Someday a Christian might have a dream where a demon that looks like you calls you the demon, and tries to exorcise you with an incantation, “in the name of Christ.”
I always laugh when a Christians take their dreams seriously as the work of malevolent powers. Many say they had sleep paralysis because of a demon, or they met a demon in a dream, and prayed for it to go away; however all things are possible in a dream. I might be able to make an interesting scenario, since I have been able to lucid dream.
Lucid dreams (明晰夢)
A lucid dream is simply a dream where you are aware you are dreaming, and you can control it to some extent. Usually when I realize I’m dreaming, the dream doesn’t last much longer than a minute before I wake up, (my reasoning is that awareness continually stimulates the brain until it wakes up.) I’ve also sometimes slipped into another dream, and lost control of the dream, and the awareness that I was dreaming, which seems to be the only way for me to keep dreaming. Other people have learned to lucid dream much better than I can, and can go for five minutes or more, or to have multiple lucid dreams in a night.
What separates this from a daydream, is it feels much more vivid, and your imagination conjures images, events, settings and characters with less effort. It’s a lot like playing a hyperrealistic video game, because whenever you look at something, your brain tells yourself you’re looking at a real object.
My usual activity was to jump into the sky and start flying over buildings while it lasts. I have also transformed into a hero, cast spells and fought stuff, or briefly visited beautiful exotic lands. All you need to lucid dream is 1) awareness you’re dreaming and 2) willpower. You can realize you’re dreaming at any point, but it’s easier if you notice a contradiction in the dream. At that point you can concentrate on not letting yourself “fall asleep” again.
Since you know you’re dreaming, if you truly believe your willpower can control your dream, the dream will give way to whatever you want it to do. Some parts of the dream are harder to change than others, but you can get better with practice.
How to lucid dream
I keep a journal and whenever I have a particularly interesting dream I’ve recorded it. This makes it possible to remember images from my dreams years later. It also makes it easier to lucid dream, because you’ll be trying to remember you dreams, and that mentality will help you within a dream to recognize contradictions, which allows you to become aware.
If you immediately write down every single thing you remember dreaming about, (don’t wait even ten minutes or half of it will be gone), you can often remember even older dreams from the night. There are often transitions and links to older dreams which you’ll remember if you write them in chronological order. Most of your dreams will be trivial, but there will be a few gems. Dream journals and lucid dreams help if you’re an artist looking for a dreamscape for inspiration, or a writer trying to write a story in your dream. Dream journals allow you to mine your dreams for hints of what is bothering your subconscious.
>But I don’t dream
Everyone dreams, but if you don’t care about your dreams you won’t remember them. If you have time to waste on a Saturday, you can go back to sleep for two hours and you’ll probably remember you dream more easily, especially if you’re interrupted, say by an alarm clock.
You can influence the direction of your dream by what you think about as you drift asleep. Every subsequent dream will probably be influenced by the preceding one, but there can be layers and repetitions. Characters and themes in an earlier dream are often repeated in the settings of later dreams on the same night, or if you wake up and go back to sleep.
External factors also affect dreams – a radio coming on has played a songs in my dreams, or when people talk nearby while I’m sleeping, it conjures characters who start reciting the words they’re saying, because the sleeping mind wants to justify everything. Yesterday I fell asleep with the light on overhead, and it created a blindingly bright white sun in my dream whenever I looked straight ahead. Other times, a change in the room temperature, has affected the climate of my dream.
If you don’t believe you can control your dreams, you won’t be able to so much if you do lucid dream. Your belief in this premise will reinforce the idea that you’re passively watching a movie, and you won’t be able to take directorial control. I’ve had the same doubts in a dream when I’ve tried to take control, but I’ve overcame them by essentially screaming that I could change something within the dream, at which point it usually suddenly changes. I don’t feel very surprised when it changes, because if I did I wouldn’t have had the conviction to change the dream in the first place. When I have allowed myself to feel surprised, it has become harder or even impossible to make subsequent changes.
At best, when you don’t have this “faith” in yourself, you’ll probably control one actor’s actions in a lucid dream (yourself), and not be able to say, conjure a character and make him/her behave according to a script you write.
Learning to lucid dream could help kids to overcome nightmares
If you often have nightmares or sleep paralysis, remember you can learn how to wake yourself up from a dream. As long as you realize it’s a dream, you can just try to sit upright or roll your body around in bed. Nothing will happen in real life, but eventually the dream will probably freeze, and then you will wake up. (Or you’ll just have a false awakening, but a false awakening will still end whatever nightmare you were having.)
When I was a Christian kid I used to dream about the world ending and God, Satan, angels and so forth battling around me. I usually prayed for God’s protection when I encountered the scary demons that menace children, and since I believed God was stronger, he usually repelled them. In some nightmares, though I was judged and sent to hell, and the stress of falling to hell woke me up. (This is a good reason why it isn’t good to teach the myth of hell to kids.)
Now that I don’t believe in those things, I don’t dream about them. But if I did see a monster, it would probably cause me to question my reality, and lead to a lucid dream where I could do whatever I wanted. Wolves and giant black dogs have been reoccurring monsters going back to my oldest nightmares, but the last times I’ve seen any I realized how improbable they were, and they were instead triggers for fun lucid dreams. They used to gang up, stalk, and chase me, but I had a lucid dream where I decided to beat them up and strangle them to death. They haven’t bothered me since.
Perhaps we should teach children how to lucid dream so they can stop having so many nightmares, and being afraid of going to sleep.