Most lucid dreamers I talk to are looking for ways to become more lucid, as well as have longer lucid dreams that are powerful and memorable. In this quest, we often forget about the power of our emotions. What a missed opportunity—dreaming is built upon emotional logic, after all, the stitching together of long-term memories and present day conflicts.
This may come as a surprise as it’s often said that lucidity (that is, knowing you are dreaming while securely in sleep) is the same thing as meta-logic and rationality, and we expect that the more logical we are in the dream, the easier we can navigate its deep waters.
Sadly, no, it’s not quite that linear: reason is not in charge, nor is it the source of self-awareness—that’s an old deceit left over from the 17th century. While the concept worked well for letting the pursuit of science separate from religious authorities (thank you Descartes and Kant!), these days it’s an old guard idea that is preventing many of us from getting in touch with our intuition, our bodies, and our sense of purpose.
This worldview of lucidity as reason is also blocking us from accessing big dreams and spiritual experiences—those moments that grace us spontaneously and have the power transform our lives.
Whatever our intention may be, be it stoking creativity, seeking the highest, or accessing ancestral wisdom, navigating the lucid dream successfully means dancing with the powerful emotional traces that construct the dreamspace.
This is the soulful side of lucid dreaming, and we run into it whether or not we want to.
If we don’t learn the dance of soulful lucidity, we have a host of issues, such as waking up too soon from excitement, or losing lucidity by becoming enmeshed in the dream drama again.
Lucid nightmares, of course, are the extreme of this pattern—these are moments in which we struggle against intense feelings that end up blowing us out of the dream into panicked awakening.
Been there! I know of many who spend their time trying to wake up from disturbing lucid dreams rather than face what is dogging them.
And while I would never advocate someone feel guilty for something that happened in a dream, this pattern could reveal a big missed opportunity for self-knowledge and growth.
Why are we so afraid of our feelings in dreams?
Partially, it’s that Descartian hangover I discussed earlier. It’s also a learned defense against happiness, as we live with an emotionally undeveloped culture that rewards us for not knowing how we are feeling.
But let us remember that one of the functions of dreaming is to bring to awareness our present day conflicts in new light (and often wearing old skins) so we can problem-solve them. This propensity is still occurring in lucid dreams too: a little self-awareness does not trump the deep emo structure of REM sleep.
With this in mind, facing your emotions in a lucid dream is not always so easy. It’s not just a switch you flip on.
But we can learn fast once we have made the strong intention to be more open to the energies that are stirred up in lucid dreams—especially those energies that come on their own accord.
It’s part of our inner nature to “grow down,” as depth psychologist James Hillman called it—the decent into character and destiny that naturally occurs when we are in the dream world.
Don’t grow up, Hillman says, grow down. When you do so, you open up to your dream, as Hillman describes in this wonderful short video alongside and Marion Woodman and Robert Johnson.
When we make the choice to acknowledge the soulful, the practice of lucid dreaming is no longer an idle hobby but rather a powerful platform for self-transformation that continues to work on us throughout our lives.
What does Soulful Lucidity look like on the ground?
Just as there are lucid induction techniques for encouraging more lucid dreams, there are day world practices for soulful lucidity. These techniques become habits that allow us to stay open in the moment, rather than disassociating in defense of the mysterious, the uncomfortable, or the unknown.
These core skills are not a secret, but they also are not achieved by swallowing a pill or strapping on a electronic device (To be clear, I am a big fan of the techno-ritualistic induction of lucidity, but it has its limitations!).
I’ll follow up with some these techniques in my next article.
For now, I invite you to ask yourself:
How can I become more open in my lucid dreams?
What keeps coming up in these dreams that I could try to work with in a new way?
Featured image: Immortalized by Paul Weeks, CC 2016.