In the 1984 movie “Dreamscape” starring Dennis Quaid and Christopher Plummer , government researchers found a way to have people join another persons dream and then actively participate, and in some case disrupt it. The core of the movie is to use this new found ability to do both good and evil. After I watched the movie, I became enthralled with the idea behind the concept of film – lucid dreaming.
How Does Lucid Dreaming Relate to Personal Creativity?
Lucid dreams happen when the dreamer is aware they are in dream while also being aware that what they they are experiencing is not real life. Most people never experience it to the fullest, but some dreamers are able to take full advantage of lucid dreaming and control what they do and what happens around them. To many people – and to me – this sounds like a lot of fun.
But it’s about much more than fun. As a Wall Street Journal article explains, multiple studies have shown that frequent lucid dreamers are better at cognitive tasks that involve insight and thinking creatively. Intuitively, this makes sense. On countless occasions, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with the faint memory of a great idea, but I could never quite grab it. Unfortunately, most people are like me and have a hard time realizing when they’re dreaming and then being able to play it back when they awake.
A few months ago, after reading up on the topic, I decided that I was going to experiment with lucid dreaming. Despite my best efforts, however, I found myself coasting through my dreams just the same as I always had, — unable to take control or experiment with my surroundings. I got frustrated.
What was the problem?
The web abounds with instructions – some more metaphysical than others – on how to get into the lucid-dreaming game. The basics include getting into the habit of “reality checks” throughout your waking day such as looking at your hands so that you recognize any changes when you are in a dream state; — keeping a dream journal to get better at remembering your dreams; — and repeating a kind of mantra before you go to sleep: “I will remember my dream tonight; I am going to dream about _____.”
I tried all of these techniques, but found that I was having only limited success. I continued to wake up with the ghost of an idea sliding from my conscious mind, just out of reach. After a few weeks of this, I decided to try a new technique, which has always been a great jumping-off point when I feel stuck: the Socratic Method of using questions.
Essentially, the Socratic Method is about challenging your assumptions, and asking yourself open-ended questions.
Questions have unique power. When you are asked a question, you can’t stop yourself from asking it. For example, If I ask you:
“What is half of thirteen?”
You’re calculated the answer and are now back listening to me. You didn’t consciously tell yourself to solve the calculation, your brain did it automatically — all on its own.
So – could I frame a question just prior to to going sleep and will my subconscious actively try to answer it?
And the answer is – yes. I was gradually able to take more and more control in my dreaming life, using my questions as a catalyst. Once I was able to be consistent in my lucid-dreaming, the opportunities were endless. I saw new solutions to old problems and was able to grab some of those great ideas floating around in my subconscious that had been so elusive before.
Did it work every-time? Everyday? No. What I found was that the questions hung around and answers would come to me at some point in the future.
Lucid dreaming can be a great way to gain insight into problems you face during your waking life, and spur your personal creativity to new heights. And like everything in life, success often comes down toasking the right questions. By breaking down the barriers between your unconscious and conscious states, your mind is more free to challenge your own assumptions and answer your own questions in creative ways.
So – what is that one question you would love to have the answer for?
My advice – sleep on it.