I was walking down a hallway with my dad when it happened.
A dark, pointy figure grabbed me by the ankles and flung me down the hall. I was shocked and in pain. But before I knew what was happening, he marched over to me and did it again.
He was furious. He was going to destroy me. And I had nothing.
Except for my lucidity.
After smashing against the wall for the second time, my fear became so intense that it jolted me into realizing the simple truth: "I'm dreaming!"
In an instant, my nightmare transformed from a world of sheer terror to a universe of endless possibilities.
I was then lucid dreaming: consciously aware in the dream state, capable of thinking clearly, experiencing the dream in extraordinary detail, and controlling my own actions.
Usually at this point, I fly away and pursue some fanciful adventure.
I might dive into the ocean and swim with the dolphins. I might summon a movie star to play a role in my dream. I might visit the Pyramids of Egypt, or the Eiffel Tower, or the Grand Canyon. I might skydive, shapeshift into a wolf, or teleport to another universe or a galaxy far, far away.
My lucid dreams are not even limited by my own conscious imagination. Because what I can't dream up... my unconscious mind can.
The unconscious mind is brimming with surreal and creative imagery. I've seen the lucid dream world in 360-degree vision. I've drawn dream characters in the air and watched them come to life. I've tunneled into the ground only to emerge in the sky below. I've been shown the quantum world, the meaning of life and the vastness of nothing.
In these dreams I can relinquish control and let the bizarre dream scenario play on; I'm just a passive but highly self aware observer, gobbling up the dream in all its wonderful and tangible intensity.
Or I can take the reigns and explore my dream actively, seek to fulfill my own personal goals and desires.
What should I do with my lucid dream tonight?
On this occasion, I chose to do something special.
I decided to turn the nightmare in on itself. To confront the source of my fear and ask outright what was happening.
I had to know why I was being so badly mistreated like this.
While still reeling from the violence of the silhouette man, I marched up to him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and yelled: "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!"
His aggression immediately turned to sadness. I saw a childish frustration. A hopeless creature.
"I can't reconcile this," he said. Those were his words. Not childish at all.
Then he handed me a notepad, much like the one I used in my own daily work, and saw he had scrawled four words: be loved / love yourself.
I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Earlier that day I'd been having a discussion about whether it's more important to be loved by someone else, or to learn how to love yourself .
I figured my conclusion that day was in conflict with one of my core beliefs. And now this part of me was acting out in a huge tantrum. Boy was he mad.
But instead of fearing him, or feeling angry at him, I felt enormous empathy for him. He was, after all, me. My inner child, perhaps. A little part of me that needed to mature.
I'm still not entirely sure how he figured into things. I could guess that he was furious that I'd decided I didn't want or need to be loved by other people anymore. Poor thing. He'd misunderstood - badly.
I explained how I felt. How important it was, I'd realized, to love and accept myself as a priority. Before I could even learn how to properly accept someone else's love.
That was enough, apparently, because that night he faded away from the dream, both physically and emotionally, and I never saw him again. I woke up in awe.
That wasn't the first time I've confronted a nightmare figure while lucid. And it won't be the last time either.
This amazing ability to communicate with the dream while lucid has changed my view of nightmares for good. They aren't a source of fear; they are an opportunity to grow.
You can analyze your nightmares upon waking. You can tell them to your therapist. You can offload your feelings onto their real-life counterparts.
But for lucid dreamers, this is one empowering and effective way to resolving internal conflicts in the moment.
You are, after all, dealing directly with your core, true self.
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Does this face look familiar? It should. This is the result of image averaging - a technique in which multiple headshots are averaged out into a single face. In this case, our composite guy was generated by psychology student and photography enthusiast, Bill Lytton. Lytton averaged out 32 attractive male celebrity faces. To avoid personal bias, he referred to Maxim's Hot 100 and other opinion polls. He also averaged out a bunch of unattractive male faces for comparison.
It's a myth that you could exhaust yourself having a great big run in a lucid dream. After all, your real muscles are paralyzed during sleep. Your body isn't really running or burning up energy. So why would you feel depleted? So, in terms of physical energy depletion, there's really no logic to this argument. But what about dreams being mentally or emotionally tiring? The best way to test this is to survey lucid dreamers themselves. Go ahead, take our poll. My intuitive response is no - and that's based on my 17 years of personal experience. Lucid dreams aren't tiring for me at all.
When Dom Cobb spins his spinning top in Inception, he does it to determine whether he's awake or dreaming. In reality, the top eventually runs out of energy and falls over. In a dream, it has the potential to spin on forever, which tells him he's dreaming. This idea of using a totem has really caught on with some lucid dreamers. Ryan Hurd of Dream Studies has recently produced a totem specifically for lucid dreaming, called the Lucid Talisman.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?