My dreams have been on and off. I have a dream journal but haven't found many dream signs. I don't always have memory of dreams either... but sometimes it is hard to even realize I am in one. I find that I talk myself out of realizing dream signs. I talk myself out of it! I count my fingers about 5 times a day, and every time I check a clock, I double take. Do you have any pointers to help me out?
Rebecca says: There are lots of ways to approach lucid dreaming and so, usually, if a technique is failing you, all you need do is switch to another method. However there are certain fundamental skills which every lucid dreamer should master and you have described difficulties in two of them. It's therefore essential you address both of these before moving on.
1. Dream Recall
Poor dream recall is disastrous for a lucid dreamer. Not only will your dreams remain vague and fuzzy, thereby limiting the number of opportunities to become lucid, but even if you do become lucid, you'll likely lose your lucidity quickly and even forget it ever happened.
I've described various ways to improve your dream recall in my Lucid Dreaming Fast Track course, including dream journaling, timed REM alarms, the Cycle Adjustment Technique, the Wake Back to Bed technique, self hypnosis, guided meditation, dream incubation, dream herbs and supplements. I urge you to focus on all these aspects as a priority, before doing any other form of lucid dream practice.
People who struggle to remember their dreams are often so-called deep sleepers (who don't remember waking up in the night), so that by the time they wake up in the morning, all memories of their dreams are long forgotten. So-called light sleepers either partially or fully awaken multiple times in the night, increasingly during or just after REM sleep as the night goes on. For them, dreams are fresh and recent and more easily recalled.
If you think you might be a deep sleeper, don't worry. It is still perfectly possible for you to lucid dream, but you will need to focus more on rousing yourself in the final few hours of sleep, when lucidity is most prolific. You could have a committed partner wake you when they see you displaying Rapid Eye Movements, or if you're a fan of smartphone apps try a dream alarm app like Lucid Dream Ultimate.
When I want to significantly boost my dream recall (which can lead me to remember around five detailed dreams per night) I make the mental decision to wake up at several intervals (eg "I will wake up at 5am" then later "I will wake up at 6.45am"). Somehow, I naturally stir at these times and this means I can recall my dreams much closer to them occurring, and frequently through the night.
Try it - not every night, but as an occasional experiment - and see the impact it has on your dream recall.
2. Self Awareness
Here's another critical skill for lucid dreamers. You say you're talking yourself out of dream signs - and this tells me that your habitual reality checks are only skin deep. That's to say, you're going through the motions but not actually questioning your reality on a profound level during the waking day.
When you ask a question in your dream (whether lucid or not), your dreaming mind creates the answer that you expect to see, or that otherwise fits in with your dream reality. After all, we have evolved over millennia and spent years of our own lives learning to find patterns in our environment. This ability continues on in the dream world, so that if you see a Martian, your unconscious mind will quite happily generate a false memory of Martian's coming to Earth, in order to explain its appearance. Equally, if you try to push your hand through a wall in a dream, and expect it to resist as in real life, then that will probably happen.
In order for your reality checks to work, you need to train yourself up in a new kind of introspection, a way of thinking that you may not be used to. Furthermore you should expect certain outcomes with your reality checks. I've discussed both aspects at length in my article on How to Improve Your Self Awareness so that your reality checks can work (close to) every time.
The article explains how it's not enough to simply count your fingers, or do a double-take at the clock -- instead, you have to study your fingers or the clock with new eyes and see them as you've never seen them before. You can then progress to imagining and expecting the impossible, which is how your reality checks will consistently prove false in the dream world.
I also recommend day-time and night-time forms of meditation to help you become more attuned to your internal state and distinguish differences between your waking world and your dreams. This is another in-depth topic but you will find lots of starting tips in my article How to Visualize for Meditation and Lucid Dreams and further instruction in my ebook Guided Meditation for Lucid Dreamers.
Beyond proper dream recall, your ability to recognize when you are dreaming and become lucid is heavily influenced by your ability to tune-in to the moment while awake. True self awareness, by day and by night, is key.
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