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Exploring Lucid Dreaming

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    This thread is for discussing the intriguing topic of lucid dreaming. I thought it. might be helpful to open this thread with some general resources.

    One of the best websites I’ve come across for information on lucid dreaming is the Lucidity Institute, which can be found here: 

    Some good books to get started with this topic, if you’re new to it and interested, would be Stephen LaBerge’s classic, “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming,” as well as Rober Waggoner’s “Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self.”

    Both books are insightful in their own ways. LaBerge gives interesting examples of how professionals in different fields have used lucid dreaming to benefit job performance, good examples being a programmer who used lucid dreaming to work out bugs in thier code, and a surgeon who used lucid dreaming to practice complex surgeries.

    Waggoner focuses more on the metaphysical and philosophical/spiritual implications of lucid dreaming, as well as the different elements at play in lucid dreams, including the general development of the skill over time, a roadmap of sorts of how the skill generally develops for most people, from beginning to expert. His discussions of what he calls the “conscious unconscious” is also illuminating.


    I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve added these titles to the thread Helpful Books on Dream, along with a fairly expensive two-volume collection of interdisciplinary research on the subject.

    This is an endlessly fascinating subject (interest certainly ratcheted up after the 2010 release of the film Inception). As I noted in our exchange in The Conversation with a Thousand Faces forum, I haven’t consciously attempted to incubate lucid dreams, not wanting to subject my dreams to control by my waking, muscular ego (which I want to abbreviate M.E. – or “me”), though anyone serious about chronicling their dream lives has likely experienced lucid dreaming (which might be defined as being awake within a dream, aware that the dream is a dream).

    But as you pointed out in your response,

    One of my own most important lessons, back when I was following a strict lucid dream induction practice, was allowing ‘the dream to unfold on its own,’ as you so aptly put it. I think for many people new to lucid dreaming, as I was at that time, the will comes to the forefront of the lucid dreaming experience, experiencing that power and control is exhilarating, especially at the beginning. But you’re right – dreams contain messages, usually in the forms of images, symbols and story, and when we impress the will too deeply upon the dream, we run the risk of losing that message.”

    Nor, from the reading I have done, when aware one is dreaming, though it may be possible to influence the dream, “willing” things to happen doesn’t always work: dream characters don’t always react to what we do or say the way we want them to (indeed, many seem to have their own motivations, back history, and even their own inner life!), nor, given the fluidity of dream, do circumstances necessarily remain static once we “will” them. That jives with my experience.

    And then, even if “awake” within a dream, remaining lucid isn’t necessarily all that simple, often taking waking intention, discipline, and practice to learn how to maintain awareness when dreaming. Indeed, in my own experience, often the awareness that I am dreaming is a prelude to waking up; other times, I may be lucid for a space within a dream, but then something shifts, awareness slips, and I am back fully immersed in the dream state.

    But then there have been dreams when I am lucid for an extended period; I don’t attempt to influence the way the dream unfolds when that happen, but I do pay special attention to my surroundings, and the feelings and sensations and interactions I experience within the play of the dream.

    In my retro-hippie period (which I’ve never exactly outgrown), I focused attention and discipline on ingesting and learning from teacher plants and the visionary state – particularly recording and reviewing my experiences in my journals once I surfaced and returned to consciousness. I find much resonance between the texture of the psychedelic state and the dream state – including an awesome, fascinating hyperreality when lucid in each.

    I am curious, andrewl – are there specific techniques you apply before falling asleep to foster lucidity within a dream? And once you are awake in the dream, is there anything you do to maintain that awareness for the duration of the dream?


      Stephen and Andrew; my apologies to you both for my confusion in where I should post this question. Since there is often much confusion about engagement with one’s dreams I will start with the following queries:

      “Concerning the question about “Lucid Dreaming” if I may; how do you see this in relationship to the process of: “Active Imagination”? This would seem to me to be engagement with the dream state without being awake; or to be more precise that state of pre-consciousness when one is aware that they are dreaming “but not actually awake”. (So that the awareness of it would be the dialogue between the dream state and the individual consciousness of it and engagement with it.) I hope my description makes sense.”


