Electric Dreams

An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange
Lucy Gillis, Editor

An Interview with Suzanne Wiltink

Robert Waggoner

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Waggoner, Robert (2006 August). Dreamspeak: An Interview with Suzanne Wiltink.
(An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange, Lucy Gillis, Editor.) Electric Dreams 13(8).

In this month’s Excerpt, Robert Waggoner interviews accomplished lucid dreamer, Suzanne Wiltink.

Robert: I met lucid dreamer, Suzanne Wiltink, at the IASD conference in Copenhagen two years ago, and was very impressed with her lucid dreaming skills and thoughts about lucid dreaming. Suzanne is on break from her study of clinical psychology at the University of Nijmegen, where her fields of interest are traumatic experiences and consciousness.

Robert: So Suzanne, how long have you been lucid dreaming? Please tell us about your first lucid dream.

The first lucid dream I had that I can remember was in 1994. At that time, I didn't have any special interest in dreams whatsoever, though I did write down a few of them, including this lucid experience:

I dreamt that I was walking down a street in my home town, and that I saw a man running towards me, suited in black with two white stripes on the side of his pants. I was afraid and was thinking about the warning words my mother used to say to me. "Don't go alone on the streets at night...you might get kidnapped, raped or murdered!" So I turned around to rush home, but suddenly out of the blue, I realised I was dreaming.

I decided to use my imagination and creativity, I wanted to confront and overcome this fear that my mother had instilled in me. So I turned around. The man was already out of sight. I shouted 'Joehoe!!!' and started to wave with my hands in the direction in which the man had vanished, completely sure of myself. But...the man in black didn't appear, so I started to wonder...what was wrong? Didn't I create this scary man? Isn't he part of my thoughts? If I 'dream' that he will reappear to talk to me, than that should happen - right?

I thought I might have acted a little bit too impulsively and the fear came back...this time much bigger. I started to run like crazy to my house, thinking, "You're not dreaming at all, silly!" I went into the house, closed the doors, windows and put the curtains down. I didn't speak because I was afraid the man might hear me. I was lying down and falling asleep when suddenly my sister said, "Dad there's a man in front of the door!".

In reality I then woke up and was relieved when I saw my sister sleeping, but also astonished that I fooled myself in the dream.

Robert: Did that lucid dream change how you viewed dreaming?

From that moment on, I became more interested in writing down my dreams and occasionally I would talk to friends about them. One of them, Marco, told me that this was called a lucid dream. Although it was a new experience for me, I didn't have a clue that I could actually do something with it. But the concept of a lucid dream stayed in the back of my head. Then, in 1999, it popped back into my life. I had a lucid dream that made a great impact on me:

I was having a dream of some friendly people in a room, which had a kind of 'tent' in the middle. Oddly, the tent was fluorescent green, and light was coming out of it. There was a nude young man inside, I could see the shape of his body, and there was the sound of electricity coming from this tent and it smelled like ozone. The young man shouted, "It's amazing!"

I was quite curious and the people asked me if I would like to try it also. I was enthusiastic and approached the tent, which suddenly seemed more like a box with some sort of screen that looked as if one could go through it. I was told to undress and put on a special suit in order to protect me. I noticed I had these strange tattoos on my foot with triangles and a stripe, which would light up if I would go inside, so my foot had to be covered as well.

I asked what I should do then, and they replied that I could create anything that I wanted. So I jumped into the screen and shouted, "I'm going to have a lucid dream!!" I jumped through the screen and my body 'vanished', meaning that I could feel my 'body' but it was different than how it feels to me in real life, and I could see it if I wanted it, but if not, it was invisible. I remember that it all felt very real and vivid, as if my senses were more alert. At first I tried some Kung Fu and Jiu Jitsu, fighting some Chinese guy for fun. But it wasn't as spectacular as I'd hoped for and I got bored, so moved on. I thought I could try to have sex, but I didn't know who to think of having sex with, because I thought it wouldn't be fair to this person in real life if I would try that without asking permission. I moved on and I went to an open area where there was a music festival but I thought there wasn't much to see, so I asked a person walking there were I could find '(dream) space'. He evaded my question so I went on.

I went down a street and saw a really strange creature, which I accidentally touched when I moved by. A very nasty feeling went through me when that happened, and I concluded that it was an evil being. He reminded me of the bodiless creature called 'Azazal', from a movie I once saw, starring Denzal Washington. In my dream he looked like a strange dark cloud and he had a muilkorf (muzzle) over his head. This being spotted me and was going after me. It somehow forced me to go down a set of stairs, I walked backwards, the stairs ended up in some sort of bar with hazy people, criminals and hookers. When I went down, other people were going up and down the stairs and I was surprised that some of them noticed me, others did not. I also had the feeling that I had been there before. The creature didn't follow me any more, but two of his helpers did. One of them came really close to me, and 'touched' me; it felt like an electric shock, extremely unpleasant, which made me decide to create another dreamscape, because I didn't have to be there. Then another dreamscape appeared and the lucidity vanished.

