Dreaming – Influencing Dreams

Friday, June 19th, 2009 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

You’ve seen that your dreams are practice, enabling you to test and refine skills you are learning without fear of consequence. That they can tell you about the symbolism and construction of your mind, teach you more about how you think. It would obviously, therefore, be useful to be able to control your dreams. To consciously direct dream content. You’d be able to practice those things you most need to practice, learn about the things you most need to learn. More than this, since dreams are legendarily full of revelation, controlled dreams can be used in creative problem solving, in the search for inspiration and ideas.

Last week we mentioned Stephen LaBerge, who set up the Lucidity Institute to study dreams, and systems to allow people to influence their dreams and thus their life.

The Lucidity Institute’s FAQ suggests many ways to influence your patterns of dreaming.

Increasing Recall

Perhaps most importantly, you need to remember the content of your dreams. You’ll never know how much success you have in influencing that content if you can’t even remember it.

The Lucidity Institute have a page devoted to improving dream recall. The key, essentially, is to wake up while dreaming. You need to set an alarm which tells you to immediately think about your dreams and, at least to start with, to write them down as soon as you wake up.

If your alarm wakes you each morning, and you immediately think about your dreams, and still think you weren’t dreaming, try setting the alarm half an hour earlier. If it still doesn’t work, half an hour earlier still. Dream research suggests that we each dream every 90 minutes or so, meaning you should be able to interrupt a dream if you try waking yourself in intervals of 30 minutes.

After a few weeks of writing down your dream content as soon as you wake, you’ll find that you get better at dream recall, eventually simply mentally reviewing a dream upon waking will enable you to remember it.

Influencing Dreams

Once you have started to remember dreams well, you’ll be able to start aiming to influence dream content.

Experiments show that the content of dreams often parallels the activities of the day. If you spend the day herding sheep, you’ll likely dream about sheep. If you spend the day driving, you may well dream about driving. If you spend it learning to play Tetris, you’ll dream about those constantly falling tessellating blocks. Indeed, the effect is named after the game Tetris

This points to the most obvious, and most easily learned, system for influencing dream content: To think about the things you wish to dream about while you fall asleep. To prime your mind, keep active the concepts and ideas and thoughts you want to ponder on and illustrate in your dream-scape.

Like all these skills, you’ll find that the more you practice trying to influence your dreams, the better you will get at it. So long as you are still recording the content, comparing it to your intent, you’ll soon start to understand how to influence your dream-scape more and more strongly.

Imagine, for instance, that you need to solve some creative problem. Design an album cover, write a song, script a TV show, spin a presentation, format a document, teach a subject, and you aren’t quite sure which direction to head, how to progress.

Deliberately deciding to dream about this problem, thinking about it single-mindedly for half an hour or so before bed, thinking on it further as your fall asleep, constantly returning to that subject whenever you notice your mind drifting, should start to influence your dreams to confront that problem during your sleep.

Once dream recall is improved, you’ll likely notice correlations between your attempts and the written record the next morning. You’ll start to realise what works, and probably just as importantly, convince yourself that it’s possible. That it’s just a question of learning to think right. As you improve you may even go one step further!

As you remember your dreams more and more, and as you learn to influence them to a greater degree, you will start to start to notice patterns. Reoccuring people, landscapes and situations. These things will help you to determine the symbolism used in your dreams, surely useful information for learning how your own mind works.

These patterns will also do something even more useful, they may tip you off that you’re dreaming. One night, during a dream, you’ll realise that this is a dream. That you’re not awake, but that you’re living in your night time fantasy world. You’ll be Lucid Dreaming.

Lucid Dreaming

A lucid dream is one in which you become aware of your self within a dream, aware of the fact that you’re dreaming. It’s as though your consciousness comes alive within the dream.

Most people find this pretty rewarding in itself, but when combined with the realisation that you are therefore living in your own mind, and are able to take conscious action within that mind, you see that conscious dreaming offers a great deal of potential to the aspiring self-programming student of improving mental skills.

Thinking of a general skill, design, system or person which you wanted to dream about and having it happen is useful, genuinely rewarding and worthwhile when trying to improve your transcendence skills. Being actually aware of the dream as you are dreaming it gives you a whole new level of control.

Wikipedia has a description of methods for helping to induce lucid dreaming and of course the Lucidity Institute’s FAQ mentioned earlier has more. We will just summarise the top few.

Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams

The MIND system essentially involves training yourself to check reality every now and then. LaBerge suggests reading a bit of text twice over, checking if it’s changed. Find some system to remind yourself to ask the question often: am I dreaming? and to check. Once you have built the habit of doing this in waking life, the habit will transfer into the dream world, and you’ll start to get the answer “Yes, yes I am,” more often.


Setting an alarm clock for an hour before you have to get up, interupting a dream, thinking about it, writing it down and then going back to sleep seems to help people enter the lucid dreaming state quite often.

Wake-initiation of lucid dreams

The WILD system involves learning to train your brain to stay conscious during the transition between sleeping and dreaming. If you’ve ever fallen asleep with the TV on and had the TV world and your dream world mix in a hypnagogic haze, you’ll have experienced this. The key to the WILD system is to learn to recognise it as such, and keep it in your consciousness while the sleep state takes over your brain. This technique tends to work better for an afternoon nap than after a full day’s wakefulness


Alternatively, technology can come to the rescue! The NovaDreamer is essentially a pair of electronic spectacles which watch your eyes while you sleep. When they notice the REM patterned movements, indicating the dream state, they flash a light which can be sensed through the eye lids. In the dream world, you can learn to notice this flash, and that will prompt you to realize you’re dreaming.

The Transcendence Institute Method

Our meditation this month is designed to be listened to upon waking, in fact, ideally, before you fully wake. Set it up on an alarm system. The aim is for it to slowly fade into your consciousness while you’re still dreaming.

The meditation starts quietly, and slowly, being designed not to wake you but to gradually raise your level of consciousness while you sleep.

It contains suggestions that you’ll notice you are dreaming. That you’ll be able to start to use the dream world to think about whatever you have planned to think about, to become more lucid. It will also contain suggestions that you’ll remember this experience when you fully awaken.

Finally, it will tell you to write down the dream that it has just interrupted, increasing recall.

If the meditation doesn’t work, try setting the alarm half an hour earlier, or half an hour later, or indeed a whole hour earlier. The aim, remember, is to find a time when you are likely to be dreaming, and have the meditation slowly percolate into that dream, prompting you to notice that you are dreaming and spend ten minutes in control of that dream before waking to write down your recollections.