      James – no worries. I doubt Andrew even noticed you posted this in the Helpful Books thread (I’m just trying to keep conversational threads separate from those listing resources, to avoid sprawl).

      To me, the difference between the practice of Jung’s concept of active imagination and the experience of lucid dreaming is analogous to the difference between imagining you are drinking a cup of coffee, and actually drinking a cup of coffee. Depending on how powerful one’s imagination is, it certainly is possible to recall the aroma, the flavor, how it feels in your belly, and the accompanying mental stimulation on more than just an abstract intellectual level when imagining that cup of coffee, but that still pales compared to the experience of actually drinking a cup of coffee.

      A dream, like a psychedelic experience, is an altered state of consciousness – an immersive experience in an alternate reality, if you will, but reality nevertheless, at least to the “dream you.”.

      Active imagination, on the other hand, is working with images, often from a dream one has already had, with the idea, in Jung’s terms, to “distinguish ourselves from the unconscious contents.” He originally referred to this as “the transcendent function,” and then “the picture method” – but also “active fantasy,” “trancing,” “visioning,” “exercises,” “dialectical method,” “technique of introversion,” “introspection,” and “techniques of the descent” – before using the term “active imagination” for the first time in public in his Tavistock Lectures in London in 1935.

      There are many forms active imagination can take – working with and engaging the images in one’s own mind, for sure, often by selecting an image from a dream, vision or fantasy, or even focusing on a mood or psychosomatic symptom experience from waking life, which then activates the imagination (you can even do this with a painting or photo, concentrating on it until it comes alive, so to speak).

      Other times this involves giving the imagination form through painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, dancing, and such. Jungian analyst Joan Chodorow, who compiled a collection of Jung’s passages on the subject, describes the process thus:

      Sometimes the image appears first in the mind’s eye, but it may or may not want to come out. More often than not, images arise in a completely spontaneous way as we work with an expressive medium. Sooner or later the imagination is given physical form. Jung describes a wide variety of forms that include writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, weaving, music, dancing, as well as the creation of rituals and dramatic enactments. Marie-Louise von Franz reports that Jung once told her symbolic enactment with the body is more efficient than ‘ordinary active imagination’ but he could not say why.”

      I’d venture to guess the reason for that is a symbolic enactment in the three-dimensional world gives the imagination body – the images put on flesh, so to speak, become real. “Play” is often an essential element: Jung’s return to an activity of his childhood, building houses and cities out of blocks, then graduating to stones and building the full-scale tower at Bollingen, was a form of active imagination – as were his inner dialogues with Philemon and Salome.

      Despite some differences in minor details or terminology – whether Jung, von Franz, Robert Johnson, or other depth psychologists – the trajectory of active imagination is essentially the same: Let go of ego and open the mind to the unconscious (I believe Johnson phrases it “invite the unconscious”), then let an image arise, give the image some form of expression, let the ego react to it (applying waking world values by bringing in an ethical element), make it concrete with a physical ritual of some sort, and then live it.

      There is intention to active imagination, which is something we do when awake. We do not think we are dreaming when doing it, nor do we think this is “real” (though for some individuals, it is possible to be overwhelmed by unconscious impulses if careless). Active imagination is not something that happens by chance – it is an intentional psychological process designed to achieve a result.

      Lucid dreaming is very different. We know about lucid dreaming because it tends to arise spontaneously in the dream state. When dreaming, our experience feels just as real as when awake – but many many many people will at some point have an experience where they notice some sort of dissonance within the dream (e.g. sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool and suddenly realizing you haven’t been holding your breath, and yet are feeling no discomfort – or noticing your Aunt Martha left  the room by walking through the wall instead of out the door, which just doesn’t feel “right”).

      Most of the time when impossible things happen in a dream we don’t think of them as strange at all, because we experience them as consistent with the dream logic of that dream reality. Dissonance arises when there is a sense or suspicion that we witness, or directly experience, as at odds with reality – which is often the result of the intrusion of conscious awareness into the dream reality.

