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.