Posted by Ryan Hurd on February 29, 2012
I’ll just go ahead and say it: not everyone is cut out to be a lucid dreamer. I’m not meaning to be a downer, but it’s true. While there is so much hype about how achieving self-awareness in your dreams is a learnable skill—and it surely is—some people simply will be more successful than others.
The good news is that your rate of success skyrockets when you know how to focus your motivation towards the tendancies and habits that frequent lucid dreamers do everyday.
Some of these come naturally —the way you sleep, or the way you are wired emotionally. Others are lifestyle habits that appear to push the buttons of the embodied mind for going lucid in a dream.
Below is the collective avatar—the personality traits and habits—of frequent lucid dreamers. I’m not saying all lucid dreamers have all these traits. (That would be kind of intense…)
But if you find yourself in just one or two of these traits below, you actually stand a really good chance for going lucid if you haven’t already. With further training, you could begin lucid dreaming with higher frequency too.
Without further adieu,
you know you’re predestined to be a lucid dreamer if you:
Are a light sleeper.
Self-awareness is a delicate state associated with heightened cortical arousal during REM sleep. Light sleepers are especially wired for this. All hope is not lost if you are a heavy sleeper who usually collapses without any remembered awakenings, or if you rarely wake up from disturbances. Instead, you may want to consider biphasic sleeping and other sleep disturbance tactics.1
Have time to sleep in.
Lucid dreams are more likely in the lengthy REM periods of the morning. If you are sleep deprived, and never have a chance to sleep in, it may be difficult to achieve the lucid zone. However, stealing away for an afternoon nap when your circadian rhythms naturally dip may be the second best time for lucidity.
Have good dream recall.
One of the advantages of being a light sleeper is that multiple awakenings lead to more remembered dreams. Regardless of how you sleep, without the skill of remembering dreams, there is no room for lucidity. Luckily, dream recall can also be improved—quickly too.2
Have an ongoing mindfulness practice.
Developing lucidity in the dream world is impossible if you are not very “lucid” in waking life. That’s probably why meditators are also frequent lucid dreamers compared to the general population.3 Concentrative meditation strengthens the mind’s ability to stay focused for long periods of time and improves emotional intelligence. But if you are not into meditation, there are plenty of other hobbies you probably already enjoy that can focus the mind in similar ways.
Have good spatial skills.
Strange, isn’t it? One crucial but often overlooked factor of self-awareness is maintaining centeredness during periods of dream flux: those times when your senses are confused and you don’t know up from down. Lucid dreamers tend to have good balance and may be more field independent than non- lucid dreamers.4 This trait involves the degree to which you are influenced by inner or environmental cues in orienting yourself. Having or starting an ongoing body practice—yoga or gymnastics for example—may increase your odds, and so may playing certain types of video games.
Excel at multi-tasking.
Lucidity is a balance of knowing you are in a dream and being involved in the drama. Not surprisingly, frequent lucid dreamers perform well on cognitive tests like the Stroop Task, a psychological test that measures attention during interference of multiple tasks at the same time.5
Are creative and/or artistic.
Many lucid dreamers are creative people who tend to see outside the box. They are imaginative and prone to fantasy.6
There is also a correlation with spontaneous lucid dreamers and having thin boundaries, which is a psychological term for having high levels of social alertness, and sometimes, social anxiety.7 Self-awareness is a double-edged sword, as some frequent lucid dreamers are also prone to nightmares. If you have been told before, “You are too sensitive,” you may have the markings of a powerful lucid dreamer.
Are willing to take risks.
A 2011 study found that students who had more lucid dreams than their peers also performed better on the Iowa Gambling Task, a test that measures emotional-based decision making in unknown situations.8 This is an important clue about the importance of regulating emotions—and integrating them with other forms of cognition—for mastering lucid dreaming.
Have a strong desire to stick with it.
Patience, in other words. We live in a culture of “instant success guaranteed!” But the truth is that most successful lucid dreamers have a strong, internal desire to become aware during their dreams. They don’t give up easily. They set intentions and keep trying.
Take mental breaks.
It’s also important to take a break now and again or you’ll just get frustrated, not lucid. Cognitive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Finding Flow, has much to say about the importance of idle time for all creative projects. Taking time off from a serious pursuit—be it an invention, a puzzle, or a quest to go lucid—allows “simple rules of association” to form.9 You got to know when to let your training seep in, and let the work go underground.
So do you find yourself somewhere in this collection of traits and habits? Chances are, you stand a pretty good chance of going lucid. Recent demographics suggest 1 in 2 people have had a lucid dream.10
It’s not actually that difficult to get started, provided you set strong intentions and follow through with effective practices for developing the embodied mind.
This essay is adapted from my ebook Lucid Immersion Guidebook, the central piece of the Lucid Immersion Blueprint.
First image: CC Dancing Statues by dixie_law
1 LaBerge, S., Phillips, L, Levitan, L. (1994). An hour of wakefulness before morning naps makes lucidity more likely. NightLight, 6(3).
2 Kahan, T. and LaBerge, S. (2011). Dreaming and waking: Similarities and differences revisited. Conscious and Cognition, 20, 494-514.
3 Gackenbach, J. (2010). Psychological considerations in pursuing lucid dreaming research. International Journal of Dream Research, 3 (1), 11-12.
4 Gruber, R.E., Steffen, J.J., & Vonderhaar, S.P. (1995). Lucid dreaming, waking personality, and cognitive development. Dreaming, 5 (1), 1-12.
5 Blagrove, M, Bell, E., Wilkerson, A. (2010). Association of lucid dreaming frequency with Stroop task performance. Dreaming, 20 (4), 280-287.
6 Schredl, M. and Erlacher, D. (2004). Lucid dreaming frequency and personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 37, 1463-1473.
7 Galvin, F. (1990). The boundary characteristics of lucid dreamers. Psychiatric Journal of the University of Ottawa, 15, 73–78.
8 Neider, M., Pace-Scott, E., Forselius, E., Pittman, B., and Morgan, P. (2011). Lucid dreaming and ventromedial versus dorsolateral prefrontal task performance. Consciousness and Cognition, 20, 234–244.
9 Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity : Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
10 Schredl M, and Erlacher D. (2011). Frequency of lucid dreaming in a representative German sample. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 112(1):104-8.