Thursday, 15 August 2019

Common Lucid Dreaming Mistakes

It is common for beginner lucid dreamers to struggle with inducing their first successful lucid dream. Lack of progress in lucid dreaming can be very frustrating and disheartening. Even when you do experience lucid dreaming for the first time, it is common to discover that your early experiences do not quite match up with the anecdotal evidence of other lucid dreamers or recorded accounts of what the lucid dream experience is like for others. The key here is to analyse what errors you might be making in your approach to lucid dreaming, and to continue with your lucid dreamwork - don't give up!

Here are the common mistakes and errors made by lucid dreamers!

Lacking sufficient motivation & dedication
Learning how to lucid dream takes a lot of commitment. Many beginner lucid dreamers expect to see results too soon (this might be due to misleading or very subjective accounts of lucid dreaming from others, which raise their expectations as to seeing instantaneous results). Inducing a lucid dream requires you to pre-programme or 'hack' your brain and mentally train yourself to do something extraordinary. This inevitably requires effort and groundwork, but success will happen eventually. 

Even as a spontaneous or 'natural' lucid dreamer, I find it really difficult to begin intentionally lucid dreaming after a hiatus from my active dreamwork - and I've been practicing lucid dream induction for years! Mastering every brand new skill is a process of trial and error and recognising where you are going wrong and how you can improve. Lucid dreaming is a lifelong journey, not a destination! 

Many expert accounts of lucid dreaming suggest that with intensive daily commitment to lucid dreamwork, a beginner can experience their first lucid dream between 3 - 21 days, but this will not be true of everyone. If you are having difficulty with lucid dream induction, ask yourself exactly how committed you are to learning the techniques and methods properly? Are you going through the motions, or really investing yourself? Many beginner lucid dreamers are simply paying lip service to the techniques and methods - for example, the performance of regular reality checks. 

There are many different techniques and methods for lucid dream induction, which can be used in isolation, or combined for more greater effect. This does not mean that every technique or method will work the same for everyone - take time to work with each technique and method, and experiment with combining them (for example, MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming) and the Wake-Back-to-Bed method). Lucid dreaming requires discipline!

Poor dream recall
Good dream recall is the foundation of all dreamwork, and especially lucid dream induction. Learning good dream recall increases the intensity and vividness of your dreams, which in turn increases the levels of your self-awareness while in the dream itself - this is vital for lucid dreaming. If you have poor dream recall, you might have a spontaneous lucid dream, but simply not remember it upon waking. One way of dramatically improving your dream recall, with almost immediate results, is to use a mantra (mnemonic technique) as you are falling asleep - mentally repeat a mantra in your head, telling yourself that you will remember your dreams when you wake up. The make sure that you record your dreams as soon as you wake up, while that transient dream memory is fresh in your mind. Keeping a dream journal is essential for lucid dream induction!

Lacking focus in your lucid dream induction techniques
This mistake usually manifests itself as trying too many different techniques and methods all at once, without really understanding the basics of how and why any of them work. This means that you simply cannot employ the techniques or methods mindfully, and are attempting to approach lucid dreaming from all angles, which leads to a superficial form of dreamwork, lacking care and accuracy. Lucid dream induction is a steady and purposeful process - don't overload yourself with every new technique or method you learn about or try to force lucid dreaming too quickly.

Many beginner lucid dreamers are attracted to the more novel or unusual lucid dream induction techniques or methods and jump straight to trying these enthusiastically, before putting in sufficient groundwork to learn the tried-and-tested basics, such as MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming) technique, which has had proven results that have been verified under scientific conditions. This is not to say that the more novel or unusual lucid dream induction techniques will not work - there is anecdotal evidence which suggests that some lucid dreamers find them highly successful. The point is, that many of these more novel techniques or methods are premised on the basis that the lucid dreamer had already achieved increased their conscious awareness (i.e. using reality checks) and began to pre-programme their mind using mental (i.e. mnemonic) techniques/methods. They are not a replacement for learning the foundations of lucid dreaming.

If you are trying multiple lucid dream induction techniques or methods simultaneously and you successfully induce a lucid dream - how could you be sure what part of your dreamwork was effective? 

Neglecting to use, or over-reliance on, lucid dreaming supplements
Many lucid dreaming purists reject the use of lucid dreaming supplements, believing that lucid dreaming is a skill which should be learned through mental techniques. Indeed, any supplement which claims to be a magic solution for lucid dreaming should be approached with scepticism and caution - there are companies who unscrupulously chase profit over legitimacy, charging high prices for ineffective products. 

A little bit of research will reveal that there are a number of lucid dreaming supplements (oneirogens) which are proven to increase conscious awareness within the dream state. However, lucid dreaming supplements are not an alternative to learning the basic techniques and methods of lucid dream induction - you should combine these approaches and certainly not rely on the supplements to fast-track your success. If you are hesitant to introduce any supplements or vitamins into your diet, there are a number of natural foods which can also yield some effect in increasing the chances of lucid dreaming - for example, foods which are high in tryptophan or Vitamin B6. 