      For example, I have often had dreams where I am sort of skipping or dancing over the ground – a joyous experience – and then I notice that I’m actually traveling or floating long distances between skips, maybe thirty or forty feet, far beyond what should be possible –and that sense that this is at odds with reality leads me to wonder if I am dreaming. Other times I will find myself in a situation where I can’t remember what came before it – how did I end up on the back of this unicorn, or in my childhood bedroom – which is at odds with waking world experience, where I remember what came before I started typing this post, for example, and know how I ended up here.

      Sometimes that’s a momentary twinge of awareness, and then I’ll slip right back into full immersion – but there are times when I realize that I really am dreaming. Often, when that happens, consciousness takes the rudder and suddenly I am fully awake – but there are other times when I remain in the dream, marveling at the reality of what is clearly impossible when I’m awake: the intervals between feet touching the ground when running or skipping grow longer and longer, and suddenly I am floating or flying, swooping and soaring, knowing I must be dreaming.

      One doesn’t have to read Carl Jung or Robert Johnson to experience a lucid dream; these tend to arise spontaneously. There is no conscious purpose or intention to it for most dreamers.

      Often these experiences are quite joyous and playful: there is a certain exhilaration to knowing I am dreaming. For example, if I am being chased by a snarling, hungry tiger, I experience a rush of adrenaline and tremendous fear and anxiety. This is true whether dreaming or awake – in either case, the threat and fear is real.

      But if, while this happens, I suddenly realize I am dreaming, that changes the experience. The tiger may catch me, but I know that ultimately, there is nothing to fear as it’s just a dream, so I am able to have some fun with the experience.

      (On a bit of a tangent, it is intrigues me that “Buddha” can mean He Who Is Awake – or the Awakened One. Buddha realizes life is sorrow, but knows that all is a dream, and that he is awake within the dream; his solution to that suffering, then, is to stop the dream and simply cease to be – nirvana: blown out, like the extinguishing of a candle. Three centuries later the figure of the Bodhisattva emerges, one who is on the cusp of Buddhahood – knows all is a dream and is awake with that dream, and yet determines to stay in the dream, experiencing the sorrows of life until all beings in the dream wake up to that – which Campbell refers to as the Bodhisattva formula: “Joyful participation in the sorrows of life”)

      Knowing that lucid dreaming exists, a small number of people today actively aim to foster the experience of being awake within a dream, often for fun – but all, often with the intention of changing the dream (e.g. turn that snarling, threatening beast into a butterfly). That, however, is easier said than done, for even though one may know one is experiencing a dream, the ego having that experience is not exactly identical with one’s waking ego – it may be possible to influence the dream somewhat (say, float off into the sky, or imagine one is going to meet one’s first lover around the next bend in the path), but it is still dream, with its own dream logic. Dream characters may not react the way you want – might turn that tiger into a butterfly, but then the butterfly bites off your arm.

      So Andrewl points out that he leans more toward experiencing the dream while awake within it without trying to script or manipulate it, or make it conform to one’s will. Indeed, one can apply active imagination to the images one encounters in a lucid dream.

      It does indeed seem possible to achieve some psychological benefits from lucid dreaming.

      Research remains ongoing . . . .


        Stephen; you are so very thoughtful in offering your help with years of deep study behind it. There is an enormous amount of insight and information within this one post and it will take me quite awhile to digest it all. This is such a deep and complex subject that one can often get lost in finding their way through it all and figuring out how best to approach and apply it. As we explore the depths of our own life and attempt to mine the messages it holds for us it can often become overwhelming. But then we dream every night; and our psyche is speaking to us all the time attempting to communicate things we need to realize within our life process no matter where we are within it.

        I think for some of us attempting to navigate Jungian concepts can be a truly Herculean task given the complexity of everyday modern life because the support system of one’s personal myth is unknown and that the actual assignment is to figure out where you need to go and how to get there within the backstory of making your own unconscious conscious; but that’s the job that’s given whether we like it or not; and as Joseph mentioned once: “The fates lead him who will; those who won’t they drag.”; (or something like that). But for each of us I think we must learn how these forces and this material is speaking to us and what it’s messages are when we go to sleep each night and these things come to life and speak to us in a language that’s often difficult to understand.

        This is such a wonderful wealth of information Stephen; and the reading suggestions both you and Andrew have offered keep me constantly adding to my library all the time. Again; thank you for all your kind help which will keep me busy for some time to come.


