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Lucid Dreaming via Nightmares

File:Waterhouse-sleep and his half-brother death-1874.jpg

Sleep and his Half Brother Death by J.W. Waterhouse 1874

It began with nightmares. Severe and chronic. Without alleviation I imagined they would steal far too much of my childhood. It did much more than that…

An entirely separate world was created. The zombies from Romero’s Night of the Living Dead waited outside my door. They came every night. So did vicious and uncontrollable dogs with realistic bites I felt until I physically shocked myself awake by jumping out of bed. I drowned for several years after that in disturbingly deep black waters. Blindness followed. I could only sense people and things in the dream world.These nightmares persisted for many years, switching positions of rank and degrees of intensity, but always they remained part of my other life.

Although the nightmares were insufferable because they don’t let you sleep, or dream of running through fields of dandelions they served a distinct and perhaps priceless purpose. They helped me to wake up inside the dream. With the suffering came the courage to face the dark side of the mind, to open up and feel the texture of the dream.

Upon waking, the zombies still scared me, the dark waters were still deep, the blindness everlasting, but I was determined to discover the source of the fear. Little did I know…my nightmares had turned into lucid dreams.

Of course, you don’t need nightmares to learn how to have a lucid dream, but it certainly sped up the process for me. There are several well known techniques.  Over the years, I’ve tried them all with some variations. After much practice, it got easier and became habitual to plan my dreams before going to bed.

Is it worth it? Well, if you’re a writer and you learn how to hone in this skill, you’ll not only crack open the unconscious, but you’ll give yourself a limitless platform in which to explore the art of fiction.

Here are a few things I like to do as soon as I recognize I’m dreaming:

  • Make sure to maintain a calm attitude toward the dream. This usually entails deep breathing, a kind of centering.
  • Think about where my body is sleeping. For some reason knowing that I am sleeping comfortably allows me to enjoy the dream just a little bit more.
  • As a precaution, I ask a dream figure to remind me that I’m dreaming after a few minutes. Suzy, a recurring dream figure spikes my drink to help me achieve lucidity.
  • Quietly study the details of the dream, i.e. seemingly mundane objects like chairs or doors. I have a tendency of running my hand against walls  wherever I go (a neurotic quirk I acquired when I helped my uncles build a wall in my mother’s house), but this translated well in my dreams. Now, whenever I find myself touching random objects or walls, I recognize I’m dreaming. Touching tree bark works well, too.
  • I repeat, “This is a dream.” I say it under my breath over and over again. It’s a type of quiet acceptance.
  • Those zombies, mean dogs, and dark waters always trigger lucidity. Formerly elements of my chronic nightmares, I’ve learned to recognize these as my personal dream signs. You have your own. The trick is to recognize the pattern and repetition in your dreams.

As far as lucid dreaming goes, I believe it’s an invaluable tool for any writer. Whether it’s the case of writer’s block, or figuring out the ending to the story, plot or developing character, learning how to remember your dreams and becoming lucidly aware gives any writer the chance to explore the depths of the mind.

Are you a writer? Does dreaming influence your writing? If you’re out there, give me a shout!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2010 11:33 am

    Wendy, I do not think I would be writing at all if it wasn’t for my dreams. I think I was about 12 or 13 years old when I read Joan Grant’s “Winged Pharaoh.” (If you haven’t read it do your self a favour, for my it is a dreamer classic) It inspired to keep dream journals and to work with my dreams. My dreams serves as an endless source of information for me. I can honestly say that I have never suffered from writer’s block, the only thing that stops me from writing more than I do is writer’s time. I am really pleased to find someone else who feels the same way as I do about dreams.


    • Wendy permalink*
      July 23, 2010 1:40 pm

      When I was reading The Secret History of Dreaming by Robert Moss he spoke very highly of Winged Pharoah. Unfortunately, I haven’t read it, but I will certainly put it high on my reading list. I know exactly what you mean about the writer’s block. When I’ve felt stuck in the middle of writing a story it never lasts very long because I tend to incubate dreams with story lines. When I wake up from these dreams I feel I can continue the writing process more fluidly. And yes, it’s so nice to meet someone else out there in the world who works with dreams.

  2. November 1, 2010 5:29 pm

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only person whose writing is influenced by dreams of any kind. I’ve always wanted to lucid dream, but I either startle myself awake from excitement or it ends up shifting into a false awakening and then to a nightmare. But even from those, I can draw inspiration. My nightmares are usually the best kinds of dreams to feed off of–it’s an awkward way to put it, but it’s the best I’ve got.
    The thing I find interesting about dreams is that everything is horribly inconsistent; one second I’m in the halls of my school, the next I’m in my living room. Also, I usually dream that I’m in a bookstore or similar place, and I’ll have my eye on a specific book. Then, I’ll turn my back, and when I turn back around…everything will be totally different!


    • Wendy permalink*
      November 5, 2010 4:12 pm

      I know exactly what you mean, Juan. Nightmares are rich with material. This is partly due to their unstable nature; they allow us to use them as tiny threads to create stories. You dream of bookstores, I dream of houses. When I open a door to one house it leads to a different one, or sometimes to an entirely different country! Amazing isn’t it?

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