). My concern is that I have had several psychologically untrained people writing to me that they would like to use hypnosis, and that they would like to get transcripts of the hypnotic induction that I was using because they would like to use it with high school students. I think there are some cautions to be had here. While most people never experience difficulties with hyp-nosis, the hypnotic state can, especially with any sort of age regression, elicit highly unexpected but clinically significant reactions. Those using hypnosis should be equipped to respond appropriately and the hypnosis should be done in a context that provides genuine opportunity and expectation for redress and follow-up in the event of any untoward reaction.

Dreamer Ethics and the Unconscious

Now I would like to shift gears and simply establish some background for our later discussions. It seems useful to remember that ethics, in general, implies a host of variables, all of which may be different for different individuals. Ethical decisions imply consideration of value systems, goals, ends, means, purposes, intent, context, et cetera. In addition ethics involves, typically, a continuum from absolutism to relativism—difference between asking, "Is it good or bad?" versus, "When is it good or bad?" In short, ethics reflects one’s basic philosophical stance and perspective on a host of issues.

With respect to the ethics of dream control, however, the fundamental issue would appear to involve one’s beliefs and attitudes about the so called unconscious. More specifically, does the unconscious exist, and if so, what is its relationship to the conscious ego? If one accepts that the unconscious ego exists, then the next question becomes, "To what degree do I accept the somewhat anthropomorphic formula: waking consciousness = ego consciousness, dream consciousness = the unconscious?" In short, the ethics of dream control can depend heavily on one’s view of the relation between waking and dream consciousness, and this in turn, on one’s view on the so-called unconscious.

My own bias is that something like the unconscious does exist, although I’m more likely to call it the unaware rather that the "unconscious" dimension. My fur-ther bias is that the ethics of attempting control of dreams are the same as those of attempting to "control" the unconscious in waking life. Those who believe the un-conscious is basically Freud’s seething snake pit of repressed id might well favor total conscious control. However, others, including myself, believe the unconscious has both positive and negative aspects. It is both a pit of snakes and a source of cre-ative inspiration and vision. From this perspective the goal is to foster the positive and minimize the negative. The question then becomes, what are the ethics of con-trol in this process of fostering the positive and minimizing the negatives.

Further, I wonder if by "control," don’t we really mean "influence," "guide," "teach," "encourage," and even "cooperate"? For example, when we look at the his-tory of mankind, conscious control of the unconscious seems laughably impossible, yet we attempt it every day when we "work" on ourselves and our "bad habits." We say, "I must not let myself do that," as if some part of us could control, prevent or gain permission for certain behavior. To me the ethics of dream control is precisely the ethics of interaction between these so called parts of the individual.

Another major form of attempting to control the unconscious in daily life is called psychotherapy. It’s precisely here, I believe, that we have a ready made model for ethics concerning dream control. That is the ethics of doing dream control are the same as the ethics for doing psychotherapy. Of course that raises all of the old questions about who knows best, the therapist or the client, about respect for the client versus therapeutic manipulation, and about overt control versus influence and cooperation. All these questions come back to haunt us in the context of ethical lucid dream induction.

Lucidity as Intrapersonal Psychotherapy

I would further like to suggest that lucid dreaming itself can be seen as intra-personal psychotherapy, where waking and dream consciousness constantly shift back and forth between the roles of client and therapist. I would like to suggest that the question, "Which knows best, waking consciousness or dream consciousness," is more like a Zen koan than a valid question, because the answer is, "both." The solution to conflict between waking and dream consciousness is resolution and inte-gration, not, "I win, you lose." So when we talk about the ethics of dream control and lucid dreaming, I believe that we are talking about the ethics of enhancing coop-eration between waking and dream consciousness, not about the imposition of one will upon the other. We are talking about the ethics of yoga, if you will, in the sense of beneficially yoking waking and dream consciousness in the service of a common goal. That goal is wholeness.

As a way to expand and flesh out the notions that I’ve been talking about, I would like to suggest that the process of individuation, as described by Jungian psychologists, is perhaps the best model available of what healthy ethical lucid dreaming really is. In discussions between waking and dream ego, James Hall, whom you probably know as a union proponent, states, "The waking ego is like a gate keeper which can permit or deny entrance into the boundaries which he guards, but who is helpless to command the appearance or disappearance of a particular entrant (content), however much he might desire it." To my understanding of it, this is quite analogous to the type of limits during lucid dreaming on, "control" of dream consciousness by waking consciousness.

Consider, for example, the following account of an attempt to use dream lucid-ity for complete control over the dream.

Now I realize that I can control the dream sequence. I decide I want the rain to stop. It doesn’t. I wonder to myself why it’s so important that it keep on raining, and what the rain could represent. I come to a platform where there are some people standing around. I go from one to another asking them, "What time does the next train leave?" But they all ignore me. It’s as if I’m not even there. I begin to feel angry and frustrated but I stop my-self and think, the next one I speak to won’t be like this.

Well the next character with whom the dreamer speaks not only answers her question but also provokes her to further self-analysis about the true source of her frustration and anger by responding, "Well, that depends on where you want to go." And with that the dream ends. It’s as if the dream has permitted some sort of altera-tion or control but simultaneously maintained its own control over the presumed agenda of increasing the dreamer’s self-awareness.

With respect to the process of individuation itself, Hall notes, "Individuation might be described in terms of the complex theory—Jungian complexes, that is—as the gradual reshaping of the ego under the pressure of the self so that it becomes more inclusive, and more comprehensive. In such an individuation process the contents of the ego continually shift, gradually incorporating certain non-ego complexes, such as the shadow. The reworking of the specific contents on which the ego tacitly relies constitutes the point at which the unfolding of the self through the time-bound ego, generates the observable individuation process. The point at which this process can be most clearly observed is in," Hall says, "dreams." I would suggest lucid dreams would be an even clearer example, which may be thought of, to again quote Hall, as the "metabolism of the ego."

As an example of such a metabolic processes within the lucid dream state I’d like to consider, Stephen, your very fine example that appeared in the original in Psychology Today in 1980.

I am in the middle of a riot in the classroom. Everyone is running around in some sort of struggle. Most of them are Third World types and one of them has a hold on me—he is huge with a pockmarked face. I realize that I am dreaming and stop struggling. I look him in the eyes and, while holding his hands, speak to him in a loving way, trusting my intuition to supply the beautiful words of acceptance that flow out of me. The riot has vanished, the dream fades and I awaken feeling wonderfully calm.