Remember to consult a doctor or healthcare professional before you take any supplements or vitamins, particularly if you are young, pregnant or have an existing health condition. And be careful when buying products online - research will help you ensure you are purchasing a safe and reliable product which is legal in your jurisdiction. 

Sleep deprivation
The majority of our dreams - and certainly lucid dreams - take place in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of the sleep cycle. Therefore, it follows that good quality REM sleep optimises your chances of lucid dreaming.

Deep (slow-wave or delta) sleep is the restful and restorative sleep, necessary for healing the body and recovering from exhaustion. If you are deprived of deep sleep, your REM sleep will suffer as a consequence - because your body will try to regain lost deep sleep at the expense of the REM sleep. The sleep cycle tries to balance itself, prioritising which stages of sleep are necessary. 

The REM Rebound Effect is another example of this - if we lose REM sleep for a period of time, for example, inhibiting it due to regular cannabis use - we experience a catch-up or 'rebound' of REM sleep at some point (with cannabis, when the effect of the THC wears off due to metabolization). This reflux of lost REM sleep often leads to incredibly bizarre and vivid dreams - which is one benefit of temporarily abstaining from cannabis use! Some lucid dream supplements, such as 5HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) produce a REM Rebound Effect. 

One of the best ways to ensure you are not sleep deprived is to avoid artificial awakenings as far as possible - waking naturally when convenient is one way of making sure you are getting sufficient sleep (and experiencing that longest period of REM sleep, which happens right at the end of your natural sleep cycle). 

Even if this means going to bed earlier, it is something to consider when attempting to induce lucid dreaming. Beginner lucid dreamers should become accustomed to 'hacking' the sleep cycle and understanding it a little better, because there are some very effective lucid dream induction techniques and methods which work by manipulating sleep and wakefulness to optimise dreamtime. Essentially, the aim is to experience as much REM sleep as possible before you need to wake up - so getting your deep sleep out of the way will ensure you get through all the stages in your sleep cycle - which can vary. Some people require a lot less sleep than others - the standard or 'average' sleep cycle tends to be depicted as 8 hours, but some people find they have a 4 - 6 hour sleep cycle instead, but still get enough good quality sleep.

You can re-programme your Circadian rhythms using technological devices which simulate natural sunlight, or apps which claim to wake you from REM sleep, the time when you are most likely to recall a dream as it is fresh in your memory.

Failing to understand the sleep cycle
It is not necessary to have a scientific understanding of the sleep cycle in order to lucid dream, but having a basic understanding can really help. As indicated above, lucid dreaming - like all dreaming - takes place during the REM sleep stage of the sleep cycle. 

One of the common mistakes made by lucid dreamers is assuming that the best time to induce a lucid dream is at the start of the sleep cycle - at the point they go to bed, as they are falling asleep. It is essential that you use the time before you fall asleep for lucid dream induction work - just don't expect that your best lucid dreaming will take place at the start of the sleep cycle when we experience much more Non-REM sleep than towards the end. 

Lucid dream work which uses the sleep cycle as a means of optimising the chances of successful induction can be very effective - as well as choosing the right induction technique or method, for example a DILD (Dream-Initiated Lucid Dream) or a WILD (Wake-Initiated Lucid Dream). Understanding the sleep cycle can also assist when experimenting with lucid dreaming supplements (oneirogens), as certain supplements suppress REM sleep for a period of time, or need to be metabolised before you see an effect on your dreaming, which might require strategic timing. Research and a little trial and error are required here.

Ignoring the science of lucid dreaming
This is not intended to undermine beginner lucid dreamers who have an interest or investment in the spiritual side of lucid dreaming. We all have our own believes, faiths and worldviews, but it is important to recognise that having a belief-based perspective of dreaming should not preclude you from attempting to understand the scientific research into lucid dreaming. There are cynics and sceptics on both sides of course. I think it is essential to separate the valid, credible and verifiable science from pseudoscience or 'woo' - and with so much material available, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between fact and fiction. The best approach embraces solid and reliable research, open-mindedness, critical-thinking and balance!

Lifestyle choices & substance use
Certain lifestyle choices or  use of substances - and this is a broad term to refer to foods, vitamins, supplements, medication, recreational drugs and alcohol - can have an effect on our sleep and dreaming. The only advice I would give here is to research the effects of any lifestyle choices/or substances on the sleep cycle and try to maintain your optimal level of health as far as possible, as this will be advantageous for lucid dreaming. 

Failing to stabilise & clarify your lucid dreams
The intense feelings of excitement we inevitably experience when we first find ourselves in a lucid dream typically lead to the lucid dream experience being cut short by a premature awakening. The euphoric rush of emotion still happens to me, even though I have experienced so many lucid dreams (some spontaneous/natural, others intentionally induced) in my lifetime. The trick is to remember to use lucid dream stabilisation techniques to prolong the lucid dream experience. 

The first thing to do is to remain calm - which is difficult when the adrenaline is pumping! Breath as deeply as possible and concentrate on yourself - don't try to interact with dream characters yet. You can perform a reality check to make sure you are dreaming - even if it seems entirely obvious to you! The next thing to do is stabilise and clarify my lucid dream. 

