Lucid Dreaming in Addiction Recovery
The Popularity of Lucid Dreaming
Up until the 1980s there was no real scientific interest in lucid dream. Such occurrences were usually considered to be in the same category as paranormal phenomena. Some people were even a bit embarrassed to admit that they had experienced such dream states in case it made them appear a bit foolish. It was only when research proved the existence of this state of consciousness that lucid dreaming was taken more seriously. There is now general acceptance that this as an achievable mental state; millions of people around the world have had this experience. There is growing interest in potential therapeutic effects of this technique. One group who may be able to benefit from lucidity in dreams would be those who are recovering from an addiction.
Lucid Dreaming Defined
Lucidity refers to a state of clarity. A lucid dream is one where the dreamer realizes that they are asleep. Once the individual understands that they are not experiencing things in physical reality it significantly alters the dynamics of the dream state. The dreamer can now have more control over the experience. They can use their lucidity to live out their fantasies or they may use the dream for mental or spiritual growth.
The individual can experience lucid dreaming at various levels. At the lowest level people will briefly notice that they are dreaming, but they will fail to recognize the significance of this. Those who have a higher level of lucidity will be fully aware of the fact that they are dreaming, and the experience will feel far more vivid to them.
Lucid Dreaming as a Spiritual Practice
Lucid dreaming has long been used as a type of spiritual practice. Dream yoga is an important element of Tibetan Buddhism. It is suggested that by practicing this technique it can help the individual achieve enlightenment or at least help them prepare for their own death. Lucid dreaming has also been used as spiritual tool by other Buddhist traditions, shamans, and seekers within the Hindu tradition. Practicing this technique has undoubtedly helped many people develop their spiritual path.
General Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreaming can benefit the individual’s life in a number of ways including:
* It gives people the opportunity to face their fears in a safe environment. Once people understand that they are dreaming it becomes easier to confront their inner demons. This benefits them in their waking life.
* It is possible to become better at certain skills by practicing them in dreams. This is similar to how the top athletes use creative visualization to prepare for future competitive challenges. Lucid dreams provide an ideal environment for practicing a variety of skills.
* Lucid dreaming puts people in touch with their unconscious mind. This means that they have a far better understanding of the forces that drives them. It is also claimed that such interaction with the subconscious greatly improves creativity. A number of important inventions are believed to have been found as a result of dreaming; including the sewing machine.
* These dreams provide a risk-free environment for problem solving. The problems that face people in real life will frequently become the material for dreams. Those who become lucid in a dream can experiment with different approaches for dealing with the problem.
* Lucid dreams are highly entertaining. The dreamer is free to do almost anything they can imagine. If they want they can take to the air and fly. They can even have conversations with their heroes or those who have died.
* Those who have lucid dreams involving loved ones who have passed away usually find that such encounters are highly therapeutic. Some individuals believe that these dream ghosts are somehow connected to the deceased. Even if these ghosts are mere figments of the imagination they can still help the individual resolve issues from the past.
* When people develop mastery over their dream world it greatly increases their confidence. It can lead to a new sense of mastery in the waking world.
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming to People in Recovery from Addiction
Those individuals who manage to break away from addiction face many challenges in recovery. If they fail to overcome these obstacles it will prevent them from finding real happiness; it will also increase their risk of relapse. Any technique that can help strengthen their sobriety is always going to be welcome. Lucid dreaming may be able to do this in a number of ways including:
* It gives them a safe environment where they can face their inner demons. If people become lucid in the middle of a nightmare they can make a decision to confront their fear. Those dreamers who do this usually report that their nightmare turns into a far more pleasant experience afterwards. When they wake up they will tend to feel like some inner conflict had been resolved. Such a cathartic effect is highly beneficial to people in recovery.
* People in the first few years of recovery can feel uncertain about the future; they may have no real idea about what to do with their life. Lucid dreaming allows them to come in contact with their unconscious desires and hidden aspirations. The individual can use this information to chart a new course in life.
* It makes it possible for the individual to use their sleep time productively. They can practice using their new coping strategies or other recovery skills.
Lucid Dream Dangers for Addicts
Lucid dreaming can be highly beneficial but there are potential dangers such as:
* Some people may be tempted to indulge in fantasies of using drugs or alcohol again. This is dangerous because it will weaken their resolve to stay sober. Relapse in a dream can lead to relapse in reality.
* It will be harmful if the individual becomes too obsessed with their dreams. They may use it as a means to escape reality; much in the same way that they once used substance abuse.
There is some concern that dealing with the unconscious mind can be potentially dangerous. The worry is that the individual will come across something that they are not yet ready to face. This concern tends to be overstated as most people only report positive outcomes from such contact with the unconscious mind in the lucid dream.
How to Dream Lucidly
Some people will achieve lucidity in dreams without ever making any special effort; they may not have even realized that it was possible to achieve lucidity beforehand. If the individual is trying to induce lucidity it can be difficult; at least in the beginning. Here are some of the techniques that have been show to be beneficial for promoting lucid dreams:
* One of the most popular techniques for inducing lucid dreams are reality checks. This method requires that people regularly check to see if they are dreaming throughout the day. There are many differences between the real world and the dreaming world, and the purpose of reality checks is to notice these differences. If the individual becomes accustomed to doing reality checks in the waking world they will automatically begin to do them when they are dreaming too.
* Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) is a far more involved technique. The goal of this method is for the body to fall asleep without the mind losing awareness. One way of achieving this involves setting an alarm so that the individual wakes up 6 hours after falling asleep. They then get up for about an hour. When the individual goes back to bed they will put all their focus on staying aware as they fall back asleep. This method is also known as the wake back to bed technique.
* Mnemonic induced lucid dreaming (MILD) also involves interrupting sleep. The aim here is to wake up during a dream; the person sets their alarm so that it goes off during the middle of REM sleep. Once they are woken up by the alarm the individual will try to recall their dream in as much detail as possible. They will then imagine themselves becoming lucid in this dream. As they fall back to sleep the person will focus their mind on achieving lucidity.
* There are a number of devices that are believed to help people become lucid in dreams. One gadget involves wearing a special type of cover over the eyes. This monitors for rapid eye movement, and when these occur the device directs flashing lights towards the eyelid. These lights can notify the dreamer that they are asleep. Binaural beats are also believed to help some people achieve lucidity in their dreams.