Do our labels and terms limit
our lucid dreaming potential? Could we be limiting our lucid dreams
because of the language we use to describe and define them? Do we
ignore potentially valuable dream experiences because we have learned
to label them as "false"? In LDE 30, Robert Waggoner looks at the term
"false awakening" and challenges us to examine the language we use when
describing this dream phenomena.
and the Language of Lucid Dreaming
(c) Robert Waggoner
What is "false" about a false awakening?
What is fallacious, specious, contrary to fact or truth, without
grounds - as The American Heritage Dictionary describes the adjective,
false - about false awakenings?
Isn't it more accurate to deem these experiences of apparently being
aware in one's waking reality, while actually remaining in the dream
state, as "apparent awakenings," "assumed awakenings" or perhaps,
"alternate awakenings"? Invariably when desiring to wake from a lucid
dream, many lucid dreamers have had the interesting experience of
seeming to wake, only later to realize that they are not in waking
reality but in a new dream scene. Sometimes, these apparent awakenings
are quite convincing - one reaches for their dream journal to jot down
the lucid dream and sees the notations on the paper on the night stand,
when suddenly one realizes something strange - the nightstand is made
of metal instead of wood, or the carpet color is not exactly the same,
or an odd piece of furniture is now in the room! The perception invokes
one's memory and leads to a new realization: "This too is a dream!"
Sometimes, the new awakening from the preceding apparent awakening is
also an apparent awakening! One wakes from the lucid dream, realizes
that this too is a dream scene, and decides to wake up for real, but
the dreamer awakens in a new dream scene, only to realize in a few
moments, that this too is a dream. The apparent awakening has begun to
In my experience, I have misperceived my apparent awakening from a
lucid dream seven times in succession. "Waking up" seven times within a
few minutes felt like bursting through the layers of a larger self! At
that final, apparent awakening, my mind swirled in a whirlpool of
memories, perceptions, realizations and ephemera, grasping for an
actual actuality. I slipped out of bed on that summer morning, steadied
myself, and touched the light blue plaster wall, hoping for nothing
more than stability. I touched it again.
True awakenings or false awakenings seem meaningless terms after
falling through seven so-called "awakenings." There, I sought the
stability of a world, any world was fine, as long as it was stable - or
shall I say "seemed" stable. If I had awakened in a world with
different furniture, an extra cat, new neighbors, it would have been
okay, just as long as it all "seemed" to remain stable.
What I took from my multiple awakenings was the idea that Perception
either has or creates many homes, but the perceived "true" world-home
seems true only in that it conforms to one's memories.
Memory seems a force that works on Perception - that keeps Perception's
wanderings from going too far - that develops a homebase for that which
wanders. In a way, memory confers stability. Memory confers a
structure. Memory provides a "sense" for that which we deem self.
The problem with using the term, "false awakening," for what appears to
be an "assumed awakening," appears to be found in our response to the
Why investigate that which is "false"? Why give any credence, any
thought, any validity to a "false" experience? Why concern one's self
with an event which is fallacious, specious, contrary to fact or truth,
Moreover, in the term, "false awakening," one finds an ex post facto
conclusion about the experience, which draws one away from the
description of the actual experience. In the actual experience, the
lucid dreamer assumes he/she has awakened. Thus in terms of descriptive
accuracy, the actual experience seems to support that the lucid dreamer
had an "assumed awakening." To call it "false" creates negative
implications and moves away from accurately describing the event. As
many scientists have demonstrated, language seems to affect our
perception, reaction to and experience of events. In the relatively new
world of lucid dreaming, we should take care to describe events and
perceptions accurately in order to make the way smooth for others.
Words that imply hard and fast judgments, like "false," seem narrow and
For example, if I was a physicist investigating theories of alternate
realities or probable realities and was searching for possible
instances of alternate or probable realities, I may investigate
"apparent awakenings" or "alternate awakenings." However, due to the
connotation inherent in the description, I doubt that I would
investigate "false awakenings" - and even if I did, the term "false"
would likely predispose other physicists to view the experiences as
And for example, if I was a theoretical psychologist seeking evidence
to suggest that the mind creates internalized "worlds," and stumble
upon this fairly common lucid dreaming phenomenon, what then? Would I
be able to see this phenomenon clearly, or would I be thrown by the
negative connotation of false awakenings?
For science to proceed, clear terms are needed that describe an
experience accurately. I ask readers of The Lucid Dream Exchange to
remove the "false" from apparent, assumed or alternate awakenings in
order to assist futures students of lucid dreaming.
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