Lucid dreaming is the experience of being fully conscious while dreaming. Lucid dreams offer the dreamer the ability to live out any fantasy in a real world environment that has unreal-world mechanics and but without the real world rules. But what causes this controlled dreaming phenomenon to occur and can we make it happen deliberately?
The main cause for a dreamer becoming lucid in a dream is conscious awareness that they are dreaming. Becoming aware that you are in a dream often leads to lucidity and is the main cause for lucid dreaming. The reason why some people naturally become consciously aware in a dream is still unknown. However, it is possible to train yourself to become aware that you are dreaming. Deliberate lucid dreams can have several causes, all of which can be learned.
What are lucid dreams and why do they happen?
Let’s take a look at exactly what lucid dreams are and what causes them.
By knowing the nature of lucid dreaming and the causes behind it, it is possible to stop them happening if you have them naturally and no longer want to have them. On the flip side, knowing what lucid dreams are and how they happen means you can also make them happen deliberately if you want to experience this unique state of sleep but have never done so before.
Even people who regularly and spontaneously lucid dream can benefit from learning techniques designed to induce this state of controlled dreaming as it will give them more control over when those type of dreams occur.
The nature of lucid dreams
The term lucid dreaming originally referred to the dream state in which the dreamer was merely aware that he/she was dreaming. The traditional use of the term lucid dreaming represented a level of consciousness where the dreamer became aware that they were not actually in the real world but merely experiencing a dream. It did not cover controlled dreaming, just dream awareness.
However, all living languages change with time and so it is no surprise that the meaning of the term lucid dreaming has changed over the decades.
The traditional meaning of the term lucid dreaming is no longer accurate for describing the phenomenon in modern times. The meaning of the term lucid dreaming has evolved to encompass a much more in-depth phenomenon and a much richer dream experience.
The modern meaning of the term lucid dreaming has changed from representing mere conscious awareness of dreaming to include a state in the dream where the dreamer actually has full conscious control over the dream. Lucid dreaming now means consciously controlled dreaming.
Having said that, lucid dreaming only occurs after the dreamer becomes consciously aware that he/she is dreaming.
To enter a lucid dream all you need do is realize that you are dreaming.
Becoming consciously aware that you are dreaming is the main cause behind lucid dreaming.
I will cover this concept deeper as we progress in this article as it is an important point, not just for realizing why lucid dreams happen, but for making them happen deliberately.
Lucid dreaming facts over fiction
While in a lucid dream not only is the dreamer fully aware and conscious of everything that is happening but the dreamer also has a large degree of control over the dream. He/she does not have ultimate control over the dreamworld however.
There is a misconception that a lucid dreamer has complete and ultimate control over the dreamworld as they sleep but this is somewhat inaccurate.
As the dreamer is not responsible for creating the dreamworld in the first place, they therefore cannot have full control over it.
This does not mean lucid dreamers cannot control their dreams though. It just means that there is a level of co-operation that goes within the dream between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.
Let me explain this.
The dance between the conscious and subconscious mind
It is the subconscious mind that creates the entire dreamworld. This dreamworld includes all the dream characters, the environment and everything else that exists in that world right down to the cracks in the road, the discarded waste on the streets or the cups and glasses on a cafe table and the people drinking from them.
Some lucid dream environments can be so involved and so detailed that it would be impossible for the conscious mind of the dreamer to create and develop that amount of detail and the type of world architecture that the dream displays.
A lucid dreamer has control over the shape and direction a dream takes but they do not fully control the dreamworld.
For example, a lucid dreamer can find that they are in Seattle when they become conscious during a dream and can then “will” themselves to be in San Francisco. Depending on how the lucid dreamer has been trained to change scenes, or how they do it naturally, the dreamworld will change from Seattle to San Francisco. However, as the dreamer has not consciously created either city in their dreams they have very little control over how those cities will look unless they will it to be so.
Likewise, many times a lucid dreamer will change a scene only to discover they are in the wrong part of the city from where they wanted to be or may even find themselves in the wrong time.