Here the nightmare has been controlled by confrontation, resulting in spontane-ous resolution. It seems plausible that the reported waking sense of calm was a direct result, or at least reflection, of the dreamer’s internal reconciliation with presumably formerly unacceptable tendencies toward hostility and aggression. Consistent with Jungian concepts about resolution through juxtaposition of seemingly irreconcilable opposites, the dreamer’s lucidity has enabled him to, "metabolize" or transform the dream from one more instance of unconscious projection into a genuine integration of basic impulses.

The unique contribution which dream lucidity adds to this metabolism of the psyche is the degree to which it can facilitate and enhance this process through active conscious cooperation and participation of the waking ego. The basis for this enhanced facilitation is precisely the ability to consciously influence lucid dream content while not being able to control it completely. This atmosphere of enforced autonomy and mutual respect permits an enhanced level of therapeutic encounter between waking and dream consciousness enabling them to achieve a new level of cooperation and integrative negotiation. The ethics of such negotiation, I would contend, are the ethics of dream control.

Just to sum up my argument in simpler words, I think the most desirable and most ethical type of dream control is enhanced control over the dreamer’s response within the dream, and not over the dreamer’s response to the dream. I would like to add one other question that we might want to address here, and that is, if we accept the idea that dreams have an agenda, that they’re corrective or whatever, to what degree does the health of the dream’s agenda depend on the waking psychological health of the dreamer? In other words, to what degree can we trust the dream to guide us and direct us? And does psychopathology, as classically defined, suggest that some individuals have something so askew that even their self corrective pro-cesses are out of line and that, in fact, to induce lucid dreams in those folks would be likely to result in self-defeating phenomena? What are the implications of this an-thropomorphic view of the dream’s agenda, and of its own source of self-censure, self-correction?


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12. Applications of Lucid Dreaming in Sports


Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Germany

The following article has above all a practical orientation. The various possi-bilities for the application of lucid dreaming in sports training are presented and briefly illustrated. These theses are based on findings from experiments with ex-perienced lucid dreamers who were instructed to carry out various routine and sport-related actions while lucid-dreaming, with the object of observing the effects on both dreaming and waking states (Tholey, 1981a). Additionally, I report here on numerous spontaneous accounts of athletes who have mastered lucid dreaming, as well as my own years of experience as a lucid dreamer and as an active competitor in different types of sports.

With regard to theoretical principles I have relied on the gestalt theory of sports as it was first systematically presented by Kohl after numerous phenomenological and objective experiments (Kohl, 1956), and as it was further developed in my own work (Tholey, 1981b). The latter explored the significance of lucid dreaming to sports. Due to space limitations, only the most important theoretical conceptions concerning the application of lucid dreaming to sports training will be discussed here.

Basic Theoretical Principles

Gestalt theory conceives of the complex sensory-motor feedback system of the human physical organism as a servo-mechanism which serves the finely-tuned, energy-saving control of the organism. The main control center of this circuit sys-tem lies in the brain. There the physical world is represented more or less exactly as the phenomenal world (phenomenal body ego and phenomenal environment) by means of sensory processes. The control of the organism can be compared to the control of a large airplane in whose cockpit all the relevant data about the airplane and its surroundings are represented by the transfer of computer information.

In a dream, the sensory-motor feedback system is interrupted to such an extent that both intended and immediately experienced body movements do not lead to corresponding movements of the physical organism itself. The situation in a dream is therefore comparable to the one of a pilot in a flight simulator. Just as a flight simulator can be used to learn how to fly a real airplane, dreaming (especially lucid dreaming) can lead to the learning of movements by the physical organism in the real (waking) world. Because of the close connection between sensory and motor processes, we speak of sensory-motor learning. Given that the world is experienced as real in lucid dreaming, I am of the opinion that lucid dream training is more effec-tive than various forms of so-called mental training during which which the athlete performs movements in a world that is perceived as existing only in the imagination (for the physiological argument on this point see Tholey, 1981a).

Having pointed out that various characteristics are common to both the sensory-motor system of the physical organism and the technological simulation systems made for an airplane, I want to indicate some important differences. While the data in the control center of a technological simulation system are usually stored in rec-ords and files that are dynamically independent of each other, the phenomenal facts represented in the brain find themselves in a state of dynamic interaction. For this reason I also speak of the phenomenal field (body ego and surrounding field). A person’s movements can be controlled by the phenomenal ego (as with voluntary actions, or by field actions (cf. Lewin, 1936)). The playing field in soccer, for exam-ple, can be experienced as an action field formed by force lines having an immediate effect on motor performance—i.e., without intellectual or deliberate effort. This was noted in 1927 by Hartgenbusch. Leaving aside the aforementioned differences, the control of the organism through the surrounding phenomenal field is most com-parable to the automatic control of an airplane with the aid of an auto-pilot.

There is an important difference between experiences simulated in lucid dreams and those simulated in waking-life computer-based technological simulators. Through the use of certain manipulation techniques, the experienced lucid dreamer can intentionally call forth experiences which contradict not only the routine, daily experiences of the waking state, but also the physical laws of nature. In this way lucid dreaming offers a broader range of learning possibilities than a technology-based simulator. Furthermore, we have found that improvements in motor-related performance occur from one dream to the next. This is especially pronounced in actions which were not heretofore known in a waking state, for example, various exercises performed in flying or soaring states.

            Theses on the Application Possibilities of Lucid Dreaming in Sports

Thesis 1: Sensory-motor skills which have already been mastered in their rough outlines can be refined by using lucid dreaming.

Experiments showed that repeated movements in particular can be substantially improved with the appropriate exercises during lucid dreaming. These include rapid slalom movements on snow skis, skateboards and snowboards. This improvement was imputed to various tendencies towards a good gestalt (pregnance) that can be observed in all living systems in which the individual parts are locked into dynamic interaction with each other. In a lucid dream the individual areas of the phenomenal field interact in a more intensely dynamic way than in a waking state in which the areas of the phenomenal field are more dependent on sensory processes. In addition, body movements which are harmonious with each other and the situation as a whole are more likely to be retained than non-harmonious body movements. Good gestalts are also further distinguished by a particular kind of multisensory sensitivity which is ultimately responsible for the perfection of movements (for details see Tholey, 1986).

Thesis 2: New sensory-motor skills can be learned using lucid dreaming.

