Who Wants To Control Their Dreams?
May 18, 2014

Who Wants To Control Their Dreams?

Whether we remember or not, humans dream every night. Every night, we have dreams that vary from the humdrum to the exciting to erotic and to scary. Dreaming is a part of our brain’s inner workings. According to an article on Psychology Today, we possibly dream for five reasons:

  1. We dream to practice responses to threatening situations.
  2. Dreams create wisdom.
  3. Dreaming is like defragmenting our hard drives.
  4. Dreams are like psychotherapy.
  5. Dreams have no meaning but are random firings of the brain.

Additionally, Psychology Today explains that Freud said dreams are unconscious wishes. Whether we dream because our brains are randomly firing or we dream as a coping mechanism or we dream because that is what we wish, we dream. Sometimes the dreams are enjoyable while other times they are horrific and still there are times when our dreams are just boring. But what about lucid dreams? Lucid dreams are dreams only we know we are dreaming and we start controlling our dreams. National Public Radio (NPR) recently reported about a way for humans to possibly control our lucid dreams in a more organized fashion.

We have all had those dreams wherein we realize we are dreaming and thus start controlling our actions in the dream. However, this is rare as in I can remember only a few times in my life where this has happened to me. Now, maybe it has happened more and I just do not remember, but I do remember a few times where I have realized in my dream that it was a dream and so started making choices because I knew I was in a dream. But I just happened to realize I was dreaming in my dream. It was seemingly random.

Scientists from the Goethe University Frankfurt and the University of Goettingen have reported that they have learned a way to help some people feel like they are manipulating their dreams. How is this done, you ask? Small electrical impulses administered during sleep are the answer. To come to this conclusion, the researchers lead by Michael Nitsche “got 27 volunteers to come to the lab and sleep through the night. They stuck 60 electrodes on their skulls and waited until the subjects showed signs of REM sleep.” At this point, the scientists began electrical stimulation for 30 seconds then they woke the participants up and asked about their dreams. Plus, the participants filled out a survey that asked about how lucid the dream was, how in control they felt in their dream, and how much they realized they were dreaming. This was repeated with eight different electrical shocks ranging from 2 hertz to 100 hertz. The study found that those who received 40 hertz had the most control and awareness in their dreams. This study leads the researcher to the conclusion that through science they may be able to help people have lucid dreams more often.

The few lucid dreams I have had left me feeling, well, weird. When I realized I was dreaming and had control of the dream, I felt a combination of excitement and fear. The fear came from insecurities: what if I wasn’t dream? What if I jumped out of the plane or walked off the top of a skyscraper and it was not a dream? It had a really profound effect on me. I can’t really say that I liked knowing I was dreaming and knowing I was in control of the dream. I can’t say that I did not like it, though.

Part of what I love about dreaming is that it is out of my conscious control. I like to dream because I like to see where my brain takes me. Often, for me at least, I have nightmares, which I do not like. However, after a nightmare, I feel better in the morning. I tend to be of the mindset that dreaming helps us cope with our waking lives, so even when I have a nightmare, I still enjoy the dream.

Something else I love about dreaming is that I can be with people who are no longer alive or a part of my life. Some of my best dreams are those with my dad in them. He died nine years ago, and sometimes a dream with him in it helps me. Of course, I wake up crying because it was just a dream, and I miss him so, but after that I feel better. I feel like he is with me because he is in my heart and mind. The dreams remind me of that.

This study about controlling lucid dreams is definitely interesting. Sure, much needs to be developed, but it continues the dream studies of the past. And through these studies we gain a better understanding of what dreams are, why we dream, and what their importance is in our lives. Dreaming is creative, and if we can somehow learn to tap into that creativity, who knows what interesting things may come from this.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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