How does one become a conscious participant with
the dream? Charles McPhee assists anyone interested in finding out by offering a
step-by-step guide to mastering the techniques of lucid dreaming in his book
_Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_.
Charles has also offered us a Web site through which we can discuss the
issues of consciousness and dreams with him directly. He has been visiting with
us here for the last few months at Electric Dreams, answering questions and
giving us peeks into his work on lucid dreaming
Previously we began exploring just what we *are* aware of in dreams and lucid
dreams, a good first step in actually becoming lucid. In Earlier issues we
explored the phenomena of dream sleep and consciousness. In ED 3(11) I continued
to unfold the investigation into whether or not we actually possess
consciousness in dream and what this can mean to our lives, as well as exploring
more deeply what consciousness is and what it appears to be, and how conscious
techniques like journaling can bring about more lucidity and dream recall.
From CHAPTER 9: "The Language of Dreams"
In chapter seven we observed that lucid experience with dreams would
challenge some familiar habits of self-identification. Once we acquire conscious
experience with the dreamscape, the real mystery is who is responsible for
creating the dream.
The dichotomy we sense between our self and our dreams is quite real. Even
when we know, somewhere in the back of our mind, that we are creating the dream
we are simultaneously interacting with, the dream maintains its structure and
identity apart from "us". It is impossible to totally control the
events of a dream, as the transformations and symbolism continually surprise us.
Thus, even though we are the creators of our dreams, we find we exercise only
tenuous control over them. We may truthfully say that we are engaged with
another element that insists on its own identify. Paradoxically, however, we
also are this other element--who else could it be? So if we both experience the
dream and create it, what does this reveal about our true self?
Dreams, despite their nonsensical appearance, obey a few simple principles of
construction. The sooner we can learn these principles, the sooner we will learn
to speak the language of dreams. When we do, we will find a faithful
correspondent within our self, and also a great ally. Dreams, once we are able
to understand them, complement our limited waking abilities. They give us access
to levels of awareness that we otherwise might never know exist.
A STRANGE, EMOTIONAL DREAM
To illustrate, let's say a woman learns in her waking life that her lover of
two years' time is being unfaithful to her. But to make the situation more
difficult to decipher, let's say she learns of this infidelity only
unconsciously--that is, something her lover did recently tipped her off that
something was wrong, and the vibes between her and her lover are different.
Unconsciously she suspects--indeed, she is aware-- that her lover is being
unfaithful. But let's also say that she is repressing this awareness, that she
hasn't allowed it to become conscious yet, because at a certain level, she
doesn't want to know. She wants the relationship to be different from how it is.
A day or two after becoming unconsciously suspicious of the infidelity, she
dreams that she is with her lover on an ocean cruiser, far out at sea. She is at
the bow of the ship, looking forward at the board expanse of ocean, and holding
on to the railing; a gentle breeze brushes against her cheek. Suddenly the boat
develops a huge gash in its hull. She rushes to the side and peers over the
edge. She sees that a giant fish with a red, pointed collar around its neck has
hit the boat, and the boat is now sinking rapidly. The fish, killed by its
collision with the boat, floats alongside. Suddenly she is at the bow again, but
her lover is gone. She looks about anxiously to discover where he is. Down a
walkway she sees one of her lover's old friends, someone she met once at a
college reunion. At this point she forgets about her lover. The ship is listing
badly; and this distant acquaintance is having difficulty climbing toward her.
Interestingly, she does not try to help the person. Rather, she watches intently
as she tries to move toward her. The individual is grabbing the railing and
crying out for help. The dreamer says to herself, "If she had worn the
right shoes, she wouldn't be getting wet." With this thought, she awakens.
UNCONSCIOUS AWARENESSES IN EVERYDAY EXPERIENCE
In everyday experience, we often become unconsciously aware of information,
only to later become actively aware of what we have known unconsciously for some
time. Says a few nights before you are planning to leave on a car trip, you have
a disturbing dream. You are on a highway heading off to some mountains in the
distance, when suddenly the car swerves and fishtails. You barely miss having an
accident. In the dream, you were aware that one of your tires had gone bad, and
this was the cause for loss of control. Because of this dream, the next day you
inspect your tires. Much to your surprise, you find that one of your tires is
indeed bald. Was the dream portentous? Was it a communication from a guardian
angel? Perhaps, but another explanation is that, at some point in the past, you
became aware unconsciously that the car was steering poorly at high speeds. Or
perhaps you noticed the tire one morning when you entered the car but didn't
devote any thought to it then. As you began to anticipate your trip, this
significant detail of information became represented in a dream. Thus you became
actively aware of information you were already aware of inactively.