Robert: Amazing! So what was it about these early lucid dreams that intrigued you?

I think my dream life has evolved gradually because of experiences like these. As I said, the first lucid dream made me interested in keeping up a dream journal, because I had the feeling that something more was going on there. When Marco told me about the existence of lucid dreams, I had some understanding of what he was talking about, because I could relate it to my dream about the man in black.

The second lucid dream feels like a gift to me, which pointed the way to this 'new world' I was entering. It raised many questions, that later turned out to be a drive or intention for me to have more lucid dreams and explore the potential of them. Questions like how can I get lucid the next time, why did it end, and how can I prolong it? What kind of body was I experiencing when being lucid, what is that body made of and what can I do with it? Does there exist other worlds or dimensions, or is it purely imagery from my own mind? How could it be that some dream persons were aware of my presence and others not; what does this say? Are there moral and ethical boundaries when being lucid?

Robert: In the beginning, how did you become lucid? Did you have any special techniques? Has that changed over the years?

I surfed the internet and looked up some books to find out about techniques that other people use to induce lucid dreams. For instance: I tried to ask myself a few times a day, "Is this a dream?" - hoping that I would encourage that critical observation in my dreams, too. I tried to re-enter a dream when I woke up in the morning, telling myself I would dream the same thing, but now knowing that I was dreaming. I tried to look at my hands as a signal that I was dreaming (as in Casteneda's book). None of these things worked for me.

Then I read somewhere that if lucid, I could ask a dream character to alert me the next time I was dreaming and that they would usually be loyal to their promises. I had a funny lucid dream about this:

I was lucid and saw this man, I asked for his name and he replied "Otto". As planned I asked, "Can you warn me the next time I'm dreaming?" He immediately replied, "No!" I was really surprised and asked him, "Why not?" Then, Otto said, "Because this is real...."

Whether or not the response is true, I saw my own ambivalent thoughts about the reality of lucid dreams reflected in it. Though I call them 'dreams', to me, they ARE real.

I also tried reality checks like jumping in the air. If I would float, this would assure me that I was dreaming. This works for me, but only when there was already some lucidity, otherwise I couldn't even come up with the idea of jumping. I also created my own reality checks while dreaming, but my mind is good in fooling me. One time I became a bit lucid and stated, "If this is a dream, then in 10 seconds a dream character will appear." I started counting, but it was extremely difficult to do so; I never got to 10! Another time I asked a dream character, "If this was a dream, what would you do?" But this person couldn't come up with anything either, and 'poof!' my little bit of lucidity was gone. This is why I always keep a list of things I want to explore when I might get lucid. It also told me that I have to be careful and specific about how I formulate my goal or intention.

Another reality check I read about was turning on the light switch; if the light doesn't turn on, this would be a signal that I'm dreaming. Well, just like Otto, I think whether or not reality checks work for you, depends on the way you define reality. In my real life, it happened often enough that a light got broken. It didn't help me to discriminate between different states of reality. And here lies the key in the way I become lucid nowadays. And as a matter a fact, it is in exactly the same way as my second lucid showed me already, but what I hadn't grasped at the time. There was this screen which appeared as a border between the dream I was in and the lucid dream I was entering. Going through this screen gave me a bodily sensation or transition, if I might say so. The sensation of going from 'thick and dense' into something 'lighter and elevated', or in other words from a state of 'form' into a state of 'formlessness/'shape-able' became my trigger. Now, I can 'feel' in my dream in the imagery, whether or not there's the possibility to 'shift'.

In my dream journal, I would write, "I feel that I can become lucid" or "it feels permeable." In waking life I think there are also many states of consciousness, and that it is possible to find a suitable way for each person to learn to alter between these different states. I use meditation and shamanic journeys to become more aware of transitions in my consciousness. Practicing this way of discriminating between states, automatically increased the number of lucid dreams I had. I think that our 'dreambody' can also be aware in waking life.

Robert: For me, I often visually can tell that the dream looks "dreamy" and become lucid, but you might be the first person to mention kinesthetic feelings prompting lucidity. As you had more lucid dreams, did you have any surprising lucid experiences?

When I write down a lucid dream, I also try to formulate statements about what I've experienced. Even though the lucid dream is short, or seems insignificant at first. I use these statements as hypotheses when I look over my lucid dreams and think about the lucid dream state. If I can, I try to test them or use them as an affirmation in future lucid dreams.

