Alive ♥


  • Lucid Dreaming: Awake in Your Sleep?
What could it mean to be conscious in your dreams? For most of us, dreaming is something quite separate from normal life. When we wake up from being chased by a ferocious tiger, or seduced by a devastatingly good-looking Nobel Prize winner we realize with relief or disappointment that “it was only a dream.”Yet there are some dreams that are not like that. Lucid dreams are dreams in which you know at the time that you are dreaming. That they are different from ordinary dreams is obvious as soon as you have one. The experience is something like waking up in your dreams. It is as though you “come to” and find you are dreaming.Lucid dreams used to be a topic within psychical research and parapsychology. Perhaps their incomprehensibility made them good candidates for being thought paranormal. More recently, however, they have begun to appear in psychology journals and have dropped out of parapsychology—a good example of how the field of parapsychology shrinks when any of its subject matter is actually explained.Lucidity has also become something of a New Age fad. There are machines and gadgets you can buy and special clubs you can join to learn how to induce lucid dreams. But this commercialization should not let us lose sight of the very real fascination of lucid dreaming. It forces us to ask questions about the nature of consciousness, deliberate control over our actions, and the nature of imaginary worlds.
  • Waking Up

The oddest thing about lucid dreams— and, to many people who have them, the most compelling—is how it feels when you wake up. Upon waking up from a normal dream, you usually think, “Oh, that was only a dream.” Waking up from a lucid dream is more continuous. It feels more real, it feels as though you were conscious in the dream. Why is this? I think the reason can be found by looking at the mental models the brain constructs in waking, in ordinary dreaming, and in lucid dreams.I have previously argued that what seems real is the most stable mental model in the system at any time. In waking life, this is almost always the input-driven model, the one that is built up from the sensory input. It is firmly linked to the body image to make a stable model of “me, here, now.” It is easy to decide that this represents “reality” while all the other models being used at the same time are “just imagination” (Blackmore 1988).Now consider an ordinary dream. In that case there are lots of models being built but no input-driven model. In addition there is no adequate selfmodel or body image. There is just not enough access to memory to construct it. This means, if my hypothesis is right, that whatever model is most stable at any time will seem real. But there is no recognizable self to whom it seems real. There will just be a series of competing models coming and going. Is this what dreaming feels like?Finally, we know from research that in the lucid dream there is higher arousal. Perhaps this is sufficient to construct a better model of self. It is one that includes such important facts as that you have gone to sleep, that you intended to signal with your eyes, and so on. It is also more similar to the normal waking self than those fleeting constructions of the ordinary dream. This, I suggest, is what makes the dream seem more real on waking up. Because the you who remembers the dream is more similar to the you in the dream. Indeed, because there was a better model of you, you were more conscious.If this is right, it means that lucid dreams are potentially even more interesting than we thought. As well as p

roviding insight into the nature of sleep and dreams, they may give clues to the nature of consciousness itself.

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