Daniel Love: This is a great question Highlander, one that has many avenues to explore. The first point I’d like to raise is how we define “healing”, as there are many varieties, all with their own subtle differences, so we must be careful not to use the word too lightly.
The simplest form of dream healing, one which can be easily addressed, is that of psychological health. Indeed, my own personal journey in dreamland started with a form of psychological healing, namely overcoming nightmares. Far back when I was the tender age of 5 years old, I was afflicted with terrible recurrent nightmares. So fearsome were these nightmares that as a child, I lived in a constant, almost debilitating fear of sleep.
Of course, such disturbed sleep and the continued worry was, itself, enough to impact upon my daily physical health; I would be constantly tired, making me more prone to illness and mood swings - some very real and tangible effects of an unhealthy dream life. It was my childhood discovery of lucid dreaming that brought resolution to these nightly conflicts, eventually "healing" me of these nightmares and, by proxy, the afflictions the strain of disturbed sleep had upon my waking health. Having experienced this form of psychological healing directly, and again indirectly through the shared experiences of my students and other lucid dreamers, I can confidently say that, at least for nightmares, lucid dreaming can be used to provide a form of psychological healing.
Furthermore, all manner of other psychological issues may be addressed and hopefully improved upon with the careful use of lucid dreams; I have experienced dreamers tackling anxiety, depression and various other issues through the use of skilled lucid dreaming. However, I would stress that with any health issues, either physical or psychological, one should always approach a qualified medical practitioner before attempting any personal experimentation in self healing. Certainly, with the support and aid of modern medicine and a trained health professional, lucid dreaming can be a useful tool in the healing process, if nothing else it can aid as a positive distraction or morale boosting mechanism. It shouldn't, however, be used as an alternative to real medical help.
To take this a step further and to address what I believe may be the core of your question: “is physical healing possible during lucid dreams?”
To this I can only give the answer, we don’t know. The human body is a marvelously complicated piece of biological machinery, with all manner of self-correcting and healing mechanisms that, as a species, we are yet to fully understand. Mechanisms, such as the placebo effect, go some way to demonstrate that a belief in, or a psychological suggestion of healing, seem to help induce some of these inbuilt mechanisms.
Lucid dreaming obviously offers us an arena in which we can experience fully vibrant and realistic virtual experiences. Perhaps this level of realism combined with healing themed dreams could help kick start our bodies own ability to heal itself.
However, it is unlikely that physical self-healing or the placebo effect can take us very far, for if you think carefully about it, if such a powerful ability to heal our bodies were latent in us, why then would the forces of evolution not have long since made these readily available to us? The evolutionary advantage of powerful physical self-healing would be immense; creatures with such an ability would have long ago held the upper hand over their competitors, and such traits would likely now be common place.
Instead, what seems more likely is that, whilst the human body does indeed have some powerful and astounding self-correcting mechanisms, these are limited - it is unlikely we have further undiscovered powers. However, positivity, humour and a fighting spirit can go a long way in helping to keep the human mind healthy, even when the body is not, and surely that is a good thing.
With humility, it must be said that the jury is still out on this topic and much research into this area still needs to take place. Certainly, as long as lucid dream healing is not used in place of proven medical help, there is unlikely to be any harm in experimenting with what may be possible.
Rebecca Turner: This question has many limbs - we can talk about the possibility of psychological versus physical healing... and we can talk about healing yourself versus healing others.
Ok... quite a bit to untangle here <rolls sleeps up>
I believe there is genuine scope for psychological healing in the lucid dream space and am aware of some psychiatrists applying principles of lucid dreaming to patients with PTSD. It's an exciting proposition, especially when applied to recurring nightmares which provide the ultimate platform for therapy.
Like many lucid dreamers, I myself have used lucid dreams to overcome nightmares in which I was being hunted or chased - and not only escaped the fear but confronted my tormentors. If we assume these are caused by real life anxieties then we can assume that a type of lucid dream healing took place.