To illustrate this point I will first present the case of a competitor in the martial arts (Tholey & Utecht, 1987, p. 208). For years this man had studied the so-called "hard systems" (karate, tae kwon do, and jujitsu). Then he decided to learn the "soft" system of aikido. Over a period of two years, however, he failed to succeed in this because the previously learned movements stubbornly refused to be superseded. He considers the following to be the key experience that put him on the right path:

On this particular evening, after still not succeeding in wearing down my attacker and taking him to the mat, I went to bed somewhat disheartened. While falling asleep the situation ran through my mind time and again. While defending myself, the correct balancing movement collided with my inner impulse to execute a hard defensive block, so that I repeatedly ended up unprotected and standing there like a question mark . . . a ridiculous and unworthy situation for the wearer of a black belt. During a dream that night, I fell down hard one time instead of rolling away. That day I had made up my mind to ask myself the critical question in this situation: "Am I awake or am I dream-ing?" I was immediately lucid. Without thinking very long about it, I immediately went to my Dojo, where I began an unsupervised training session on defense techniques with my dream partner. Time and time again I went through the exercise in a loose and effort-less way. It went better every time.

The next evening I went to bed full of expectations. I again achieved a lucid state and practiced aikido further. That’s the way it went the whole week until the formal training period started again. . . . I amazed my instructor with an almost perfect defense. Even though we speeded up the tempo [of our interchanges], I didn’t make any serious mis-takes. From then on I learned quickly and received my own training license in one year.

The following example comes from a snow skier.

Jetting, with its strong shift of the center of gravity backwards, had always made me so afraid that I constantly fell and came home to the cabin covered with bruises. The summer after I learned lucid dreaming, I began to dream about skiing over moguls. I often used the hump to initiate a flying experience, but at some point I also began to lean back shortly before the hump, thereby taking my weight off the skis in order to change direction with my heels. That was a lot of fun and after a few weeks it became clear to me during lucid dreaming that my movements corresponded to jetting. When I went on a skiing vacation again the following winter and took a course, I mastered jetting in one week. I am absolutely convinced that was connected to my night exercises.

This example demonstrates that a lucid dreamer can simulate a world in which the usual physical laws apply, as well as a world in which they are not applicable. Both such simulations are significant for sensory-motor learning.

Thesis 3: Sensory-motor actions can be perfected by test runs carried out in a lucid dream state.

Jean-Claude Killy, winner of several Olympic medals in Alpine skiing, reports that on the evening before a race, in a half-sleeping state, he mentally skis over the slalom course (which he has imprinted in his memory during the day) as many times as are necessary to master the course well enough to ski it without falling. Although this is hypnagogic rehearsal, the technique can be used in lucid dreams.

Sladko Solinski, an internationally successful equestrian, has written me sev-eral letters about his lucid dreaming experiences. Here is an excerpt from one of his letters (Personal Communication, 1983):

Thus, in a lucid dream I can form my figures to an extremely exact degree—whether in the sand of dressage competition or across the landscape of a cross-country course during military-style competition. I manage to do this in slow motion, giving the horse "assistance" at exactly the right moment in a particular movement phase. During lucid dreaming "I ride" the course through several times (three to nine times), exactly and completely. Based on this experience, my "body knowledge" is sufficient to get through the course autonomously, i.e.—without conscious or deliberate effort.

We will come back to these important executions in another context. Here it should only be pointed out that when an athlete performs a flowing movement with-out conscious or deliberate effort, it is often described as instinctive, automatic or unconscious. None of these expressions are quite correct since the movements do not result from inborn instincts, but rather from learning processes. Furthermore, the movements are not to be understood as the movements of an isolated person, but as an event taking place in a field. This event is grasped and controlled as a multi-sensory sensitivity to the present or anticipated total situation.

Thesis 4: The flexibility of an athlete’s reactions can be substantially improved by varying body movements in lucid dreams.

This is especially important for complex types of sports in which the athlete must quickly react to unforeseen situations. For this reason it isn’t wise to execute only the most optimal actions during lucid dreaming, but rather (as in the Killy ex-ample) to vary the actions such that they could either lead to a fall or at least come close to it. This is important because athletes who take part in risk-taking sports frequently fall into dangerous, unforeseen situations from which they can save them-selves only if they have previously acquired a large measure of reaction flexibility. Additionally, flexibility of action also promotes a finely tuned and disturbance-compensating control of sensory-motor performance.

Thesis 5: Lucid dreaming can also be used for practicing mental movements which make sensory-motor learning easier.

"Mental movements" are understood to be those movements which are ex-perienced as occurring merely in the imagination rather than in physical reality. The effectiveness of mental movements derived from observing or imitating the move-ments of a practiced athlete has been known for a long time. This is not an appro-priate place to describe all of the various types of mental movements which are significant in sports; for more details, see Kohl (1956).

There is one type of mental movement that does seem both important and par-ticularly appropriate to lucid dreaming, and that is "anticipation." "Anticipation" in this context can have two aspects. It can be an overall plan of action that is deter-mined before the execution of any particular movement or action. It can also be an interactive process: during the execution of a particular movement, the immediately following movement is imagined. The anticipation of the next movement doesn’t occur in a willful or deliberate manner, but is an event which takes place in a total phenomenal field. This aspect of anticipation makes it possible to react "lightning quick" as it is expressed in Zen Buddhism because the athlete is reacting to the anticipated situation, not the present one. Top skiers, for example, are always four or five gates ahead in slalom skiing. For a physiological explanation, see Kohl (1956).

With the help of the test runs described in Thesis 3 (experienced as real during lucid dreaming), an athlete can sketch out a plan of movement for himself before its execution in a waking state. More importantly, due to the repeated execution of the movement in lucid dreaming, during actual execution, a person is prepared to carry out an action while taking into account the coming event.

Two other kinds of mental movements are bound up with various ego exper-iences. In the first, the athlete feels himself to be playing the roles of both the actor and spectator simultaneously. This means being able to better control the movement from "within" as well as "without." In the second type of movement, the athlete puts himself in the position of another athlete. This is helpful when another athlete is taken as a model in order to learn from him, purely through observation or by imi-tating his movements. An example is a skier following behind a better skier.

|To my knowledge, examples of the first type (whereby the athlete is both actor and spectator) are only to be found in the realm of lucid dreaming. This is most likely because the ego core can leave the dream body and can be duplicated into an actor as well as a spectator of the lucid dreaming. Sladko Solinski reports that riding becomes especially easy for him (and more fun) when he feels himself to be rider and spectator at the same time. Another experienced lucid dreamer reported to me that he can control his car better while racing when he steers it from inside as well as with an imagined ego observing from a bird’s eye view.

