Geo Bell 9/5/2017
A prospective investigation into lucid dream induction is on the horizon
Lucid dream induction refers to any means which increase the likelihood of experiencing a lucid dream. These methods may be broadly categorised into cognitive techniques (mental exercises such as MILD), dream aids (including electronic devices) and the supplement or LDS approach. As is expected in this internet age, the vast majority of oneironauts now learn to lucid dream online, through online tutorials, forums, websites and forums. Countless techniques circulate online communities, with new methods making an appearance all the time. Most novel techniques which gain traction experience a brief spotlight, before fizzling out into the archives. However, as is the case with FILD and SSILD, a selection of relatively novel techniques develop a rather strong following, with many oneironauts swearing by their chosen method. To say that scientific enquiry into these new, popular techniques is lacking, would be an understatement. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that they do not work effectively.
Unfortunately, investigation into the efficacy of induction techniques is lacking. In a 2012 systematic review of the published evidence on lucid dreaming induction, Stumbrys and colleagues conclude that none of the techniques studied induced lucidity reliably and consistently, however many appeared promising. While there is no arguing that a ‘foolproof’ technique has yet to be devised (should such a thing exist!) the general consensus is that power lies in the combination of multiple techniques - just think of the WBTB + MILD dreamteam!
Perhaps the key to progress lies not only in the mixing and matching of current techniques. Perhaps, by prying apart the most promising techniques, using objective evidence to guide the formulation of new, superior methods, we might inch a little closer to that dream technique. At the very least, the Open Lucidity project promises to provide refreshing new insights to researchers and oneironauts, who have relatively few studies to draw upon, and a plethora of disorganised, and often times questionable online anecdotal evidence.
To find out more about the Open Lucidity project, I pinched psychologists Peter and Joachim for an interview.
Could you tell us a little about yourselves?
We are psychologists from Germany, and have been working on this project for about two years. Our interest in lucid dreaming started out of personal experiences and was deepened by our studies. For the last few years, we have read many books on this and similar topics and are in touch with recent scientific findings. Our passion resulting from personal lucid dream experiences is the primary engine that drives this project.
Could you tell us more about how you became interested in lucid dreaming?
Peter: When I was a child, I was very afraid of the dark. Nearly every time I went to sleep, I had many vivid nightmares that took place in my own room. At some point during my childhood, I suddenly realised that I could influence the dream scenario and alter the nightmare into a pleasant dream. I also somehow figured out how to enter lucid dreaming directly after waking up in the middle of the night. Now I know that the phenomenon I have experienced is generally called “sleep paralysis” and a common method for wake induced lucid dreams. Practicing Zen meditation and the bodyscan on daily basis help me to intensify my lucid dreaming experiences. I am a frequent lucid dreamer and my current favourite techniques are WILD techniques.
Joachim: I have been practicing relaxation techniques for many years. It started out as a tool for falling asleep, but became a tool for leading a better life. Experiencing the meditative state made me curious for other altered states of consciousness. So it was a happy coincidence when I met Peter at university. It was not hard for him to get me interested in lucid dreaming. Unlike him however, I am not a frequent lucid dreamer. I think there are many promising approaches, but differences in experience and personality might require fine-tuning of techniques on an individual basis. Lucid dreaming fascinates me, but I do see the need for rigorous experimentation to separate personal preference from what actually works.
What do you think the future holds for lucid dreaming?
Lucid dreaming is a research topic with many things to discover. As psychologists, we are primary interested in the integration of this method in the context of psychotherapy (e.g. anxiety and PTSD). If there were a reliable way to induce lucid dreams, this fascinating state could be used to improve many areas of life. People could use lucid dreaming to become creative or to fulfil their deepest wishes. The phenomenon of lucid dreaming gives us the opportunity to create a simulation of reality. We think that the understanding of this phenomenon will help us to get closer to the understanding of how consciousness really works.
Why the Open Lucidity project?
It all started with seeing devices claiming to be able to induce lucid dreaming. At this moment, we could already say that these devices are nothing new, rather remakes of already existing and questionable approaches. It bothered us a lot that there was nearly zero objective data available on these approaches. Many devices claimed to be the best induction method, but how did they know so? We wanted to change that. We wanted to figure out the most reliable lucid dream induction technique and generate objective data as proof for what really works. Since different inductions techniques are described differently in their phenomenology, we thought that it could be interesting to look at the neurophysiology while performing these techniques. We think that there is more than one neurophysiological marker for successful lucid dream induction, depending on the used induction technique, and that individual differences in brain physiology should also be considered.
Your plans for the future?
If successfully funded, our work will be summarised in scientific papers and published in free journals. We have many other hypotheses and approaches that we want to investigate, but to do so, we first need a good basis for lucid dream induction. In the coming months, we will meet interesting people from different professions who are also lucid dreamers and want to be part of this project.
To make this project real we need all the support that we can get. Crowdfunding is backbreaking work, especially in such an innovative field that only a few people can relate to. Help us to reach our funding goal, support it, even with a small amount. Spread this project to your friends, the more people we get the better!
We are very excited what happens next. Thank you for your support!
Thanks to Peter and Joachim for taking the time for this interview.
You can support the Open Lucidity project on the official Experiment page
Stumbrys, T., Erlacher, D., Schädlich, M. and Schredl, M. (2012) "Induction of lucid dreams: A systematic review of evidence", Consciousness and Cognition, 21(3), pp. 1456-1475.