Off to Dream School

Off to Dream School: New Therapeutic Tool

Lucid Dreaming as a Therapeutic Tool

But lucid dreaming also has its pragmatic uses. A group member named Jerry says being aware that he's dreaming has chased away his terrifying nightmares, and a group member named Lynne credits her dream experiences with helping her overcome a brace of crippling social fears.

"I used to be extremely shy," she says. "I couldn't talk with people I didn't know; I couldn't even borrow books from the library, because I'd have to deal with a stranger. "Then," she says, "I started doing exercises in my dreams — talking to people, making telephone calls, doing the things that were so hard for me. The dreams gave me such a feeling of freedom. It was a safe place to be, and I knew I could do anything without harm coming to me."

In some cases, lucid dreaming occurs spontaneously. A group member named Rob says he's been lucid in his dreams since his early teens. "My dreams were always important to me," he says. "I always looked forward to going to bed and dreaming. I never called it lucid dreaming, to me it was just another mode of being alive."

Keelin's lucidity was triggered by the death of her father when she was a child. "After he died, he would visit me and we would talk," she says. "It was very, very real. I knew it wasn't waking reality, and I didn't have a term for it then, but I knew I was in a different place when it was happening."

Getting Started With Lucid Dreaming

Other group members taught themselves to lucid dream, something LaBerge says anyone, especially those with good dream recall, can accomplish. To get started, read a good book on the subject. (Try Creative Dreaming, by Patricia Garfield, or Lucid Dreaming and Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, by LaBerge.) Or contact the Lucidity Institute for information about their courses, their newsletter and devices designed by LaBerge to facilitate lucid dreaming.

For weeks, I've been using LaBerge's Nova Dreamer, a sleep mask that senses the rapid eyes movements characteristic of the dream state and flashes lights in your eyes. These bright flashes are intended to appear in your dream as lighting bolts, bomb blasts or some other startling image that might tip you off that you're dreaming. (It hasn't worked that way for me. I either sleep through the flashes, or they wake me up. To be fair, I really didn't use the gadget long enough to give it a reliable test run — there are all sorts of intensity and sensitivity levels that need to be adjusted by trial and error. In any case, the people in LaBerge's dream group report good results with the device.)

Whatever you do, don't expect wonders the first time out. Remember, I spent half of my own brief lucid dream bumbling around in the bathroom when I could have been sailing the mystical cosmos. I guess it takes persistence and discipline to convince your mind it can think while dreaming. But hey, nothing good comes easy, and you always wanted your own universe to play with.