Mentally/imaginally slipping into the body of another person is particularly significant for the martial arts as well as being potentially useful in other sports. It is a way of anticipating the opponent’s intentions and avoiding his ruses. Here again, putting oneself into the "body" of another person can be made significantly easier and intensified during lucid dreaming by the fact that the body of the "other" dream character can be entered by the ego core of the lucid dreamer.

Thesis 6: Lucid dreaming can be used for improving the organization of the phe-nomenal field with respect to the execution of sports movements.

According to gestalt theory, the learning process involved in complex sports is much less a matter of acquiring a particular form of movement or a repertoire of such forms than it is a matter of improving the organization or structure of the total phenomenal field. A better understanding of this requires an examination of each individual aspect of the organization of the total field, even though the parts are closely connected to each other. 6

6.1 The unit-formation in the phenomenal field. In the course of sensory-motor learning, separate parts of the phenomenal field can grow together with an increas-ing degree of unity. In this way, the skier "grows together" with his skis, or the ten-nis player with his racket. The sports equipment acts like an extension of the sensory-motor organs in the practiced athlete. The skier feels the snow and the terrain with his/her skis and willfully and deliberately moves the skis rather than his/her body.

Something similar is also emphasized by Gallwey, who refers to "inner train-ing" (Gallwey, 1981) or the "inner game" (Gallwey, 1974), but my experience is that elements of his theories are ineffective for beginners. For example, Gallwey maintains that skiers should first watch for sensations in their feet in order to achieve a feeling for the snow. According to gestalt theory, this attention to bodily sensa-tions (like the pressure on the soles of the feet or kinesthetic bodily sensations) prevents the perception of the characteristics of the phenomenal objects existing outside of the phenomenal body. When the skier concentrates on the body ego, feeling for the snow and the terrain is lost. For both the beginner and the advanced skier, this can lead to tension. It invites the beginner to experience the tension of fear. Therefore, in sports where the surrounding field plays a role, the athlete should concentrate on the perception of it from the beginning (for details see Tholey, 1987).

The particular significance of lucid dreaming lies in the greater fluidity (cf. Lewin, 1936) of the phenomenal field available in the dreaming state. It is much easier to unite the phenomenal body and sports equipment into a single whole, or to extend the boundaries of the phenomenal body while lucid in a dream. For example, while lucid dreaming, a sailplane pilot first learned flying techniques which in-volved flying with only his body. Later he flew with a waking-life sailplane, devel-oping such perfect unity with it that "his wings could feel the winds which are so important to the control of the aircraft."

More interesting than achieving oneness with sports equipment is the "mutual empathy" achieved between two living beings. To explain this we will quote again from a letter from equestrian Sladko Solinski:

The essential thing for me (to be achieved during lucid dream training) is the loose-ness of the horse since it alone guarantees a good evaluation from reasonable judges in dressage competition and the safety of the horse in going over the most difficult hurdles in military-style competition. . . . It is as if the rider hands over responsibility for success to the horse through mental training (in lucid dreaming) . . . and peculiarly enough, the horses seem to be waiting exactly for this in order to prove what they can do if you just don’t bother them.

In other words, the horse is more important to the movement than the rider, if he is a master in this sport. In the conclusion to his book, Solinski wrote that a rider who has achieved "perfect mutual empathy with his horse perceives the world through the eyes, ears and nostrils of the horse." (Solinski, 1983, p.123).

These and similar kinds of experiences sound so fantastic to the layman that they have been considered supernatural (for example, White and Murphy, 1983) but they find a natural explanation in the gestalt theory of sport.

6.2 The organization of reference systems in the phenomenal field. The structuring, differentiation and coordination of psychological reference systems (perceived space and perceived time above all) is also of great significance in sensory-motor learning.

Just how useful lucid dreaming can be in this regard is shown in the above-mentioned example by Solinski, where he points out the phenomenon of slow-motion during riding practice (in a lucid dream state). This slow-motion makes it possible for the "assistance of the rider" to be given "at just the correct moment." Generally speaking, a differentiation occurs in the temporal reference system’s standard of measurement. The "timing" of movements, which is so important in sports, is thus made easier. The expression "assistance" makes it clear that Solinski focuses on the horse’s flow of movements during the "timing" he speaks of. During lucid dreaming he also occasionally links his exercises to a certain piece of music which acts "almost like a metronome for the horse’s flow of movements." When he later rides the dressage course during the day, he sometimes lets himself be guided only by the rhythm of the "inner" music. Solinski also points to parallels in other sports where similar behavior can be observed. For instance, in investigations involving top athletes in motocross racing, this slowing of time often occurs spon-taneously in service of the racer’s safety (Nurbarkhsch, 1987).

It can be advantageous to manipulate phenomenal space as well as phenomenal time. In an earlier work (Tholey, 1982) we demonstrated the extent to which phenomenal space can change in many respects through the execution of sensory-motor actions. The further significance of lucid dreaming for sports is shown in the rapidity with which movements can be carried out relative to the waking state. A person is able to execute longitudinal and latitudinal turns of the body in quick suc-cession. In our investigation, this was shown to be especially relevant in the waking state in those sports which demanded a finely developed multi-sensory sensitivity to the situation as well as body balance and movement. This would imply improved coordination of both space and time systems.

Relatedly, there seem to be amazing similarities between lucid dream exper-iences in a state of phenomenal weightlessness and the experiences reported by astronauts (cf. Furrer, 1987), in a state of physical weightlessness. In both cases, learning processes are necessary to adjust to the new and unusual situation. Further-more, it is necessary to learn how to distinguish between up and down until it is possible to deliberately vary the spatial system in such a way that what was formerly up is now down and vice-versa. It seems to me that lucid dreaming offers the best alternative for training astronauts in weightlessness (Tholey, 1987). The possibility of altering the time and space system so that it no longer corresponds to daily exper-iences is also demonstrated by the above-mentioned superiority of lucid dreaming in comparison to technology-based simulators which serve the danger-free exercising of sensory-motor skills (e.g., those required to pilot the airplane).

6.3 The focusing of attention in the phenomenal field. As Kohl was able to show in detail in his investigation of various sports (1956), a clear change of focus takes place as the degree of sophistication with a sport increases. While the beginner di-rects his attention to the body ego, the expert focuses his attention on all the relevant areas of the "surrounding" phenomenal field, such as the sports equipment and the terrain. Beyond that, the expert concentrates on what is coming, not on what is happening at the moment. With the very best athletes, the ego can recede completely into the background. Boris Becker reported that he was no longer conscious of what he was doing during the finals of the 1988 Master’s Tennis Tournament against Ivan Lendl. The racket had swung itself.

