Lucid nightmares are dreams that you know you are dreaming, but are confronted with a dream scene or imagery that is disturbing or feels unsafe. You may feel out-of-control, or you may be calmly witnessing some horrible scene that is not the product of your conscious intention. A lucid nightmare often has a “confrontational” feel.
Prerequisites for Lucid Nightmares:
1. You are self-aware and know “this is a dream.”
2. You are not consciously directing the disturbing imagery – rather, the imagery is self-generating, surprising, or confrontational.
3. The dream ends by you waking up immediately. Otherwise, the dream is not technically a nightmare.
Why are lucid nightmares still not understood?
These kinds of dreams are not discussed in the lucid dreaming literature due to a number of factors. First, many lucid dream researchers in the past de-emphasized these experiences as they were trying to legitimize lucid dreaming as a verifiable state of consciousness that is safe and fun.
Secondly, these experiences are disturbing, and there is a cultural assumption that lucid dreaming means you are in control. So if you”re not in control, by this logic, then you are revealing your inability to lucid dream “correctly.”
Thirdly, in Western culture, disturbing dreams and grotesque imagery in general are the Black Sheep of our cognitive landscape. In religious and spiritual forums, these experiences are devalued and not talked about. In psychological circles, scary imagery is regarded as evidence of a disturbed psyche, and something to be eradicated. In fact, there is a movement in cognitive psychiatry to eliminate dreams that are disturbing with a “dream-killing” pill. Your tax dollars, at work.
Well, that’s just hogwash. Nightmares are normal and healthy, and so are lucid nightmares. They are nothing to be ashamed of. When I first started lucid dreaming, I was plagued by these disturbing dreams and they have turned out to be great allies in my quest for self-knowledge. By working with these experiences, we are offered a chance at greater understanding, as well as an opportunity to develop courage, compassion and forgiveness.
The next article in this series discusses the Causes of Nightmares.