Dare to Dream


So, I have this unusual skill, though I don't use it very often or very well: I can control my dreams.

I started being able to do this seven or eight years ago, when I was finishing up grad school. It's not like I set out to acquire this particular skill; I just discovered one night that I could do it. But it didn't come to me out of nowhere: partly because I wasn't always that interested in the work I was supposed to be doing for grad school, and partly because I suffered from an array of mild but chronic maladies I wished would go away, and partly because I wanted to become more ethically and spiritually deliberate and aware, I started pursuing all these activities that would help me develop my spiritual and intuitive faculties and give me more control over my body and mind.

If you've done any new age exploration, you know the basic program: yoga, meditation, reiki, chanting, hypnosis, visualizations, scrutinizing and releasing old trauma, analyzing patterns in your life for the slightest bit of meaning, keeping a dream journal, undergoing lots of therapy with a really smart therapist who never lets you off the hook, having your astrological charts done, as well as practicing a little aromatherapy and performing the occasional colon cleanse, etc--stuff to help you identify and focus your intentions and your will, so you can release yourself from the effects of karma and lack of enlightenment, and be a more joyous, generous person who makes the world a better place, blah blah yada blah.

I'm making light of it to acknowledge that most of the world thinks this stuff is a load of hooey, but it was actually very meaningful and helpful for me, and it did have positive affects, like granting me the ability to control my dreams.

For instance: in one dream I remember controlling very easily and naturally, I dreamed I lost my wallet at the airport, which meant I couldn't board my plane because I didn't have ID. I kept searching in the area where I thought I'd lost the wallet, but to no avail, and I was about to miss my plane. So I said, "I know! I'll just dream that I find it." And instantly, there my wallet was. I grabbed it and started sprinting toward the gate, clear on the other side of the airport, but I knew I wouldn't make it in time. So I said, "I know! I'll just dream that I'm magically transported to the gate!" And there I was, at the end of the line to board, but still in time for departure. And I got on my plane and it flew off and I felt happy, both in the dream and in my cognitive mind.

This skill, of recognizing when you're dreaming is called lucid dreaming, and being able to control your dreams is called, logically enough, dream control. Supposedly being able to do this means you've achieved a certain level of mental acuity and control. But as I think about the dreams I've manipulated, I notice that they all have one thing in common: they're really frustrating.

Very early this morning, for instance, when it was still dark and you don't want to be awake, I dreamed that I parked my car in some huge parking garage, and then couldn't remember where I'd parked it. I wandered the garage, which was as dark and dank and icky as parking garages usually are, but didn't recognize my car anywhere, and I couldn't go off without it. I thought, "I should dream I just find the car." But then I thought, "Why? Why bother to find the car? Why am I dreaming this in the first place? This has been a stupid, tedious dream since it started, and finding the car isn't going to make it interesting. I'm just going to turn it off, the way I'd turn off a boring, annoying TV show." And I did. I got up and peed, and that was way more interesting than the dream.

And yeah, I'm glad I can do that. But it occurs to me that a still more useful skill would be to control the beginning of dreams, and make them about happy things, from start to finish: I could dream about being reunited with loved ones, or achieving stellar success in the career of my most ambitious fantasies, or how to finish a piece of writing I'm struggling with, or even having lots of really great sex with really interesting partners.

Because dreaming that you find your wallet beats dreaming that you don't find it, but dreaming that you have to overcome some monumental frustration is really, well, frustrating.


I'm totally going to leave a long comment about me. And it is: When I was a kid I had terrible nightmares, so when I was 7 or 8, just through necessity, I learned to control my dreams. After a few years it got to the point where if I didn't like where something was going I'd just start the dream over and go where I liked. Then prozac. Now, even though I haven't taken prozac in years, I no longer have lucid dreams. In fact, it's very rare that I ever even remember my dreams, and when I do they are way boring, and never partly in cartoon, or in black and white. So lame.

I would love to do what you did, and get in touch with, you know...stuff. Myself, the world, whatever. If you ever want to blog about any books you read or anything...

Anyway, happy dreaming.

I have also had dreams where I have a lucid thought like "Wow, this is totally unreal... oh wait, I'm dreaming; I can make this as interesting as I like." When this happens, I sometimes remember parts of the dream when I wake up but for the most part (aside from those few instances) I find it hard to remember my dreams when I wake up. What happens to me far more often is that I will dream something, find it completely surreal or not remember it all and then months or years later, that identical occurence will actually happen to me. This is when I wish I could remember my dreams mimediately after waking up.

Once when I was in elementary school, I had a strange dream. I didn't think much of it at the time. A few years later, around grade 7 or 8 (because I remember the school I was in), I had the same dream and thought, that was weird, I had that dream a few years ago. Within a month, it happened to me. We were playing "touch" football at school during recess but it was rare that it didn't involve the occasional hit or tackle (young boys will be boys after all). I caught a pass, stumbled backward and a crowd of defenders ran toward me as I lost my footing, my feet came out from under me, I landed on my back, and smacked my head hard on the ice covered ashphalt of the school yard (yes, in Canada we play football into the late fall / early winter and snow and ice usually arrive before our passion for the game has hibernated for the season). I don't think that I actually blacked out, but in that head throbbing, vision swirling state as I gathered my wits, I looked up to a crowd of people huddled over me, looking down at me, and thought to myself "this is so weird... this is the dream... the dream I had years ago, and again just recently; I totally dreamt all of this; I just didn't know from the fragments that I remembered that this is what it was all about." I told a few people, most thought I was concussed, or worse. It has happened a few other times since - never anything earth shattering. I don't dream of planes crashing, or buildings exploding or anything that a TV character with this ability would have adventures trying to prevent. I often wished I could use this to help prevent some tragedies, but the thing is, I rarely remember the dream when I wake up, or at all until after the event has happened in my real life. It's very "deja vu." So I tend to believe when people say they have had a premonition or dreamt of something happening. I find it quite plausible that their ability in this regard may be more clear or more finely tuned than mine. What I don't believe, is when people say, "I have dreamt of this terrible thing happening so BUY MY BOOK" or "I have had a premonition of catastrophe and the only way to prevent it is if you SEND ME MONEY." These things I don't abide.

Enough about my dreams, back to the topic of "lucid dreams" - have you seen the Cameron Crowe film VANILLA SKY with Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, et al ? It was a little surreal on first viewing, but after seeing the ending, it was easier to follow the plot threads on subsequent viewings knowing where it was all leading. I found it fascinating.

Happy dreaming. :)

Hi RK--

thanks for sharing your story, and my apologies for taking so long to respond. Like you, I've had premonition dreams, about my own personal life, never anything big. It's always interesting, though.

I have seen Vanilla Sky--pretty funky stuff. I also had a very personal reason for liking it: the soundtrack includes the song "Doot-Doot" by Freur, an obscure 80 song that just happens to be one of my favorites.

Rebecca--I've been planning, actually, to write more about the stuff I've been reading, so expect a post on it... someday. You know how blogging is and how it takes a while to post stuff, but I promise, I'll write about it eventually.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on July 19, 2007 9:54 PM.

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