Lucid dreaming is a fun activity that anyone can learn. It also has many real world benefits. But, many people are worried that if they learn to lucid dream they may somehow be in danger. The most common concern associated with lucid dreaming is dying in the real world because you die in the dream. Is there any basis of fact in this worry? Can you die in a lucid dream?
While you can die in a lucid dream as part of the dream, this will have no effect on your physical sleeping body. Lucid dreams cannot kill you. Dying in a lucid dream has no effect on your body other than causing it to wake up. However, dying in a lucid dream can have some unwanted effects on the mind.
The truth about dying in a lucid dream
There are a lot of misconceptions about lucid dreaming. These stem mainly from the film Inception where the protagonist’s wife gets confused between real life and the dreamworld. Although a similar, but much less intense and non-dangerous, phenomenon can happen with false awakenings (as I covered in this article), you cannot get lost in dream nor will you become confused between reality and the dreamworld.
When it comes to dying in the dreamworld there are even more misconceptions and these usually stem from films like A Nightmare on Elm Street. When the villain of the film, Freddy Krueger, kills someone in their dreams they die in real life.
Although a very fun and entertaining film that was a blockbuster hit this movie has zero basis in reality as far as dreams are concerned. Anything that happens in the dreamworld will have no effect on your sleeping body.
If you die in a lucid dream, or a regular dream, you will not die in real life.
The subconscious mind of the dreamer is well aware that the person is experiencing a dream and that everything which is occurring is happening within the mind. But, even if the subconscious mind did believe that what was happening in the dream was real life it couldn’t replicate the dream world events that cause your death in the real world – for example, it can’t manifest a truck in your bedroom so it hits you and kills you!
In reality your subconscious mind, which creates the dream world and all the dream characters (even in a lucid dream), has only one job to do and that is to keep you safe. So, it is not going to try to kill you just because you have a bad dream.
Can getting hurt in a lucid dream cause you physical harm?
There is no physical harm that can come to you from dreaming whether the dreams be regular or lucid.
There is a belief among many people that if you hurt your body during a lucid dream it will result in some form of visible physical evidence, or even damage, to your real body. This is simply not true. I blame this belief on misconceptions about hypnosis. Let me explain.
Hypnosis is a powerful tool that can be used for many positive things and it is also a great entertainment tool. However, there are many misconceptions about the real power of hypnosis. For example, not everyone can be put into such a deep trance that they believe everything the hypnotist tells them – only about 5 – 10% of the population are highly suggestible. But it is because of these people that many misconceptions about hypnosis exist.
There are urban legends and myths about the abilities of hypnotists. For example, when a hypnotized subject (i.e. people from the 5 – 10% of the population that can go into this type of deep trance) is told that he/she is being scalded by hot water his/her body will mysteriously start to develop burn wounds. Likewise, a particular stage hypnotist is known touching his subject’s skin with the tip of an ordinary pen while telling the subject that he is touching them with a red hot skewer and soon afterwards they develop a blister in that spot.
Is this real? Can hypnosis really do this?
This is a result of stage trickery only. It is done purely for entrainment purposes. Hypnosis cannot do this and does not have the power to effect the body is this way.
Are you doubtful?
Well, imagine the lawsuits that would entail if a hypnotist really burned an unsuspecting person on stage during every one of his shows! He would be broke, and owing a lot of money, in short order. It’s all just trickery for entertainment purposes.
However, the myth that hypnosis can be used to harm a person is still prevalent and this is one of the reasons people believe lucid dreams can harm the dreamer.
People who have never been hypnotized think that everyone has the same experience in trance as the 5 – 10% of the population that can go into such deep states of trance that they believe everything the hypnotists tells them and they see things that are not there. They don’t. Most people just become very relaxed and super mentally focused. And, it has been shown, that even those 5 – 10% of highly suggestible people will not follow the hypnotists instructions if it violates their values or puts themselves or others in danger.
The myths that hypnosis can control the mind and body are just that – myths. The same is true of lucid dreaming as I will show you.
Unfortunately, as most people still think hypnosis can affect the body to do harm, the reasoning goes that if hypnosis can do this then the same effects will come from a lucid dream where everything in the dream also feels real and the dreamer sees things that are not really there just like a hypnotized subject does. This is one misconception being used to fuel another!
Just as hypnosis cannot cause physical harm to your body neither can a lucid dream.
No matter what befalls you in a lucid dream, from dying to simply cutting your finger, it will have no effect on your sleeping body. Injuries sustained in the dreamworld will have no effect on your physical body whatsoever.
