Letters to young lucid dreaming researchers….
In science, we call the study of mushrooms, mycology. As in any discipline, the study of mushrooms requires precise classification of characteristics, since many mushrooms share similar traits. From experience, mycologists know that some edible mushrooms look very similar to poisonous mushrooms, so the ability to distinguish mushrooms correctly may have life or death consequences. Those fine distinctions have critical importance for the proper understanding and use of edible mushrooms.
When researching a psychological event like lucid dreaming, one needs a thorough self-report to insure the event meets the criteria established for a lucid dream. By doing so, the young researcher guards against the pollution of his or her lucid dreaming database by the inclusion of experiences that may seem similar to, but fail to meet the fundamental definition of, lucid dreaming. Although the consequences may not qualify as “life or death,” lucid dreaming researchers can easily and unintentionally pollute their own research by allowing for inclusion psychological experiences that do not meet the definition of a lucid dream.
The American Psychological Association defines a lucid dream as “a dream in which the sleeper is aware that he or she is dreaming and may be able to influence the progress of the dream narrative.” Others commonly define lucid dream as “realizing you dream while dreaming” or “a dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming” (Wikipedia). The common point to all definitions involves a mental realization while in the state designated as “dreaming”.
The problem? Some people prepare to fall asleep and suddenly hear an odd humming around their head, feel energy moving up their body and experience concern about these strange sensations. Then they realize that they view their bedroom from a new vantage point. Because they feel consciously aware now, float around the space and know that their body lies in bed, they deem this a “lucid dream”. But does it meet the defining criteria? Did they realize they dreamt while dreaming? Or do they experience something similar to lucid dreaming, but not the same?
In the above example, the people do not report becoming aware within a dream. Rather they indicate experiencing an unusual state while preparing to fall asleep. Clearly this does not meet the definition of a lucid dream, yet innumerable posts on lucid dreaming forums call this experience a “lucid dream”. Why? Usually, they point out that the person achieves conscious awareness and experiences dream-like conditions, i.e., floating out of bed. Yet it fails to meet the definition’s criteria of becoming aware within a dream.
Moreover, a judgment to include such an experience as a lucid dream completely ignores the initial set of reported symptoms, e.g., odd humming, energy movement felt in body, anxiety about state, etc., that have no place in the definition, or in the classical lucid dream experience. When you add those to the analysis, you must understand that the event differs remarkably from the common experience and definition of a lucid dream. Like mushrooms, it may seem similar to the one you seek, yet it varies enough as to need a separate, distinct classification as something else. I want to encourage lucid dream researchers to see the difference, and refuse to include these strange ‘fungi’ in their servings of lucid dream research, so that the science of lucid dream research leads to healthy results.
Next time, I will comment on some odd aspects of the so-called Wake Initiated Lucid Dream or WILD….
P.S: I'll be at Seattle's East West Book Shop on Thursday, Aug 11, 2011. Tell your friends.