Then, directing our attention to the ego—among other things, we find the fear of being injured or being judged harshly by trainers and spectators. These fears have a negative effect on an athlete. They lead him or her to tense up, increasing suscepti-bility to injuries or mistakes—thus increasing vulnerability to the feared criticisms.

The practical significance of lucid dreaming for sports is that the athlete has no need to fear injury or the negative judgements of others in the lucid state. He/she can concentrate on the essential areas of the phenomenal field from the beginning.

The changing of the focus of attention can also promote the "growing together" of the athlete, equipment and terrain as well as the mutual empathy between the athlete and his partner or other living creatures.

6.4 The tendency towards good gestalt (pregnance). The last example shows that the previously-described organizational forms of the phenomenal total-field can be separated from each other analytically, but remain closely connected to each other in reality. Finally, the general tendency towards good gestalt underlies all of the stated changes in organization. This tendency towards good gestalt means that the structure of the phenomenal field tends towards an organization that, with respect to motor performance, will always as "good" as the prevailing conditions allow. As stated above, given that the prevailing conditions are much less restricted by sensory processes during lucid dreaming than in the waking state, this tendency in lucid dreaming can be much more effective.

Physiologically, we assume that the improved organization of the phenomenal field corresponds to an improved dynamic coordination between the sensory and motor-related processes in the brain.

Thesis 7: By changing the personality structure, lucid dreaming can lead to im-proved performance and a higher level of creativity in sports.

When a person acts, the flexibility and creativity appropriate to the situation can be significantly limited by the inner constraints of the personality. This occurs when the subsystems of the personality lose their dynamic connection to each other, or even come into conflict with each other. According to gestalt theory, the ego seeks to protect itself (usually unconsciously) with various defense mechanism against the external compulsions and restraints of our cultural system. Ultimately this ends up producing an ego-centered personal outlook which, in contrast to a situation-oriented personal outlook, leads to a distortion of perception, thinking and feeling as well as to behavior inappropriate to a situation. In this context, by "ego" we mean a subsystem of the personality which seems to gradually dominate the entire per-sonality by taking over the most diverse roles. The whole world thus becomes mere-ly illusory and seems to revolve around the ego. What matters most is to "wake up" (cf. Tart, 1986) from this illusory world so that a person is ready to fulfill the requirements of the situation creative freedom, that is, without internal or external constraints. This requires a radical change from an ego-centered to a situation-centered personal outlook. In general, this transformation of the personality struc-ture also leads to ongoing changes in the organization of the phenomenal field. These changes partially correspond to the previously discussed structural changes in the organization, but go beyond them because they lead to the recognition and solution of unconscious problems.

The evolution of consciousness is a way to creative freedom. I have described elsewhere (Tholey, 1990) how a person can achieve a situation-centered outlook through lucid dreaming. This path ultimately leads—by way of reconciliation with hostile dream characters (cf. Tholey, 1988)—to the symbolic death of the ego and to the rebirth of a higher Self which, in turn, leads to creative freedom in the most varied areas of activity—including sports.


Furrer, R. (1987). Raumerfahrung in der Schwerelosigkeit. Spektrum der Wissenschaft, 2, 48–49.

Gallwey, T. (1974). The inner game of tennis. New York: Random House.

Gallwey, T. (1981). Besser Skifahren durch "Innertraining." München: Heyne.

Hartgenbusch (1927). Gestalt psychology in sport. Psyche, 27, 41–52.

Kohl, K. (1956). Zum Problem der Sensumotorik. Frankfurt am Main: Kramer.

Lewin, K. (1936). Principles of topological psychology. New York, London: McGraw-Hill.

Metzger, W. (1962). Schöpferische Freiheit. Frankfurt am Main: Kramer.

Nurbakhsch, H. (1987). Empirische Untersuchung zum Problem des Erlebens und Verhaltens im Motocross-Sport. Unpublished diploma thesis. Universität Braunschweig.

Solinski, S. 1983). Reiter, Reiten, Reiterei. Hildesheim: Olms.

Tart, C.T. (1988) Hellwach und bewusst leben. Bern, Munchen, Wien: Scherz- Verlag.

Tholey, P. (1981a). Empirische Untersuchungen über Klarträume. Gestalt Theory, 3, 21–62.

Tholey, P. (1981b). Erkenntnistheoretische und systemtheoretische Grundlagen der Sensu-motorik. Sportwissenschaft, 10, 7–35.

Tholey, P. (1983). Techniques for inducing and manipulating lucid dreams. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 57, 79–90.

Tholey, P. (1984a). Sensumotorisches Lernen als Organisation des psychischen Gesamt-feldes. In E. Hahn und H. Rieder (Eds.), Sensumotorisches Lernen und Sportspiel-forschung. Festschrift für Kurt Kohl (11–26). Köln: bps-Verlag.

Tholey, P. (1984b). Zur Gleichgewichtsproblematik im Sport. Sportpädagogik, 8(5), 13–15.

Tholey, P. (1986). Letter to the editor. Lucidity Letter, 5(2), 45–48.

Tholey, P. (1987a). Prinzipien des Lernens und Lehrens sportlicher Handlungen aus gestalt-theoretischer Sicht. In J.P. Janssen, W. Schlicht & H. Strang (Eds.), Bericht über die Tagung der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Sportpsychologie in Kiel 1986. Handlungskon-trolle und soziale Prozesse im Sport. Köln: 95–106.

Tholey, P. (1987b). Wahrnehmung und Vorstellung im Raum. Spektrum der Wissenschaft, 10, 5.

Tholey, P. (1988). A model for lucidity training as a means of self-healing and psychological growth. In J. Gackenbach & S. P. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Per-spectives on lucid dreaming. New York, London: Plenum, 263–287.

Tholey, P. (1990). Unpublished manuscript. 21.

Tholey, P. & Utecht, K. (1987). Schöpferische Träumen: Der Klartraum als Lebenshilfe. Niedernhausen: Falken-Verlag.

White, P.A. & Murphy, M. (1987). Psi im Sport Der Einfluss übernatürlicher Wahrnehm-ungen auf sportliche Spitzenleistungen. München: Hugendubel.


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13. The Creative Process:  Paintings Inspired from
the Lucid Dream


California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, California

Creative endeavors often arise from seemingly ordinary everyday experiences. In my own life, my art work received a considerable boost through an initial encoun-ter with a lucid dream which I transformed into an occasion for self-expression. This type of self-expression, which I have explored more fully in the past few years, is highlighted in the following examples.

