The term lucid dreaming was first coined by Frederik van Eaden, a Dutch writer and psychiatrist in the late 19th century. It is a special kind of dream in which the dreamer is aware of the fact that he or she is dreaming.
The word “lucid” simply means “aware” or “conscious”. So in his original description van Eaden referred to a lucid dream as a state in which the dreamer was aware that they were experiencing a dream.
However, since then the term lucid dream has evolved. There are now considered to be different levels or degrees of lucidity that a person can achieve within a dream.
These vary according to the strength of your conscious focus and its stability within the dream state, the presence of the critical faculty and ability to access memories while dreaming and, of course, your own ability to take control of the dream itself.
2013 TED Talk on Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreams can be both intentional and spontaneous experiences and it is quite normal for those who have them to be able to recall them easily more as a memory of a real life experience than of a memory of a dream.
At times, people can become lucid in a dream for no specific reason: they suddenly realize that they are dreaming and that they are not in real danger or that the pleasant situation they find themselves in is not real.
However, most of the time lucidity is triggered when the dreamer encounters something that wouldn’t normally happen in the physical world such as finding that they can fly, walk through walls, bi-locate or when they witness something that is physically impossible in the waking world.
Taking control of your dreams
When somebody is experiencing a lucid dream they not only know that it is dreaming but they can also control the progress of the dream, participate more actively in its different sequences and manipulate it completely.
Thus, unlike regular dreams in which the dreamer is more a spectator and plays a more passive role, in a lucid dream the dreamer can make decisions that affect the entire dream world and the characters contained within it.
They have full control. In addition when a dreamer enters a lucid state, the dream will come alive with vibrant colour and very often seems more real than real life.
Using lucid dreaming for self-improvement
Due to its real-life nature, lucid dreaming can be used to help individuals:
achieve specific skills
overcome every day challenges
analyse personal and professional problems
For instance, performers that suffer from stage fright can rely on this technique to practice in front of an audience.
This “virtual” practice will then be carried-over into the waking world more as a memory of a real life event than a dream. Then, when the dreamer is actually on stage in the waking world, they are already used to and trained to undergo the situation without further trouble.
Likewise athletes can practice their skills and it has even been used by a surgeon who practiced medical procedures using lucid dreaming.
However, you don’t need to use lucid dreams to hone your skills or learn new ones. One of the most common reasons for learning to lucid dream, and by far the most enjoyable, is for fantasy fulfillment.
You can literally experience anything you want to within a lucid dream and it will feel as though you are doing it for real in the real world.
Experiencing a lucid dream seems great, exciting and something really worth trying. However, do you know what it can do for you? In the following paragraphs we’ll explore the benefits of this state.
To begin with, it offers you the chance to explore a whole world of possibilities that would be impossible or highly implausible for you in the physical world. In addition to the exciting adrenaline rush you receive from actively living out a fantasy, undergoing such an experience can be helpful in many other ways.
For instance, clinical studies have shown that the activity going on in your brain when you perform a particular action within a lucid dream is exactly the same as when you are awake.
This means that these dreams are not only a great chance to learn and develop new skills but that they can be used to create new positive memories that can bolster self confidence and self esteem as well as overcoming negative past programming.
A simple illustration can be seen if you want to feel more confident when you drive, the ability to take yourself off to a car journey where you are the driver and have to pay attention to the traffic and the traffic signals can be really helpful.
It gives you an ideal and safe place to practice and the possibility of carrying on your improvement when you’re awake.
In the same way, if you have to perform in front of an audience and you’re afraid you’ll forget your lines or drop the balls you’re supposed to juggle, a visualized rehearsal of the action can be just as effective.
If you spend time in your dreams juggling balls or acting out your lines or singing a song with which you want to make an awesome impression on the audience, you will see a real-world improvement.
Last but not least, lucid dreams can be used as windows into our own subconscious mind and mental programming.
They provide a safe environment for understanding and learning more about ourselves and to find out the meanings behind your dreams , overcoming phobias, gaining self-confidence, raising self esteem, managing stressful situations better and solving emotional situations that are holding us back in life.
Truly learning to lucid dream is a life skill that has varied and far-reaching benefits. You owe it to yourself to give it a try.