        My most recent lucid dream happened a few weeks ago, when I found myself on an unfamiliar balcony: aware I was dreaming, I carefully examined the setting of the dream, attempting to impress it on my memory, even running my hands over the adobe-colored stucco walls, touching the smooth brass railings – and then slipped back into full immersion, forgetting I was dreaming until the morning, when I scribbled the dream in my journal.

        Exactly one week later, visiting a different city to see a production of Hamilton, had a wonderful moment in a hotel where I’d never stayed before when I recognized the balcony outside my room – right down to the feel of the texture of the adobe-colored stucco walls, the thick, round brass railings, and the view . . .

        As mentioned in another thread, I’ve recorded over a thousand dreams in dedicated journals the past three decades. As a result, just about every configuration possible has appeared in my dream journals, including dreams within dreams (waking up from a dream only to find one is still dreaming), dreams where I am more than one character at a time (one where I was six people at the same moment, some in different rooms interacting with different people – very trippy experience that challenged my perception of individual consciousness), dreams where I am a different gender, and, of course, countless instances of being awake within a dream.

        I don’t seek out those lucid dreaming experiences, and don’t do anything particular with them different from any other dream when they occur. But beyond anecdotal evidence, there is a growing body of research devoted to lucid dreaming. Frankly, I have had a less than favorable opinion of those who focused on being conscious while dreaming, assuming the idea is to control and direct the dream (the wonder of dreaming for me is bypassing waking ego; I shy away from the muscular ego – M.E. – in charge of my dreams, consider it doesn’t do that great a job managing my waking life).

        I’m pleased to learn my understanding is mistaken, at least when it comes to serious dream research. My current dream practice works well for me, so I’ll likely continue to just enjoy lucid moments within dream when they occur, rather than attempt to induce and prolong lucid dreams – but I am beginning to understand the value of that approach, thanks to those like Andrew who have shared their experience.


          Stephen; your added insights are even more illuminating and combine beautifully with the first ones you shared. I had an interesting dream last night which I think was prompted by what you shared; (although I’m not sure if it will resonate with anything specific from the above.

          I often have these little “Oracle” type messages or experiences that usually appear as one word and then almost every time I awaken immediately afterwards. The word usually given has some type of meaning or relationship to something I’ve been working on that seems to point in a certain direction I need to go or focus on. I’ve lately been concentrating on the concept of: “Core Complex” that I came across with Murray Stein and James Hollis: “Decomplexifying Complexes” that I believe also is included in Mario Jacoby’s work as well. (I’ve since traced this back to my earliest childhood experiences and I’m pretty sure it is a major influence within my “Personal Myth”; so for me this is a big deal concerning my inner work over the last 5 or 6 six years.

          After I had posted my reply to you I went to bed and had this dream where I was trying to find out how to go about further exploring both my previous above experiences and asking what I need to be looking for. At one point the word: “Voice” appeared flashing as though to get my attention; and then I woke up. After I scribbled this down on my note pad beside my bed I began wondering what this word had to do with my problem and my dream message and it occurred to me that “emotion” and communication are major features of dreamwork as the unconscious is often giving signals through symbols and images of responses to things the psyche is working on so I was struck by both the timing and immediacy of the response. At any rate the links I left should help clarify my references and hopefully will add to the discussion.

          Stephen; again thank you so much for all your helpful insights.


          Thanks, James – though I can really only speak from my own experience. I, too, pay special attention when a word or phrase follows me across the divide between the dream zone and waking consciousness.

          Your reference to readings on core complexes reminds me that dreams love visual puns. For example, many of my dreams unfold in public settings – hotels or resorts, elaborate restaurants, or on a campus, a planned community, or among a set of apartments – and I will find in my dream journal the next morning that I have referred to these as a “complex”: e.g., “the dream occurred in a public space in the complex,” or “I saw her in a crowded area of the complex,” or “we were on the bed in a guest room in the the complex,” etc. – with the rest of the dream supplying the clues as to what “complex” I seem to have located myself in . . .

