Sunday 31 May 2015

Lucid Dream Tutorials - Tholey's Combined Technique (LUCID DREAMING FOR BEGINNERS TUTORIAL SERIES)

Tutorial Aims: 
  • Experience Level: Beginner (Level 1)
  • Explain the basics of Paul Tholey's Combined Technique for Lucid Dreaming (a form of DILD)
  • Give an explanation of the separate elements of Critical Reflection, Intention & Auto-suggestion
  • Provide a simple 4 Step programme teaching the 3 key elements of Tholey's Combined Technique, which can be used separately (Steps 1 - 3) or together (Step 4)

The Combined Technique for Lucid Dreaming
Paul Tholey (1937 - 1998) was a German Gestalt Psychologist who conducted significant research into lucid dreaming. His Combined Technique includes the core components of Critical Reflection, Intention and Auto-suggestion, which can be used individually - or combined - as this tutorial recommends. When all 3 main elements of Tholey's lucid dream induction techniques are used as part of the Combined Technique, lucid dreams can be induced in beginners within a month, although there is individual variation.

The Combined Technique is often cited as one of the most effective methods of lucid dream induction. It shares some key principles with the MILD (Mnemonic/Memory Initiated/Induced Lucid Dream) Technique, developed by Stephen LaBerge. Although Tholey's Combined Technique is cited frequently within lucid dream literature, it appears that it is less well-known than LaBerge's MILD Technique amongst amateur or beginner lucid dreamers.

The idea behind Tholey's Combined Technique is that the dreamer creates a strong mindset for lucid dreaming. It is a form of mental entrainment.

Tholey emphasises the need to critically reflect on waking reality and compare the waking world with the dream world through systematic observation. He saw the objective (or 'inter-subjective') physical, perceptual waking world as distinct from the phenomenal dream world. In the dream world, events - which are less dependent on sensory perception and physical reality - become possible. These unusual events make it possible for the observant and critically reflecting dreamer to become consciously aware that they are dreaming (i.e. achieve lucid dreaming).

Tholey's method - like the MILD Technique - is a lucid dream induction method designed for DILDs (Dream Initiated/Induced Lucid Dreams). 

Tholey's Combined Technique centres around the concept of reality checking (critical reflection) and the development of cognitive skills which allow the dreamer's mind to become more active whilst asleep. The dreamer combined critical reflection with other mental entrainment methods, such as intention and auto-suggestion to trigger lucidity.

Steps 1 - 3 can be used individually, but Step 4 instructs a beginner lucid dreamer on how to combine them effectively as part of Tholey's Combined Technique.

  • Step 1: Critical Reflection
Tholey's reflective methods are a form of sophisticated reality check. Reflection is a waking state method and establishes a pattern of thinking which will continue into the dream state after daily practice. Critical reflection allows the dreamer to become aware of their state of consciousness, sensory perceptions and the reality of their environment. It helps establish cognitive skills for differentiating between waking reality and the dream world.

Tholey recommends choosing a physical or mental activity which will be performed throughout the waking day. He suggests a mental activity may be more easy to perform regularly (because it can be done easily and discreetly, anywhere at any time, without drawing attention). This action, which forms a habit and will be carried over into the dream state make it possible for the dreamer to spontaneously become aware that they are dreaming. Like reality checks, critical reflection requires the dreamer to choose an activity which will have a different result when performed awake or in the dream state. Tholey's examples include:
  • Physical - Turn 180 degrees and then attempt to stand still (in the dream, the dreamer's body will continue to turn in the same direction, while the environment/scenery revolves in the opposite direction)
  • Mental - Try and remember what just happened in the immediate past i.e. just moments before. Bizarre events or a lapse of memory may occur in the dream state
You can select your own reflection method - the physical/mental activity you favour is the means by which you critically analyse and reflect upon your consciousness. Some people like to mark their hand with a symbol or word which can be used for critical reflection. For example, if you wrote the word 'lucid' on your hand, you could use this as a prompt for performing the critical reflection.

The result of the activity and the period of reflection should indicate if you are perceiving waking reality or a dream. 

The dreamer should ask themselves: Am I dreaming? and then How do I know? The aim is to encourage yourself to become more sensitive to your state of consciousness and perception of reality.

  • Step 2: Intention
Intention is a mental state in which a person makes a commitment to performing a specific act in the future. It has elements of planning and forethought. Under Tholey's Combined Technique, intention is another waking state method for lucid dream induction.

The dreamer sets an intention (when awake) to become lucid in a particular dream situation. This 'dream situation' will usually be a specific activity which frequently recurs in the dreamer's dreams - and can act as a form of 'dreamsign' to trigger lucidity. For example, if you often dream of visiting a lake, you may set the intention to become lucid when you next dream of being at the lake. 

In order to set the intention, the dreamer (when awake) should visualise the dream event - as if they were actually seeing it happen in a dream state. This should be done as frequently as possible - at least several times a day. Once you are able to visualise the dream scenario (i.e. visiting the lake), start to include a realisation that you are dreaming - so, visualise the dream scene, and imagine at the same time that you become aware you are dreaming. You are therefore not just mentally visualising the sensory parts of the dream experience, but also creating a mental impression that you know its a dream. 