However physical healing is a different kettle of fish. Several years ago I heard about some informal lucid dream healing experiments. In the spirit of curiosity I attempted to heal myself in a lucid dream. Here's what happened when I tried to correct my chronic shortsightedness:
In my dream, I placed my palms over my eyes and visualized bright light and energy flowing into them. I imagined warmth flowing through my eyeballs and said something deliberate like: "my vision will be clear when I wake up." Despite two attempts at this healing process, I saw no improvement at all.
(Incidentally, in waking life, I did another experiment using daily eye exercises which enhanced my vision from a myopic 20/150 to a near decent 20/40, telling me that my condition was, at least partially, naturally reversible.)
There is of course an intriguing amount of anecdotal evidence from other lucid dreamers who claim to have physically self-healed while lucid. However due to the informal nature of their own investigations I must question these reports; it's quite possible their results were contaminated by other variables.
Perhaps the most famously cited examples of lucid dream healing come from the lucid dream researcher Ed Kellogg. On one occassion, in 1984, he become lucidly aware in a dream and sought to heal a severely infected tonsil. On waking, he reported that signs of infection -- and pain -- had decreased by about 95%. Another dream report involves him lucidly healing his injured toe, which immediately and significantly reduced the pain he felt afterwards. To add credence to his claims, Ed holds a doctorate in biochemistry and is said to take a scientific approach in his dream healing research.
I have respect for Ed's dream research and would very much like to believe that he successfully healed himself using lucid visualizations. Just image what the reality of lucid dream healing would do for, say, remote or impoverished communities in the world without access to medical care. The implications are mind-boggling and hats off to anyone who can identify and exploit any such untapped mind-body connection. However, while reports like Ed's generate interesting fodder for the debate, they do not completely scientifically scrutinize the link between healing based dreams and physical rejuvenation.
For that, we need to devise scalable scientific trials. In my limited knowledge of this front, such a trial should at least involve:
In testing the theory of dream healing in a more rigorous scientific setting, we can rule out coincidences and bias, and source more trustworthy data.
Until then, in the interest of people's health (and that's the point - isn't it?) we have to treat lucid dream healing as purely speculative and handle it with caution. If we don't, there is considerable risk that vulnerable people will put faith in unproven therapies over modern medicine and suffer serious health consequences - and even death - as a result. Steve Jobs is one famous example.
Now for the final limb of the question. You asked if either of us had ever healed another person with lucid dreaming...
In self-healing, we can infer that any healing is an unconscious interaction between mind and body. Though as yet unproven, it does lie within the realm of conceivability because the mind and body are intricately connected. In fact, a limited amount of self-healing is already established by the placebo effect, where healing is initiated with a sugar pill. This can even work when the patient knows it's just a placebo. Weird.
However, for one person's mind to heal another person's body, it calls on a much different interaction. Now we are wandering into the realms of telepathy and psychic healing; spiritual views to which I personally don't subscribe. Unfortunately, there is no proposed basis for this to work, other than indistinct descriptions like "psychic energy" which we can't observe nor measure.
So at the risk of sounding anti-spiritual, I'm afraid this particular notion of dream healing is ignorant of known scientific principles, on which all technological and medical advancements are based today.
Got a burning question about consciousness and dreams?
In Ask The Experts, readers have the opportunity to probe the minds of long time lucid dreamers, Daniel Love and Rebecca Turner. With a combined 40 years of lucid dreaming experience, they aim to candidly answer your lucidity questions on demand.
Note: The opinions expressed here are our own, based on our scientific understanding of consciousness exploration. The pursuit of lucid dreaming often leads to personal interpretations, with which you may or may not agree, but we hope to unveil the most objective and best-fitting explanations available. We hope you find this segment to be informative, educational and inspirational for your dream life.
Rebecca Turner is the founder of World of Lucid Dreaming. She is currently studying for a science degree in Auckland and becoming famous as a science writer. Try her lucid dreaming course and connect with the the team on Facebook and the lucid dream forum.
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