Lucid dreaming is the experience of being aware that you are dreaming, and even being able to control the dream.
In her post Inception’s Dream Science: Fact or Fiction? dream researcher Deirdre Barrett writes about Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film and some of its premises about dreams.
Barrett says “It is possible to influence your dreams by a technique psychologists call ‘dream incubation.’ Breakthrough dreams – where a writer dreams the plot of a novel or a scientist dreams a formula or someone just has a major insight about their personal life – these can happen spontaneously, but you greatly increase their probability by specific requests of your dreaming mind.”
She describes dream incubation in detail in her book “The Committee of Sleep”, and summarizes the technique: “If you want to dream about a particular person, or topic or problem, you should think about the topic once you are in bed, and form an image of that topic–because dreams are so very visual–and let it be the last thing in your mind before falling asleep.”
The movie “Inception” does not really show the behavior of experienced lucid dreamers in her research, she says; for example, characters in the movie “continued to laboriously climb a cliff with a rope even once they knew it was a dream.”
This violates one of the “corollaries” of dreaming she identifies: “1) people in the dreams are dream characters, 2) dream objects are not real, i.e., actions will not carry over concretely upon awakening, 3) the dreamer does not need to obey waking-life physics to achieve a goal, and 4) memory of the waking world is intact rather than amnesic or fictitious.”
She describes more intriguing aspects of dreaming, and provides a link to the IASD (International Association for the Study of Dreams) site with commentaries by other researchers about the movie.
Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, teaches at Harvard Medical School, and is author of The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists, and Athletes Use their Dreams for Creative Problem Solving-and How You Can Too.
A quote from the book: “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” Writer John Steinbeck
Solving problems and coming up with ideas while sleeping
In his post Hacking Creativity, science writer Steven Kotler notes an Inc. magazine article about “what kind of peculiar mind-hacks top innovators use to come up with their ideas and—the strange part—it opens with a discussion of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil’s employment of lucid dreaming to solve vexing engineering problems.”
He quotes from the article:
Every evening before bed, Kurzweil plucks out a vexing problem—perhaps a business strategy, a technical conundrum, or even an interpersonal issue. First he posits the characteristics of a potential solution. Take, for example, the extraskeletal walking system for paraplegics that he’s considering developing. He wants it to be simple enough for a user to put on without help. Lying in bed, Kurzweil begins to fantasize about such a system, sometimes imagining that he’s giving a speech about how he reached his conclusions. “This has the purpose of seeding your subconscious to influence your dreams,” he says. Then he drifts off to sleep.
Kotler notes that a number of researchers such as Stephen LeBarge (author of the book Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life) have “done outstanding work in the field, including pioneering well-validated techniques for learning how to wake oneself up mid-dream. What hasn’t been so well-studied is the other thing that I find curious: the idea of using lucid dreams as a creative problem-solver.”
He goes on to describe how the brain’s extrinsic and intrinsic pattern recognition systems may help explain lucid dreaming.
Fascinating stuff – though I have not tried to use lucid dreaming myself. Have you?