One noteworthy occasion of personal creativity owes its source of inspiration to a lucid dream, which I have titled, "Conscious Dreaming."

August 18, 1981

. . . I stand by the door in a gallery staring at a painting on the wall. It is my painting, however it looks unfamiliar to me. As I step forward to look at the detail of my work, I become aware that I am dreaming. . . .

. . . The painting, approximately six by seven feet in size, displays an image of a wall destroyed in the middle but with the four corners still intact. An imprint of a triangle and circle are inside it. Inside the circle, a figure of a nude man and woman stand.

This image may be interpreted as the "symbolic alchemical concept of the squared circle, symbol of wholeness and the union of the opposites" (Jung, 1964). Besides many personal and interpersonal meanings that arose from the dream, the most important aspect was the inspiration to explore a new art style: a dream art.

Soon after that dream, I decided to explore the image that had appeared in a lucid dream. Instead, inexplicably, I started painting an image of a brain which con-tained different symbols that I had encountered in my nightly dreams for many years (Bogzaran, 1986. Also see Figure 1).

I will describe here only one of the many important personal insights I received as a result of the dream: the profound transformation of my painting style. I cite the dream as one important reason that I changed my style of painting from a pre-dominantly realistic style to a surrealistic and abstract one. In effect, this transfor-mation helped me with the teetering, hesitant approach to personal creativity which existed at the time. Once I followed this new path, however, my arrival in this new territory seemed very natural, as if my unexplored, hidden, creative side was now able to merge with other important aspects of my life.

One of these creative aspects, lucid dreaming, has become especially vibrant. I discovered that I now recognize the onset of lucidity by recalling the scenario of the above dream. Like the neuron which fires response to a neurotransmitter across a synapse, I successfully ignite lucidity each time I view a gallery, studio, or room with art work displayed.

As a result, in the past few years, I have experienced more than 45 dreams on this theme that triggered lucidity. The typical setting usually includes an art piece hanging on the wall or sculptures located in various patterns throughout the room. I usually try to stay calm once I become lucid so that I can experience the texture, colors and medium of the art work. The experience becomes ritualistic and sacred. I honor the gift of the art work by an deep inner appreciation. I spend some time with the creation by touching (if painting) or embracing (if sculpture), and feel myself merging with the piece.

Sometimes I focus on the art work to wake myself up. I call this technique "Intentional Focusing." It helps me remember the art work so I can later create the actual piece. Sometimes, however, I cannot recreate the images because in the act of recreating them, I have lost the initial experience. In a way, it’s like trying to explain the unexplainable.

The curious yet significant personal challenge I face in working with these lucid dreams has been the variety of art media which I have begun to use. Sometimes I incubate a question before falling asleep. It is important for me to remember the question, because when I experience a lucid dream that features the image of an art piece, the art work can often provide insights which help me work with my incuba-tion question.

To illustrate this approach, I cite the following practical example from a lucid dream I had when I was living in Canada. The incubation question was: "Should I go to California or stay in Canada for my graduate school work?"

October 13, 1985

Title: The Healing Hand

My husband and I are driving across Canada to go to California. In Alberta, on our way near Calgary, we encounter a gigantic ancient Greek building that resembles the Temple of Concord at Agrigento (West Doric hexastyle temple dated 430 B.C.).

We stop to look inside the building. People around the building look very pale and sick. Many homeless people sleep around the building. Inside, the building is dark and smelly. There is also a large door inside this building I walk close to the door; the room looks like a gallery. I suspect that I am dreaming, so I do a reality check. Soon I am convinced that I am dreaming because the walls start to change.

I walk into the room slowly, noticing a gigantic hand in the middle of the room. The hand must be ten feet tall. As I walk around the hand, my incubation question comes into my mind: "Should I go to California?"

Now I am standing in front of the hand on the palm of the hand a radiating light is glowing; I decide to walk inside the hand. The answer to the question seems obvious to me as I am walking into the hand. I feel a force pulling me inside the hand. (See Figure 2.)

I woke up feeling overwhelmed, content and joyful. I took the symbol as a positive sign that, yes, I must move to California! Later I decided to recreate the sculpture that I had dreamt. First I found a pyrite mineral stone that gave me the feeling of the inside of the hand. Later, I made the hand as a sculpture and painted it with the appropriate colors. I named it "The Healing Hand." (One day I plan to create the hand in its actual size, producing a beautiful environment inside the hand so a person could actually walk inside it and enjoy its tranquility).

The dreams I have discussed here are just two examples of lucid dreams which relate to my studio/gallery perspective. While it is important for me to note that I have developed a strong association with studios and galleries as the catalyst which assists the onset of my lucidity, not all my lucid dreams occur in a gallery. The onset of lucidity also occurs many times when I am outdoors and almost every time I attempt to seek the Highest, God or the Unknown while lucid. In those situations, I have witnessed environmental changes moving from form to formlessness and have felt an incredible sensation in my body that is difficult to describe.

At times I enter a gallery in my dreams, but there are no paintings or art works in that space. At these moments, I stay mindful of the feelings of lucidity and remain unattached to whatever happens. Often the empty space I encounter reflects the silence, emptiness and formless nature of my inner being.


Bogzaran, F. (1986). The message from the inner world. Dream Network Bulletin, 5(1).

Jung, C. (1964). Man and his symbols. New York: Dell Publishing.


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14. Healing Through Lucid Dreaming


Stanford University, California

According to Jaffe and Bresler (1980), "Mental imagery mobilizes the latent, inner powers of the person, which have immense potential to aid in the promotion of health." I believe this statement applies even more to lucid dreaming, a state that typically possesses the most vivid imagery possible. In the following, we will sur-vey potential applications of lucid dreaming to healing.

In general terms, health is the ability of the human being to respond adaptively to the challenges of life (cf. Dubos, 1978). Adaptive responses mean viable re-sponses: those that do not disrupt the integrity, i.e., wholeness or health of the per-son. This involves more than a mere homeostasis—if the life situation is really demanding, a healthy response will include personal growth and learning. Since these environmental challenges occur on all levels of the hierarchical organization of the person, from cellular to social, and I am speaking of the whole person’s re-sponses, our concept of health is necessarily holistic. In these terms, maladaptive responses are unhealthy ones and healing refers to any processes correcting for the disrupted integrity of the person. In this case, any healthy response by definition leads to improved systemic integration, and hence is a healing process.

The Natural Healing Function of Sleep and Dreams

One of the major functions served by sleep and dreams is recuperation and adaptation. Sleep, as a time of relative isolation from environmental changes, allows the person to recover optimal health or, to repeat, the ability to respond adaptively.

