Electric Dreams

An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange

Sleep Paralysis:
If You Can't Avoid its Occurrence, Can You Change the Experience?

Lucy Gillis

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Gillis, Lucy (2005 January). Sleep Paralysis: If You Can't Avoid its Occurrence,
Can You Change the Experience?
(An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange, Lucy Gillis, Editor.) Electric Dreams 12(1).

Sleep paralysis (SP) -- a normal, natural, part of the sleep cycle is largely an unknown phenomenon in today's culture. Let's face it, most people are not really interested in the mechanics of the human sleep cycle. During SP (that part of the sleep cycle when all but your eyes are paralyzed during the REM state) the individual is usually unconscious, fast asleep. However, sometimes consciousness can arise during sleep paralysis, so that the individual is conscious, believing himself to be awake, though his body is still paralyzed.

But this awareness, though it can feel like your everyday waking consciousness, is not fully awake in the sense that we consider everyday awareness in waking reality. In the "awareness during sleep paralysis" condition the individual can experience visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations; in other words, dream-like phenomena. Awareness during sleep paralysis may never occur to most individuals; once or twice in a lifetime to some, more frequently for others and, chronically -- nearly all the time -- for yet others. Some people learning to lucid dream or to have out-of-body experiences, will sometimes find themselves in this state. But because they are familiar with (and have an interest in) dreams, they can usually recognize the visual, auditory, and/or tactile hallucinations as "dream stuff."

Lucid dreamers, in particular those first learning to lucid dream, use techniques to help program themselves to recognize when they are dreaming. Lucid and non-lucid dreams can be incubated, (programmed) usually with the use of suggestion, repetition, intent, expectation, etc., with excellent results. Many psychologists suggest the use of lucid dreaming to help nightmare sufferers. They encourage their patients to learn to lucid dream so that they can either confront the "monsters in their dreams", conquer them, diminish them, understand them, transform them, etc. This also has proven to have very good results.

So, if we can influence our dream experiences by incubation techniques and suggestion, then it stands to reason that the dream-like qualities (hallucinations) seen and felt during "awareness during sleep paralysis" might also be influenced by similar techniques. I'm not talking about trying to induce the "awareness during sleep paralysis" phenomenon, rather, why not try to program, or at least influence, the accompanying experience?

For instance, if an individual, unaware of the sleep paralysis phenomenon, suddenly experiences it, he may find it to be a very frightening event. If the process continues over time, becomes more frequent, the individual may come to associate that experience with fearful imagery, noises, sensations, etc. so that these phenomena are then expected to occur when SP awareness occurs. In effect, the individual conditions, or programs, his mind to create these fearful experiences when sleep paralysis is felt. In effect, he is doing what dream workers do when they want specific dreams: he is practicing dream incubation, programming his mind for a particular kind of dreaming experience.

What if this individual were to change his expectations and beliefs? Easier said than done perhaps, when one has been suffering sleep paralysis for years. But why not try anyway? What would he lose? For most healthy, normal, individuals this may be one way to reduce the anxiety associated with SP. (For those with mental illness, depression, anxiety disorders, insomnia, etc. it is strongly advised to seek professional medical advice before trying this or any similar task.)

Perhaps by "reprogramming" his expectations, beliefs, etc. the individual would be able to effectively create neutral, or at best even pleasant dream-like experiences to occur during SP. If successful, the individual might eventually move beyond his fear and may decide to use the sleep paralysis state to an advantage. He may decide to use the SP state as a means to induce lucid dreams. For in effect, the sleep paralysis "sufferer" already has an edge that lucid dreamers strive for -- awareness during sleep.

When the individual discovers he's in SP, instead of struggling to wake up, he could attempt to go deeper into sleep, into the dream state, maintaining his lucidity. From there, he could go on to wonderful, exciting, lucid dream adventures. He could even attempt to continue to program his dreaming consciousness while still in the dream state, to create positive, pleasant SP experiences, or even to minimize or rid the awareness during sleep paralysis occurrence. (Sounds contradictory doesn't it? Programming yourself to use the SP condition to initiate lucid dreaming, and then using the lucid dreaming state to program yourself to not have awareness during SP!!)

You may not achieve your desired results overnight (then again, maybe you can!!). Remember that each person's SP experiences, interpretations (of the event), and history are unique. Not everyone will proceed in the same way, or have the same results. But I do believe that with determination and focus, and by changing your beliefs, thoughts, and expectations about SP, and by using suggestion (or any technique you are comfortable with) that you can program yourself for a different, positive, experience. You might then even use the sleep paralysis state itself as a gateway into lucid dreaming, where you can continue your dreaming adventures in a more pleasant, productive, and joyful way.

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