What is a Lucid Nightmare? How to Overcome It?

lucid nightmare

What is a Lucid Nightmare?

Lucid nightmares are bad dreams in which the dreamer is aware but loses the ability to consciously control events.

Lucid nightmares are as upsetting as ordinary nightmares. Basically your lack of dream control and your deep fear may lead to lucid nightmares. Sometimes even frequent lucid dreamers are susceptible to lucid nightmare.

Many beginner lucid dreamers may at first have a tendency to use their new powers to find more clever ways to escape their fears. This is because of our natural inclination to continue in our current frame of mind. If you escape from a nightmare by awakening, then you only suppress your conscious awareness of the anxiety-provoking images.

In contrast, if you choose to stay in the nightmare rather than waking from it, you can resolve the conflict. In this way you can increase self-confidence and improve mental health. Then when you awaken you will feel that you have unchained some extra energy with which to begin your day with new confidence.

Lucid dreaming gives us the power to drive out the fear of nightmares and at the same time toughens our courage. This becomes possible if we are able to master our fear to recognize our most disturbing images as our own creations and face them.

Nightmares are frightening dreams in which our worst fears are brought to life in fully convincing detail.

It is understandable that people in the middle of nightmares who realize they must be dreaming habitually choose to wake up. But if you become fully lucid in a nightmare, then you realize that the nightmare cannot actually harm you.  You do not need to escape it by awakening. You keep in mind that you are already safe in bed. It is better to face and overcome the fear while remaining in the dream.

Some factors that appear to influence the nightmare frequency are:

  • Illness – mainly fever,
  • Stress – caused by situations like the problems of adolescence, tough times at school or work
  • Disturbed relationships
  • Traumatic events – shocking events can trigger a long lasting series of recurrent nightmares.
  • Some drugs and medications can cause an increase in nightmares

We generate our nightmares out of our own fears. When we experience unease in our dreams, the most suitable counter would be to become lucid and face the situation in an innovative approach. If we were instructed in advance about this possibility, then it may even be the case that anxiety in dreams would always lead to lucidity.

Studies show that children susceptible to nightmares can develop serious mental disorders later in life. Nightmare management is extremely important, and lucid dreaming seem to be a key mechanism in this process.

Some people condition themselves to realize they are dreaming upon seeing a monster; more often than not, lucid dreaming can occur spontaneously during a nightmare.

LaBarge tells about a story of a  5-year-old girl that she dreamed about being attacked by a shark while swimming. LaBarge advised her to remind herself, if she dreams about a shark again, that there are no sharks in Nevada, and so she must be dreaming. Sometime later the girl not only overcame her fear of the shark but even rode on its back.

Nightmare & Psychology

This above story is a perfect illustration of a constructive and therapeutic use of a nightmare. In the terms of psychology, the dreamer met and incorporated the subconscious content that disturbed her in a guise of a monster.

Most of lucid nightmares follow this pattern. As soon as the dreamer becomes lucid, the monster is no longer a serious threat, and the fear is replaced by more positive emotions, such as curiosity and even sympathy. As the dreamer’s attitude changes, they disappear or turn into friendly creatures.

But if nightmares are a symptom of stress, does curing a symptom affect the illness?

Most researches would rather say “no”. To do so, we should directly affect our subconscious. However, in lucid states we are closer to our waking conscious states, the unconscious being temporarily “pushed aside”. In other words, in lucid state we can only alternate the “movie”, but we cannot tinker with the machinery that produced it.

However, basing on this fact, the whole idea of dream analysis would be pointless. What’s the point discussing and analyzing the “movie”, being awake, when we even further from the subconscious than in the dream?

The idea of working on dreams is, basically, to decipher the message and take an action. If we are talking about stress, we should realize what’s causing it and try to remove the cause from our life, whether it is a drastic change or merely an attitude adjustment.

In this case, lucid dreaming is an invaluable tool. If we could turn our monsters into friends or directly investigate dreams while dreaming, why wouldn’t lucid dreaming be as helpful in fighting stress and anxiousness as is dream analysis?

Lucid dreams are extremely positively charged. They fill us with excitement after awakening, also giving us the feeling of being in charge of our lives, at least to some extent. I still remember the joy and sense of accomplishment upon realization that my nightmares were gone, and it was all my doing.