In one dream I was lucid and wanted to visit a friend, he lives 100 km away. I was flying through the sky and it took a long time, so I decided to land on a house and affirm that this house would be the place where he would be. And it was. The statement that I wrote down was: "There is no distance, you must imagine it and you're there." This way I have collected a bunch of statements (or lucid dream hypotheses), and the main thing that I took from them so far is that for me, belief and intention seem useful 'tools'. If I firmly believe something to happen, the effects seem more manifest in the lucid dreams. Having a clear intention seems to give me a kind of confidence that I'll become lucid if I want to and can learn something in the lucid dream world, and that it will unfold in the direction of my intention.

I like that idea of really looking at one's lucid dream and trying to pull possible meanings about lucid dreaming and the dream state from that experience. For example, we normally assume that our dream characters are the products of our dreaming mind - as you did in your first lucid dream. Have you ever had an encounter, where the dream character seemed to be independent of you?

In my second lucid dream where I was confronted with this Azazal and his helpers, I assume that the characters were independent of me because of the bad feeling I got when I passed by and the electric shock that I got. It's hard for me to explain, but it didn't feel as if it is was generated from within myself, it didn't feel like the same 'substance' as the images I was creating and the characters that dwell therein (which I consider to be a product of my own mind).

Also, I had a very strange lucid dream once where there appeared a being with three wings on each side with eyes upon each wing, who spoke to me with a very penetrating voice. It felt like the words that it spoke were loaded with energy that is not mine. It said that I haven't been in touch with real evil. Which I interpreted as meaning that it is watching me, but that I will know it, when it is really there. This raises questions to me about 'protection' while dreaming lucid. Although I think that good and bad are relative, it is not to say that nothing unpleasant can happen in lucid dreams, just as in real life.

Robert: This issue of the "independence" or independent agency of some dream characters encountered in lucid dreams seems to come to all experienced lucid dreamers at some point. It's a complicated issue. Have you ever had any interesting lucid dream encounters with dream characters that gave you advice?

I have tended to see dream characters as aspects of myself that somehow relate to my 'core (sense of) self'. I once had a dream in which a girl committed suicide, and when I became lucid later on, I wanted to comfort a friend of this girl who died and told her that it was a dream so she wasn't really dead. This friend shouted, "No", then started crying and ran away. I think this might have something to do with a suppressed aspect of myself. So in that sense, it doesn't really surprise me that dream characters have knowledge and independent action.

I think aspects can be more or less conscious in our-selves and there's a diversity in the way these aspects can be integrated. I had a series of lucid dreams in which I kiss a dream character. I thought that kissing a dream character would be some kind of integration of psychological aspects/contents of my mind, and wanted to see what effect kissing dream characters would have on my lucidity. I expected it to increase. But the opposite occurred mostly. What this might say is something that I want to explore further, perhaps in exploring what different characters stand for. But perhaps there isn't really a connection between assimilation and absorption of dream images/energies and different levels of lucidity one can experience.

Robert: Your point that a suppressed aspect of our selves in the form of a dream character could seem to have independence is a good one and shows how complicated the lessons of lucidity might be. Have you tried any experiments in lucid dreaming? What did you learn?

I tried to visit people from real life, with different outcomes:

I wanted to meet S. I didn't know were to look, so I decided to enter the first house I saw. I was in a street and saw a house with a green wooden door and decided to enter. It's an old house which reminded me of an orphanage, around 1800-1900's. There are stones on the floor, a fire place, and wooden chairs. It's small and sober. There was no one downstairs so I went upstairs. Upstairs it was 'the current time'. I came in a room with a lot of beds next to each other with all kinds of men and women sleeping in them. Between these beds was no bed left for S. I was allowed to lie on a bed next to a tall man with dark hair and a Slavic appearance.

When I woke up I had several associations, the first floor reminded me of the first chakra and it made me think of loneliness, the second floor made me think of the second chakra and of sexual confusion. When I told S. about this dream, he said that he and his wife at one point in time were going to a meeting about Tantra, it was given by a man that fit the description I gave, and it was indeed in a former orphanage and had a green wooden door. He said that there were orgies taking place, he felt embarrassed talking about it, and that he had felt awful about it and didn't want to sleep there. I was astonished by these resemblances.

Also, I tried to visit you, Robert, several times. (Note: Suzanne and I had some interesting lucid dream experiences in which she sought to contact me, and I tried to learn unknown things about her, while lucid. - RW)

In other lucid dreams where I tried to visit people, it wasn't such a "hit" like the dream I just described. But the images did contain symbols that more or less meant something to the person I tried to visit. Although I must say, to some extent, they also applied to me, as well. So maybe I was picking up on something that we had in common.

Robert: Thanks for agreeing to an interview about lucid dreaming, your experiences and ideas. I have to say that when I saw you for the first time in Copenhagen, an inner sense within me just knew that you were an excellent lucid dreamer. Any parting thoughts or comments?

I underestimated the time I needed to translate from Dutch to English, but I really enjoyed answering these questions, since it made some of my ideas more insightful for me while writing about them.

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