The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) for over 27 years has served to bring together many of the world’s great scholars, practitioners and authors in the field of dream research, clinical practice regarding dreams, sociology, spiritual practices, culture and the arts as well as other fields of study. Members of the organization adhere to a code of ethics that governs practices in dreamwork in both small and large contexts.
Since the tragic shootings in Tucson much attention has been focused on the psychological state and motives of the alleged killer, Jared Loughner. Information about Mr. Loughner included reports that he kept dream journals and was involved with practices of lucid dreaming. While it is not appropriate for IASD to comment on this individual’s state of mind or his practices and how they related to his abhorrent behavior, we do note that it appears he has a record of drug use and mental problems. So, it is possible that what he experienced and recorded may have been hallucinations or delusions rather than dreams as most people understand and experience them.
Nevertheless, since his lucid dreaming has repeatedly been mentioned in the media, it seems useful to briefly summarize the best information and most helpful viewpoints on lucid dreaming.
Lucid dreaming, or the ability to become consciously aware of dreaming while in the dream state, has been scientifically accepted since 1980 through the research work of Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University.
Since then, lucid dreaming has been widely explored by curious dreamers and scientists. International research indicates that a majority of college students report having had at least one lucid dream experience. A smaller percentage indicates that they have frequent lucid dreams. On becoming consciously aware in the dream, lucid dreamers often report flying through space, interacting with dream figures and manipulating objects in the dream.
Lucid dreaming has been successfully utilized by psychotherapists to assist people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who suffer from recurring nightmares.
Lucid dreaming also has a long history in various religions, such as Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism. By becoming consciously aware in the dream state, many religions feel that the lucid dreamer comes to a clearer understanding of waking reality.
Scientific research has not noticed any harmful effects to practicing lucid dreaming. Instead, lucid dreamers normally show higher levels of mental acuity and creativity in some perceptual tests.
Though the recent movie, Inception, used a more extreme Hollywood version of “lucid dreaming” as a plot device, it’s distorted representation—gun battles and almost continuous violence—has little to do with real lucid dreaming. In actuality, lucid dreams normally consist of consciously creating wonders like flying, making items appear and disappear, and other Harry Potter-ish actions—all the while, clearly knowing that this is a dream.
Some recent news articles have examined the life of the alleged Tucson gunman, Jared Loughner, and suggested that his interest in lucid dreaming may have something to do with his waking actions. Unfortunately this seems pure speculation, and does not correlate with the experience of millions of lucid dreamers around the world, who find joy, healing and creativity in their lucid dreaming experience.
Robert Waggoner, IASD Board Chair
Jodine Grundy, IASD President