The healing processes of sleep are, again, holistic, taking place on all levels of the system. On the higher levels (psychological and social), these self-regulatory functions are normally accomplished during dreams. We say "normally" because due to maladaptive mental attitudes and habits, dreams do not always accomplish their functions, as can be seen in the case of nightmares. Nightmares are not mas-ochistic wish fulfillments, but rather the result of unhealthy reactions. The anxiety experienced in such dreams is, in fact, an indication of the failure of the process to function effectively.

Lucidity, allowing as it does flexibility and creative response, presents a means of resolving dream conflicts and hence fosters a return to effective self-regulation. This is the basis of approach to healing through lucid dreaming: to facilitate the per-son’s self-healing mechanisms by means of intentional imagery on the mental level.

The following dream illustrates the self-integrative potential of lucid dreams:

I am in the middle of a riot in the classroom. A furious mob is raging about throw-ing chairs and fighting. Most of them are Third World types and one of them has a hold on me—he is huge with a pockmarked face and repulsive. I realize that I’m dreaming and stop struggling. I find love in my heart and look him in the eyes, and, while holding his hands, speak to him in a loving way, trusting my intuition to supply the beautiful words of acceptance that flow out of me. As I do so, he melts into me; the riot has van-ished, the dream fades, and I awaken feeling wonderfully calm and "together."

That this is a healing dream is clear on several levels. First, the initial conflict, an unhealthy condition of stress, was resolved positively. Secondly, the dreamer reintegrated the ogre, a part of himself. Third, we have the direct evidence of the feeling of increased wholeness and well-being experienced upon awakening.

The use of dreams for healing was widespread in the ancient world. The sick would sleep in temples of healing, seeking dreams that would themselves cure or at least diagnose the illness and suggest a remedy. We mention dream "incubation" as a reminder that healing through lucid dreaming is a partly new and partly old idea.

Incidentally, the contrary of our thesis that positive dream imagery facilitates health, i.e., that negative imagery contributes to illness, has been hypothesized by Levitan (1980). He studied repetitive traumatic dreams in psychosomatic patients. These dreams typically involved injury to the body of the dreamer. Levitan suggested that "the repetitive experience of consummated trauma contributes to the malfunc-tioning of the physiological systems, and therefore, to the production of illness."

Lucid Dreaming as Facilitator of Psychological Growth

Let us recall that growth is a healing response of the person to a life situation in which the person’s old patterns of behavior were inadequate and hence unhealthy. Persisting in these old patterns would perhaps result in disease; anything leading to the development of new, more viable patterns amounts to healing.

In this regard, Rossi (1972) has argued extensively for the notion that self-reflection (of which lucidity is the paradigm) plays a key role in psychological growth through dreams. Self-reflection evidently allows the dreamer to stand out-side of his or her old patterns and thus to conceive new ones.

Moreover, the intentional self-integration illustrated by the lucid dream reported above shows the potential of lucid dreaming for psychosynthesis. Psychological growth often requires the reintegration of neglected or rejected aspects of the person which can be deliberately achieved through the symbolic encounters of lucid dream-ing. There are many alternatives to the process of assimilation and reintegration. For instance, here is an example of symbolic transformation:

. . . Having returned from a journey, I am carrying a bundle of bedding and clothes down the street when a taxi pulls up and blocks my way. Two men in the taxi and one outside it are threatening me with robbery and violence. . . . Somehow I realize that I’m dreaming and at this I attack the three muggers, heaping them in a formless pile and setting fire to them. Then out of the ashes I arrange for flowers to grow. My body is filled with vibrant energy as I awaken.

That this was a healing dream is evidenced by the increased feeling of well-being experienced when the dreamer awoke. What evidence do we have to suggest that dreaming in the manner illustrated by the examples leads to any lasting benefit?

The experience of realizing with (partial) relief that a nightmare is "just a dream" (and usually awakening) seems to be very widespread. LaBerge (1980a) reported that anxiety appeared to lead to lucidity in 36% of his first year’s lucid dreams (60% during the first six months). In contrast, anxiety was present when he recognized that he was dreaming in only about 5% of his lucid dreams during the third year of his study. It seems likely that the decrease in the number and proportion of anxiety dreams was due to his practice of resolving conflicts during lucid dreams, as illus-trated. Moreover, he seems to have learned to recognize any dream with sufficient anxiety to be a dream since he no longer awakens from anxiety dreams without first becoming lucid and thereby having the opportunity to resolve the dream conflict.

This is a very important potential of lucid dreaming, for when we "escape" from a nightmare by awakening, we have merely repressed our awareness of it, and are left with an unresolved conflict, as well as, in all likelihood, negative and unhealthy affect. Staying with the nightmare, on the other hand, allows us to lucidly resolve the problem in a fashion that leaves the person more healthy than before. Healing was the original intent of the dream; lucidity merely facilitated the process.

Therapeutic Uses of Imagery

Imagery is used in a great variety of psychotherapeutic approaches ranging from psychoanalysis to behavior modification (Singer & Pope, 1979; Watkins, 1976). Rather than exhaustively reviewing these uses, we will focus on two examples after reiterating the point that lucid dreaming is the most vivid form of imagery available to normal persons. Since the efficacy of imagery seems to be dependent upon its status of "as-if" reality, we can expect the experienced reality of lucid dream healing imagery to be particularly effective.

One of the most intriguing applications of imagery to therapy is Simonton’s work with cancer patients. Simonton et al. (1980) report that patients supplementing standard treatment for advanced cancer with healing imagery survived, on the aver-age, twice as long as expected by national averages. Given the special connection between mind and body observed by us (see LaBerge et al., 1981) and the high level of experienced participation in lucid dreams, it seems reasonable to expect that heal-ing imagery during lucid dreaming might be even more effective.

The other imagery technique we wish to discuss is hypnosis. Deep-trance hypnotic subjects are able to exert remarkable control over many physiological functions. For example, deep trance subjects can inhibit allergic reactions, stop bleeding, and experience anæsthesia at will (Bowers, 1976). Unfortunately, these dramatic responses are limited to the 5–10% of the population who are capable of entering hypnosis most deeply. Moreover, this deep-trance ability does not seem to be trainable. Lucid dreaming, on the other hand, may be learnable (LaBerge, 1980b), and may hold the same potentials for self-regulation as deep-trance hypnosis, yet be applicable to a much greater proportion of the population. In this regard, it should be noted that a majority of persons with substantial dream recall report having had spontaneous lucid dreams (LaBerge, 1980a).

