Choose Your Own Adventure: on Lucid Dreaming and Other Unconscious Fun

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I read a book in middle school about dreams (I can’t remember the title!), with a chapter on lucid dreaming; shortly after finishing the book, I had two lucid dreams, and I became fascinated with this natural phenomenon. In one, I was flying through the clouds, and I recalled the book’s chapter on how to land softly without waking yourself. I’m not sure about others, but I’ve actually felt pain in dreams, or rather my unconscious mind’s interpretation of it, I suppose. When you fall, you expect that pain, but dreams don’t have to be unpleasant. I landed softly in a glowing, sparkling pond that came to my shins, and I spotted the most beautiful koi fish swimming around my legs. This happened when I was barely a teenager yet, and I still think about it.

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I’ve maintained for years that some of the most spectacular sights (visions of what could be termed “God” in the sky over golden cornfields), most intensely spiritual moments (in the plains with enormous giraffes looking toward the sky), and most charming, haunting music (once in a mermaid’s cove) have all come to me in dreams. I’ve woken almost in tears because something I experienced that night touched me in some profound way. I want to get back there, but never can; instead, I find new places to occupy. Yes, dreams are our bodies’ way of dissecting the stressors in our lives and unwinding them to eventually eliminate their negative effects on us; however, I’m simply meditating on this perhaps absurd idea that comfort and the “shadow self” can be found in dreams.

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I’ve had wildly vivid dreams when taking Percocet after I had some dental work earlier this year. In fact, the dreams were so crazy that I looked it up and found that vivid dreams are a normal, typical side effect of the drug. Vicodin had the same effect, but with less intensity–is this maybe a strange side effect of all opioids? I also remember when my mom talked me into taking Wellbutrin (an antidepressant) in college to quit smoking–which, by the way, didn’t work because I didn’t want to quit–and the same thing happened…bizarro dreams every night. When I looked at the drug pamphlet that came with the medication, I found “Changes in dreaming” listed as a side effect, and I thought How curious is that?! How obscure, how vague, how random. Based on my experience with doctors, I’m sure if I had asked one to elaborate, he or she would be at a loss.

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I once dreamed that I was preparing to get some dental work done on an airplane. Truly, flying terrifies me, and this situation was a way of killing two birds with one stone; I would fly somewhere while I was under anesthesia and had some procedure done. Here’s the fun part: part of the paper work–along with insurance info, etc.–included writing a letter to my father…I literally woke up laughing. This dream was chalk full of symbolism and very obvious metaphor…so many related neuroses, it’s a psychiatrist’s wet dream. My chronic and debilitating fear of flying coupled with my dysfunctional and almost “never-was” relationship with my father, the saddest stranger I ever met, is downright laughable.

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I’m not one to analyze dreams; I don’t like to psychologize situations. The fact is that we need sleep and dreams do help us to work out the crises and tension we face while awake. Lately, I’ve become increasingly interested (again) in documenting my dreams and researching how to induce vivid and also lucid dreams. I’ve found that particular foods and essential oils have an effect on dreaming. Believe me: if you spend some time thinking about dreams while you’re awake, this will most certainly translate to the time you spend asleep. Rather than analyzing them, I personally find it more useful to utilize these images, feelings, and concepts as a starting point for some satisfying free writing.

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Sweet dreams!

-J

 

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