A variation of this approach is for the dreamer to set an intention to carry out a specific activity in a dream. Using the visualisation method to 'practice' carrying out the specific activity will be useful. Imagine/visualise yourself performing the specific activity in typical dream situations. One way of doing this might be to practice the visualisation of the activity each morning when you wake up and remember your dream from the night before. Therefore, although the specific activity you visualise yourself performing will remain identical, the dream scene in which you visualise yourself performing it will change daily. 

It is up to the dreamer to choose which activity he will perform when using intention as part of Tholey's Combined Technique. The activity may be something you reserve specifically for the dream (i.e. an act which you do not typically do in your waking reality) or an activity which has different results when performed awake or in a dream (i.e. a 'reality check' type action, such as looking at your hands or trying to put the fingers of one hand through the palm of another). 

Intention - like critical reflection - involves a shift of interests/desires (i.e. the performance of the intended activity) from one state of consciousness (waking) to another (dream). Continual practice allows a strong habit to form, which facilitates this shift.

  • Stage 3 - Auto-suggestion
Auto-suggestion is another waking state method. It involves planting the idea that that you will achieve lucidity into your subconscious mind. Auto-suggestion is different from intention, as it does not rely on consciously willing something to happen in the future. It works on the basis that any idea which occupies the mind will become reality, as long as it falls within the realms of possibility. 

For Tholey's Combined Technique, it is suggested that you use auto-suggestion for lucid dreaming every day. In particular, auto-suggestion should be used just before falling asleep when it is most effective. 

The dreamer should choose a clear, simple phrase which can be repeated mentally, in a passive way (for example: 'I will become lucid in my next dream'). While mentally repeating this phrase, the mind and body should be relaxed. There is no need to use 'willpower' when performing auto-suggestion - the idea is that you do not need to do anything which requires conscious effort or will, the mere act of passively repeating the phrase will make it materialise. It has been noted that other methods which increase a dreamer's suggestibility, such as (self) hypnosis or autogenic training may lead to more effective auto-suggestion. 

  • Stage 4 - The Combined Technique
Perform critical reflection at least 10 times during the waking day. On each occasion perform the 'reality check' type activity which you are using as part of your critical reflection. A mental activity is usually the most convenient - for example, trying to remember what happened immediately prior to the critical reflection activity. Then ask yourself: 'Am I dreaming?' and then 'How do I know?' Make sure you actually critically reflect on the question and answers - becoming more sensitive to your consciousness and sensory perceptions means engaging with them properly, rather than doing perfunctory, ineffective or thoughtless critical reflections (or 'reality checks') just because you are trying to fulfil your daily quota. 

Perform critical reflections spontaneously throughout the waking day, but also when you feel strong emotions or unusual events occur. If you see anything in your waking reality which reminds you of a dream (for example, you have recurrent dreams about pink roses), then perform critical reflection when you see this dream symbol or experience a dream-like event, in your waking reality.

Consider your dreams when awake - and note your recurrent dream events or symbols. Recognising dreamsign-type events (i.e. events which happen in your dreams which are impossible in waking reality) is helpful. Visualise yourself in your dream - either a specifically selected dream (such as a flying dream) or using the dream you had the previous night. Use your mind's eye to position yourself in the dream and imagine how your senses would respond to being in this dream (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, temperature, touch and textures etc). Once you have visualised yourself in the dream, imagine performing critical reflection as if you are really dreaming. Think about how you know you are in a (visualised) dream - i.e. the bizarreness of the situation and any dreamsigns which indicate you are dreaming. Tell yourself that you must be dreaming. 

Choose one activity which you will use as your intention, for example, looking at your hands. This activity is best when it requires a physical action. If you have chosen a simple physical action to perform as part of the critical reflection method you could use this for the intention method also. You will need to use a different (physical) action for intention if you are performing a mental activity for critical reflection. Set the clear intention to perform this activity (i.e. looking at your hands) next time you are in a dream. You can use visualisation as a tool to help you set the intention - imagine yourself in a dream, imagine yourself using critical reflection to become aware you are dreaming and then imagine yourself performing the intended action. If you have performed this action in a previous dream and seen odd or unexpected results (such as seeing your hands distorted or with extra fingers etc), also visualise this happening again. Perform the intention exercise frequently during the waking day.

Select a simple phrase to use for auto-suggestion - a single sentence such as: 'I will become lucid in my next dream' will suffice. Relax and passively repeat the auto-suggestion phrase over and over, not using mental will-power or any form of controlled thought. The essence of auto-suggestion here is to simple drill the phrase into your subconscious mind without thinking too deeply about it. Perform auto-suggestion for short periods (1 - 2 minutes each time is fine) as often as possible, but in particular, just before you fall asleep or if you awaken during the night.

Additional points to remember:
  • Like the MILD Technique, Tholey's Combined Technique is not a 'quick fix' lucid dream induction method and needs to be practiced frequently throughout the waking day to (a) create the lucid mindset and (b) encourage the waking activities (critical reflection and intentions) to become strong habits which then shift into the dream state. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for the information. I will definitely try out this technique. So basically, If I am understanding this correctly. Every once in awhile check my recent memories for any inconsistencies or oddities and make this a habit. Then Every once in a while I visualize what I want to do in a dream to set the intention. And when I go to sleep, I use auto-suggestion to improve my chances of getting lucid. DO I have everything correct?