          But now we’re wandering a bit far afield of the topic of lucid dreams (granted, given their fluid nature and many-fold layers, it’s no easy task to confine a discussion of dreams to just one subject, so some leakage is to be expected).

          But you’ll notice the account of my most recent lucid dream (which I shared in the hopes others might share some of their experiences with lucid dreaming) just naturally overlapped with the pre-cognitive aspect of that dream.

          Maybe we need a couple new threads, one perhaps on elements or aspects of dreams (such as telepathic and precognitive experiences), and one on dreamwork, including active imagination, which would also cover your most recent post. (Just thinking out loud for a moment . . . )


            Stephen ; thanks again for your clarity. Although my dream obviously didn’t fit what the thread needed; I do think your idea about broadening out and creating other threads might be something worth exploring. Thanks again for your helpful advice. Maybe others will join in and offer some of their ideas as well.


            An addendum to the above. After I responded I laid down and went to sleep where upon I got a resolution to the message from the earlier dream I mentioned. My dream this time reminded me complexes are: “tone-based”; and I’m pretty sure that is what the reference was to the word: “voice”. (Carl Jung: “The mind is a curious thing.”)



            Again, not to worry, James – conversations take on a life of their own. I am curious – do you ever recall realizing, in the middle of a dream, that you must be dreaming? If so, do you remember if you felt wonder as a result, or maybe discomfort or confusion? Or do you wake up once you realize you’re having a dream? Or has this not happened to you before?


              Oh absolutely; I realize quite often I’m in the middle of a dream. Last night I had a whole series where I drifted in and out of these different theme dreams; (aware that sometimes I was watching while I was actually in them; other times I’m merely an observer from the outside). The series last night; around 4 or 5 dreams; revolved around a symbolic commercial healthcare company which was trying to fight against the corruption of the government to control quality; (usually the other way around in normal life right?). I would wake up every so often and do a restroom trip and then go back to sleep and this symbol would pick right back up and another scenario would start. I’ve been experiencing a lot of political animosity lately concerning the spread of toxic behavior for the coming election; so that may explain why it was a political dream. So this one was a bit unusual.

              Sometimes I will have dreams which revolve around a theme like traveling through something like buildings or rooms and ending up somewhere before I wake up; sometimes there will people I will interact with; sometimes not. But my actual awareness of consciously having a choice to interact to determine it’s outcome is not usually present; (in other words most of the time I’m observing from the outside; the dream gets to a certain place and then I awake).

              At any rate sometimes like the other night something symbolic will appear and I will wake up; or the dream will just resolve itself and I will become aware that it’s morning and organize my thoughts for the coming day. However; there are many times something will bring me to semi-consciousness and I will purposely play out different scenarios of the dream sequence to get at it’s meaning. Much of my sleeping patterns vary widely from a few hours in several series of varied scenes; other times longer more storied versions lasting 5 to 6 hours or more. (It all depends on what I’m processing at the time and if it has intense emotional significance for me or not.)

              My awareness and participation within these different situations varies also. Sometimes I will get up and look up something on the computer I’ve just dreamed about; go back to sleep and pick up something similar in my dreams again; or other times I will just jot something down on my note pad about it so I will remember it for the next day to go over it. (I have a big pile of these notes I go over all the time to get a sense of what’s at work on me internally. But to your questions; I try to keep track of these things and analyze what they may be telling me; and emotions of course play a part in the processing. This was one of the reasons the “archetype and core complex” configuration rang me like a bell when I first came across it. (All the Mario Jacoby material deals a lot with this type of complex/theme based approach.) I hope this helps.


              andrewl – this is a fascinating topic you started six months ago, generating some interesting discussion, though conversation petered out after a few days.

              You never did weigh back in on the discussion (no worries – we were just hitting the holiday season with its extra demands on everyone’s time; I’m afraid I had a lot on my plate with impending writing deadlines and a family member’s serious medical issues, so lost track of the thread as well).

              Definitely a fascinating subject, though; I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the exchange with JamesN, or further insights of your own to share?


                Since this thread has become active again a little synchronicity has been added to the mix. Here is a link to an upcoming Dream-Summit with over a dozen speakers spread out over 4 days and it’s “Free”. Many of these people are well known to the Jungian community and will be time very well spent.

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