In another illustration, you see one of your coworkers at your desk one
morning. You do not notice anything awry. You speak with your coworker briefly,
and accomplish the tasks of the morning. That night, however, you have a vivid
dream that your coworker is in a fight with his lover. The following day, you
tell your coworker of the dream and express concern for their relationship. Much
to your surprise, you learn that your dream identified your coworker's situation
precisely. Are you psychic? Maybe, but an equally plausible explanation is that
you perceived something wrong the previous morning. During that brief encounter,
you may have recognized emotional stress and even succeeded in identifying the
source. But while you absorbed this information, at the time you were concerned
only with whatever work detail brought you together. The information you held
unconsciously made the transit from inactive to active awareness through a
In yet another example, you meet someone only casually at a party. Later you
dream of being romantically involved with that person. The dreams takes you by
surprise. You think, "I met this person only once, and I never even thought
about him (or her) again." But apparently that's not true. When you think
it over, you admit that you did find the person attractive.
Or maybe an old friend comes to town, and you spend a night out on the town
together. You have dinner and some drinks, and later visit a nightclub. The
following week you dream your friend is arrested for driving while intoxicated.
You make some casual inquiries and find out that your friend actually has been
having problems with alcohol. You didn't notice it the night you went out, but
maybe at the time you were giving your friend the benefit of the doubt.
While the idea of unconscious awareness appears paradoxical at first, as you
become more familiar with dreams, you will be more comfortable with the concept.
You'll find that dreams are frequent conveyers of information between our
conscious and unconscious awarenesses. This is the primary reason why,
throughout time, dreams have been considered valuable psychologically: They
reveal our unconscious awarenesses.
Do dreams really show us things we do not already know? The answer is
twofold. Dreams show us that there are two stores of knowledge within our mind.
Consciousness contains everything we are actively aware of, while the
unconscious--and this is the tricky part--contains everything else we are also
aware of. The mystery is how we can maintain unconscious awarenesses without
being aware of this knowledge at the conscious level. At this point, however, we
should be able to overcome our conscious bias enough to recognize that
unconscious awarenesses are as valid as are conscious ones.
Dreams do not show us things we do not know. In fact, precisely the opposite
is true. Indeed, the revelatory capacity of dreams attests to the fact that at
some level in our beings, we must already know whatever it is that our dreams
are reflecting. Accordingly, the real question to ask of dream experience is
whether we are aware yet, on the conscious level, of the knowledge that dreams
For example, in the dream of the unfaithful lover and the sinking ship, if we
examine the sequence of events, at some point we much acknowledge that prior to
the dream, our dreamer was already aware that her lover was being unfaithful.
This awareness is what gives rise to the construction of the foreboding dream.
The distinction in this case is whether she allowed this awareness to become
conscious--whether she allowed herself to feel this unconsciously possessed
awareness. In the above circumstance, we said that our dreamer did not allow
herself to become actively aware of this suspicion (prior to her dream) because,
quite simply, she did not want to become aware of it. Even though she was aware
of the infidelity at an unconscious level, she avoided acknowledging or
addressing this gut feeling, sixth sense, intuition, or nervousness--or however
else this awareness manifested itself during waking experience. To have
acknowledged her suspicions would have been painful, so she resisted its
becoming part of her active awareness. In simpler terms, she saw what she wanted
to see and she did not see consciously what she did not want to see. Yet as her
dream shows, her unconscious awareness of the infidelity persisted.
The search for the conscious center continues next issue with the work of
If you can't wait, you can stop by my Web site for a Full Chapter Summary of
_Stop Sleeping Through Your Dreams_. If you would like more on this, my book is
published by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Publication Date: December 27th, 1995.
0-8050-2500-6 $22.50, cloth. Contact: Robin Jones, (212) 886-9270
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