My preferred method for stabilising my lucid dreams is to rub my hands together (or rub my thighs) which telling myself 'I am dreaming'. You can also try spinning around on the spot, or touching an object within the dream world, such as the wall or a tree - this can be useful for grounding yourself in the lucid dream, especially if you feel you are about to wake up. If the dream remains unstable or blurry/hazy, clarifying the dream will help. I simply demand 'clarity!' and often, my vision clears and the dream becomes more 'concrete'. I then try to use my senses to interpret the dream scene I am in, which also helps the dream appear more clear and vivid. These techniques will certainly help to prolong your lucid dream experiences. 

If you fail to stabilise and clarify your lucid dreams, you will likely either wake up, or remain in a blurry, hazy, frustrating semi-lucid state, where you are not fully consciously aware, and have no control over the dream. Thereafter, you'll probably lapse back into a normal, non-lucid dream.

Failing to prolong your lucidity
Yes - it is possible to forget you are lucid dreaming! I have experienced a number of lucid dreams which have disappointingly lapsed back into normal, non-lucid dreams. This is because conscious awareness is still fragile, even after the lucid dream has been stabilised and clarified. Make sure that you regularly remind yourself that you are dreaming/experiencing a lucid dream and perform frequent reality checks. This will prolong your lucid dream experience. 

Expectations of lucid dream control
One of the biggest myths surrounding lucid dreaming is the idea that lucid dreaming equates to dream control. This is simply not true - dream control/manipulation is one of the most rewarding aspects of lucid dreaming, but not all lucid dreams involve dream control. In fact, lucid dream control can be very difficult to master, even for experienced lucid dreamers. 

There are different levels of lucidity on the lucid spectrum - lucid dream control occurs when we are fully-lucid. Even if we are fully-lucid, sometimes dream control evades us, and this can be for a number of reasons. The main one appears to be self-limiting beliefs or pre-conceptions. We experience waking reality bound by the laws of physics and certain expectations which allow us to adapt our behaviour based on predictable results. However different rules apply (or disapply) in the dream world, so we may have to disregard and abandon our deeply-imbedded, learned expectations. 

Learning dream visualisation techniques is very useful for improving skills which lead to better success in lucid dream control. 

Focusing on lucid dream sex
It is extremely common that the primary aim for beginner lucid dreamers is to instinctively focus on lucid dream sex. Obviously, in a lucid dream, we can pursue sexual intimacy with just about anyone or anything, break taboos or social norms and avoid the negative consequences we might face in waking reality. Further, the experience of sexual pleasure and orgasm in a lucid dream is often an overwhelming intense and euphoric physical experience, which combined with the lack of inhibition and freedom of the lucid dream, makes lucid dream sex a completely understandable 'lucid dream bucket list' goal. Lucid dream sex can really be a sensory overload and very different from our experience of real life waking sex.

However, lucid dream sex is not always a simple act to perform. Firstly, you need to stabilise and clarify your lucid dream at a time of high arousal - which is only further increased by the prospect of sexual abandon and fulfilment. You also have to summons a dream character and (hopefully) persuade them to consent to sex - and just like normal dream characters, lucid dream characters can behave erratically or unpredictably, even when we are trying to control/manipulate them. It is very common for desirable lucid dream sex partners to morph into unappealing, horrifying things or to reject you outright.

The same self-limiting beliefs, preconceptions - or even subconscious inhibitions which may not be apparent to us - can lead to the lucid dream experience having unplanned results. Even when the lucid dream sex experience seems to be working - the sensory overload can often lead to premature waking. 

The key here is not to focus too heavily on pursuing lucid dream sex. If you find you are having difficulty in achieving lucid dream sex, consider allowing things to develop more naturally within the lucid dream rather than trying to exert too much control and influence over events and dream characters. Allow your dream characters to be autonomous as possible - they are reflections of your subconscious, and their reactions and responses to you are essentially projections of you. To put it simply, if a lucid dream sex partner is resisting or rejecting you - it is really you who is resisting or rejecting the experience on a subconscious level. Perhaps your subconscious feels under pressure or coerced in some respect? Are you trying to use power to bypass your dream character's consent or bodily autonomy - their resistance is really your resistance to your behaviour here. 

Remember, if lucid dream sex does not seem to come naturally, just enjoy the lucid dream experience - a fruitless pursuit of intimacy will waste your lucidity. Just be confident and one day it will happen!

Dreaming of lucid dreaming
Dreaming of lucid dreaming is not the same as lucid dreaming. This happens to all lucid dreamers - they experience a normal, non-lucid dream in which lucid dreaming is a theme. This can be really frustrating, as we expect that any reference to dreaming or lucid dreaming within the world of the dream should be all it takes to perform a reality check and trigger lucidity. Recognising what is and is not a lucid dream can only truly occur once we have experienced a lucid dream and know what it feels like. The best advise here is to maintain your regular and consistent lucid dream induction work (especially use of reality checking and increasing conscious awareness), focus on the goal of lucid dreaming with confidence and optimism and avoid the above mistakes as far as possible!

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