Voluntary Control of REM Sleep Physiology

The fact that a correlation has been found between dream behavior and physio-logical responses (see LaBerge et al., 1981) presents an unusual opportunity for self-regulation. Lucid dreams can carry out dream actions designed to have desir-able physiological consequences. In general, a person can only learn to consciously control a physiological parameter (e.g. heart rate, alpha rhythm, etc.) within the nor-mal range of variation for a given state of consciousness. Since REM sleep presents the widest range of variation of physiological parameters, it also presents the great-est control possibilities. One of the most intriguing questions is the long term effect of dream self-control. One of the functions suggested for REM sleep is the determi-nation of physiological reference levels for motivational behavior. Will, for instance, lowered blood pressure during lucid dreaming result in real lowered blood pressure?

Imagining the patient in a state of perfect health is a technique commonly used by paranormal healers. Since while dreaming we generate body images in the form of our dream bodies, we ought to be able to initiate self-healing processes by con-sciously experiencing our dream bodies as perfectly healthy. Furthermore, if our dream bodies do not at first appear perfectly healthy, we can "magically" heal them through the control that lucidity brings (LaBerge, 1980a); phenomenologically, we know these things can be done. The question for future research to answer is, "If we heal the dream body, to what extent will we also heal the physical body?"


Bowers, K.S. (1976). Hypnosis for the seriously curious. Monterey, California: Brooks/Cole.

Dubos, R. (1978). Health and creative adaptation. Human Nature, 1, 74.

Jaffe, D.T. & Bresler, D.E. (1980). The use of guided imagery as an adjunct to medical diagnosis and treatment. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 20, 45.

LaBerge, S.P. (1980a). Lucid dreaming: An exploratory study of consciousness during sleep. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University.

LaBerge, S.P. (1980b). Lucid dreaming as a learnable skill: A case study. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 51, 1039.

LaBerge, S.P., Nagel, L.E., Dement, W.C. & Zarcone, V.P. (1981). Lucid dreaming verified by volitional communication during REM sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 52, 727–732.

Levitan, H.L. (1980). Traumatic events in dreams of psychosomatic patients. Psychother. Psychosom., 33, 226.

Rossi, E.L. (1972). Dream and the growth of personality. New York: Pergamon.

Simonton, O.C., Mathews-Simonton, S., & Sparks, T.F. (1980). Psychological intervention in the treatment of cancer. Psychosomatics, 21, 226.

Singer, J.L., & Pope, K.S. (1978). The power of human imagination. New York: Plenum.

Watkins, M.M. (1976). Waking dreams. New York: Harper & Row.


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15. A Personal Experience in Lucid Dream Healing


The Aletheia Foundation, Ashland, Oregon

First, let me describe my own qualifications and orientation in dreamwork. I normally recall three to five dreams per night, and have over the past decade or so written down and then fairly comprehensively indexed over 5,000 of my dreams. Of these dreams I have had several hundred that I characterize as fully lucid, meaning that within the dream I had at least the same degree of consciousness and free will (the ability to make conscious decisions) as in my physical reality waking state. During these experiences I have applied many of the standard tests for "realness" that one can apply to the physical world (from pinching myself, saying my name out loud, checking my dream body sensations, self-remembering, checking for consen-sus with other dream persons, etc.) and in each case dream reality has passed the tests. Of course, dream reality compared to physical reality has many profoundly different attributes, and I do not in any way wish to make light of those differences. But from a phenomenological point of view, which bases itself in experience rather than in theories about experience, I have found no basis other than prejudice for assigning any less "realness" to the lifeworld of my lucid dream state than to that of my awake physical state.

In general, I enjoy excellent health based on a number of common sense and mind-body practices. As a result, I’ve had very little opportunity to try the effect of healing in a lucid dream on myself. However, on Monday, April 9, 1984 I over-enthusiastically ate a Japanese style fish shish-kebab, and punctured my right tonsil with a wooden skewer. By Thursday my tonsil had grown quite horribly infected and swollen, looking about three times normal size, bright red, and with yellow lines of pus decorating the exterior. Aside from upping my dosage of Vitamin C, and a few cursory attempts at visualization, I had done nothing to treat it. On Thursday night my tonsil felt very painful, and I used a sensory awareness relaxation tech-nique to take my mind off the pain to get to sleep. I had used this technique before (which involves a pattern of body sensing) to induce OBEs, and had the idea of attempting healing in the OB state, operating on the "as above so below" principle. I then had the following lucid dream (not an OBE, which I experience as something quite different):

. . . walking through a house I wake to the Lucid Dream State, decide to try healing my throat. I look in a mirror and my throat looks healthy, but the tonsils look more like the middle section (uvula) then like tonsils. So in my dream body my throat looks healthy, but different. I program for healing to occur (using affirmations), and my throat does feel much better on awakening.

Subjectively, I would estimate that less than an hour had passed between sleep-ing and waking, and the pain had almost entirely disappeared. The next morning my right tonsil looked and felt almost normal, only slightly red and swollen. At least 95% of the infection had disappeared in less than 12 hours. From the dramatic re-duction in pain felt right after the healing experience, I suspect that much of this healing took place during the lucid dream itself, although of course the dream could have triggered a large release of endorphins.

The potential limits of lucid dream healing may correlate somewhat to those seen in the placebo effect or in deep hypnosis. However, I would like to point out that the physiological change-of-state documented in multiple personality cases may prove applicable to what one might expect to see in dream healing phenomena. All of us seem to experience "multiple personalities" in our dreams. Perhaps clin-ically defined "multiple personalities" have simply transplanted a dream state phe-nomenon over to the waking state as well. Although sharing the same body, dif-ferent personalities often have different allergies, accelerated healing rates, and eyeglass prescriptions. Dr. Bennett Braun reported on the case of one woman who has diabetes in one personality but not in another (see the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 26(2), October, 1983 for a whole issue devoted to this subject).

These dramatic changes can take place within minutes, and point to the dramat-ic and accelerated healing effects potentially available to all of us, through mental changes-of-state leading to physiological changes-of-state.

One final note: lucid dream healing involves mental certainty of a change-of-state not usually available in other self-healing modes such as visualization therapies. I did not imagine that I had healed my tonsil, I experienced a healthy tonsil. Unlike multiple personality patients, most of us cannot change our mental state to bring about a body change-of-state without a considerable amount of doubt intervening and weakening the process. In my lucid dream experience such doubt did not appear, and this could have made all the difference to the effectiveness of the healing obtained.


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