Although a lucid dream feels just as real as your waking everyday world feels, everything that is happening is occurring within your mind.
So, we now know that lucid dreaming cannot affect your body in the real world as everything is happening in your mind, but what about your waking mind? Can lucid dreaming effect your mind in the real world?
How dying in a lucid dream affects your mind
As we have seen dying in a lucid dream will not kill you in the real world. Likewise, getting harmed in a lucid dream (or even a regular dream for that matter) will have no effect on your physical body in the real world either.
However, it can affect your mind.
Everything in a lucid dream feels real. Everything!
So, obviously if you die in a lucid dream it will feel real to you. Of course you do not know what it feels like to die as you’ve never done it before (or don’t remember it, if you believe in reincarnation) but your mind will simulate an experience that is as close to death as it understands it.
This can be a traumatic experience for some people. Though, rather than the death itself being traumatic the events that lead up to the event are what tend to cause the trauma.
If you experience dying in a lucid dream the strong emotions that accompany the dream death will no doubt be carried with you into the waking world. This can be upsetting.
Have you ever tried to shake off a particularly bad nightmare? Even though you know it was just a dream it still haunts you? Well imagine how much more those emotions would feel when they are generated from a lucid dream where the events were less dream-like and much more real-world like. You can see how this could become a problem.
Luckily, there are ways to deal with these upsets.
I covered how to deal with this type of problem in a previous post about dealing with emotional upsets from lucid nightmares.
If you are worried about developing a form of trauma from experiencing death in a lucid dream, or you have experienced something similar in the past, I suggest you try the exercises in an advanced lucid dreaming course so you can gain full and complete control over your dream experience to ensure this never happens again.
A similar phenomenon to carrying strong emotions out of the dreamworld into reality are bad memories.
I covered the subject of false memories previously and although they connected to bad memories from dying in a dream, these type of memories are slightly different and require a different approach for dealing with them. Obviously, you know that the memory of dying in the dream is not real (unlike a false memory) but that will not make the memory feel any less real.
The best way to deal with upsetting memories, like the memory of a dream death, is to continually tell yourself that what you are remembering never really happened and was just a dream. Also use the following simple technique to help dissociate yourself from the negative dream memory.This technique may be simple but it is extremely powerful.
Bring the memory of your dream death (or any other bad dream memory) to mind and notice how you are interacting with that memory. Are you are seeing it through your own eyes?
Change the perspective of the memory so that you are looking at the events unfolding as a spectator – seeing yourself and your body in the scene rather than seeing the scene through your own eyes.
Restrict the memory to no more than about 30 seconds of moving imaginary. Just the last 30 seconds of the memory should be enough or you can use a point in the memory that causes the most upset for you. We do this so you can loop the memory in your mind. Keeping it to 30 seconds stops your mind from wandering off onto other things while you loop the scenario and just makes the process easier to repeat.
Now put a box around the image – like a television set or movie theater screen. Drain all the color from the images inside the box. See the memory as a 30 second black and white movie clip.
Now shrink the movie.
Run that 30- second movie clip in mind a few times and you will find that it will begin to lose its emotional charge.
To convince yourself that this works start the entire process by first remembering the dream normally and giving the emotional charge on it a number from 1 to 10. With 10 being the most upsetting.
Then run the memory in the way I described above once or twice. Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly.
Now check again what the number is that is associated with the memory. 99 times out of 100 it will have reduced.
Keep running the memory in the new way as a 30 second black and white small movie clip until the number goes down to a low digit and the memory has less charge, or no charge, over you.
You may also want to take a break from lucid dreaming for a while just to allow your mind to process what happened and to give yourself some “breathing space”. Follow the instructions in the article how to stop lucid dreaming for ways to do this.
Below are a few bullet points highlighting the main concepts covered in this article.
- Forget a nightmare on Elm Street. Lucid dreaming cannot kill you.
- Forget and Inception. You will not get confused between reality and the dream world.
- If you die in a lucid dream you will not die in the real world.
- If you hurt your body in a lucid dream it will have no effect on your real physical body laying asleep in your bed.
- Anything that happens in a lucid dream stays in the lucid dream!
- You can experience some emotional and mental after-effects of dying in a lucid dream if you found the experience very upsetting. Follow the information given above for dealing with this and then just go back to enjoying your lucid dreams.
- Lucid dreaming can affect reality but only in very specific ways. You will never get physically hurt no matter what happens in your lucid dream!