Of course it is easy enough to make a course correction and get to exactly where you want to be by merely willing it within the dream but the above examples show us that the dreamer is not in charge of the dreamworld. He/she is merely the director of the dream play. And, of course the main actor in it.
In a similar way the lucid dreamer may will the appearance of certain characters in their dream but they have much less control over how those characters will act and their personalities than you may think. Again, it is of course possible to will the other character to portray a personality and intent that you want them to through an act of will (or by merely asking the dream out loud to make the changes).
But trying to control every aspect of a dream while lucid is exhausting, and a never-ending and unwinnable battle.
So although you can do pretty much anything you want in a lucid dream you should always bear in mind that you as the dreamer, no matter how skilled in lucidity and how in control you are, are not the manufacturer of the dream. It is best to go with the flow and direct the nature of the dream rather than every nuance of it.
This shows us that lucid dreaming, although very much a conscious activity, is still created by the subconscious mind.
The subconscious mind causes lucid dreams!
The conscious mind directs them.
Lucid dreaming is a dance between the conscious mind, which directs the dream, and the subconscious mind, which creates it.
Lucid dreaming causes
Spontaneous lucid dreams seem to be a phenomenon that people first encounter in childhood and it may or may not continue into adulthood. The reasons for this are still unclear but we do know what happens in the brain when a lucid dream starts.
According to nature.com, in scientific terms lucid dreaming occurs due to increased connectivity between frontopolar cortex and temporoparietal association areas. It seems that specific activity within the brain occurs when a lucid dream begins but why this activity is triggered seems to less an activity of the brain and more an activity of the mind (no they aren’t the same thing).
Merely looking at the functions of the human brain don’t really help the layman understand exactly what is happening during a lucid dream and what has caused this phenomenon to happen in the first place. So let’s take a less brain-based view of lucid dreaming and look at it more from a mind-based point of view.
Basically during a lucid dream the dreamer will become suddenly conscious that he/she is dreaming. This is usually a half-conscious, slightly blurry state of recognition. At this point most people unfamiliar with lucid dreaming will simply allow their conscious mind to fall back into the dream. However, it is possible at this point of dream recognition to take control of the dream and become fully conscious in it.
At that point the dream world will suddenly become much more rich and the blurry state of conscious will become much more focused. The dreamworld around you instantly looks and feels like reality.
The full reasons why some people naturally and spontaneously become aware that they are dreaming, and thus become lucid, are still unknown.
However, it is possible to be the cause of a lucid dream yourself by training yourself to become aware that you are in a dream.
Why lucid dreams happen
Spontaneous and natural lucid dreams usually occur first in childhood. Many more children have lucid dreams spontaneously than adults do. Most children are completely unaware that this is not a common occurrence for everyone and only learn of the uniqueness later in life when they may have retained the ability to spontaneously lucid dream or lost it.
Although spontaneous lucid dreams do happen to some adults it is a much rarer phenomenon than it is with children. But, the good news is that any adult, regardless of age, can learn to cause lucid dreams to happen deliberately with just a little training. It does take dedication and a fair degree of practice to master this skill though.
There are specific lucid dreaming techniques that cause a dreamer to become aware that they are dreaming and, although it may seem counter-intuitive, all these techniques are performed in the wide-awake state rather than in the sleep state.
The first and main step to learning how to have, develop and then master, controlled dreaming is to teach your brain to recognize when you are dreaming. This is the only skill you need to develop initially in order to have a lucid dream.
It seems that when a dreamer becomes aware that they are in a dream they are naturally given the choice by the subconscious mind to become fully conscious in the dream or to merely slip back into unconsciousness.
Therefore to deliberately cause lucid dreams to occur you need to train your mind to recognize the signs that you are dreaming.
Getting to the stage where you can recognize a dream for what it is, a dream, can take anywhere from one day to several weeks, or even months in extreme cases, but research does show that anyone can learn how to do it and thus anyone can lucid dream.
Becoming aware that what is happening to you is a dream and not reality brings you to a mental crossroads where you can either become lucid or slip back into unrecognized dreaming. The choice is completely yours … so what are you waiting for? Be the cause of your own lucid dreams!
If you want to learn how to lucid dream be sure to check out our free lucid dreaming course here.