Lucid dreaming may not be a technique, affecting our subconscious directly. Yet it may be a valuable tool acting obliquely, helping us to face the day with a positive attitude and giving us strength and motivation to look for our true selves, learning from dreams to discern between illusion and reality.

How to Overcome Lucid Nightmares?

lucid nightmare

Anyone who ever suffers from lucid nightmares can benefit by using the same lucid dreaming as an answer to severe anxiety in dreams.

Tholey, who has researched the usefulness of different approaches towards hostile dream characters, concludes that a pacifying approach is most likely to result in a positive experience for the dreamer. His pacifying method is based on the practice of engaging in dialogs with dream characters.

In order to have a fruitful dream dialog, you should treat the dream figure as being your equal. The following questions may open up productive lines of dialog with dream figures:

  • Who are you?
  • Who am I?
  • Why are you here?
  • Why are you acting the way you are?
  • What do you have to tell me?
  • Why is such-and-such happening in this dream?
  • What do you want from me? What do you want me to do?
  • What questions would you ask of me?
  • What do I most need to know?
  • Can you help me?
  • Can I help you?

Exercises for Overcoming Lucid Nightmare

Follow the below exercises which will help you to deal with lucid nightmares:

1. Start dialogs in the waking state

Select a recent dream in which you had a horrible encounter with a dream figure. Get a piece of paper and pen to write down the discussion you imagine. 

 Imagine the character before you and visualize yourself talking to the dream character. Start a dialog by asking questions. You may prefer a question from the list above or replace with any personally relevant question.

2. Set your goal

Set a goal for yourself. Do not escape and encounter with a shocking dream character.

3. Start dialog with trouble dream figures

When you encounter anyone with whom you feel clash, ask yourself whether or not you are dreaming. If you locate that you are dreaming, then remain and encounter the character. 

Start a dialog and listen to the character’s responses, and attempt to address his problems as well as your own. After that wake up while you still remember the discussion clearly, and write it down.

4. Evaluate the dialog

Ask yourself if you realized the best result you could. If you experience you did not, think about how you could get better your results next time. You could use Step 1 to revive the dialog to achieve a more fulfilling result.

Techniques for Transforming Different Types of Lucid Nightmares

There are some of the more general nightmare instructions with recommended techniques for transforming the lucid nightmares to accomplish a positive outcome. Make yourself a target that whenever you next find yourself in a nightmare, you will become lucid, and overcome your fear. If the nightmare characteristics have one of the following themes, try the recommended responses.

1. Being pursued

Stop running and turn to face the pursuer. This is in itself may cause the pursuer to vanish or become harmless. If this will not do, attempt an appeasing dialog with the character or animal.

2. Being attacked

Do not flee. Show your willingness to defend yourself and then try to connect the attacker in an appeasing dialog. Otherwise come across acceptance and love in yourself and extend this towards the frightening figure.

3. Falling

In this condition relax and allow yourself to land. You can also transform falling into flying.

4. Paralysis

If you feel trapped, stuck or paralyzed, then simply relax. Don’t allow anxiety to overcome your lucidity. Say to yourself that you are dreaming and the dream will soon end. Take up an approach of interest and curiosity about what happens.

5. Not prepared for an examination or speech

Firstly you do not need to continue with this theme at all. You can opt to leave that exam or lecture room as per comfort. Though, you can use such situations to improve your self-confidence by productively answering the test questions or giving a spontaneous talk on whatever topic suits you.

6. Being naked in public

There is nobody to care in your dream. Some people find being naked in a lucid dream is erotically thrilling. If you desire, then you can make everyone else in the dream remove their clothes.

Final Thought

Lucid nightmares become horror when the dreamer awakens from a nightmare in a state of intense nervousness and fear. Naturally then he or she hopes that it will never happen again. The desire to avoid by any how the events of the nightmare insures that they will be remembered.  

To counter lucid nightmares rehearsal of re-dreaming is done while awake. Rather than imagining how the dream might turn out if the dreamer tried something new, while lucid the dreamer can try the different action right there in the nightmare. The resultant resolution becomes more empowering, because of the enhanced reality of the dream experience.

When you change the course of lucid nightmares both in waking and dreaming, then it becomes even more effective for dealing with lucid nightmares. Most of the times, the waking re-dreaming exercise is enough to resolve the problem created in the dream so that it never recurs again. If the dream takes place again, then the dreamer must be prepared to become lucid and consciously face the problem.

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