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Essay/Term paper: Lucid dreams: the first virtual reality

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Science Research Papers

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Lucid Dreams: The First Virtual Reality


Sean Pasinsky LibEd 316-2 5 Feb. 1997

For ages people have thought of dreams as curses or blessings that we
could not prevent nor manipulate. This "place" called our dreams has constantly
puzzled us, because it is here where all things are possible and seem to occur.
In our dreams we perform superhuman and wonderful feats that would normally be
impossible in the "awake world". We find the men or women of our dreams,
depending on our sexual orientation. While we dream, these wonderful things
become our temporary reality. Yet sometimes while dreaming we may experience the
most horrifying events imaginable, called nightmares. Everyone has their own
version of horror, my most terrifying nightmare has been where my family and
friends have been taken control of by evil monsters that cannot be stopped.
Rather than kill me they make me watch old 1970's television shows over and over.
For years, men have thought that there should be a way of preventing or
controlling these nightly events.

Humans must, like any animal, sleep. We do not fully understand why we
must sleep. We only know that if we are deprived of sleep long enough that we
will most certainly die. The same is true for dreams and dreaming(1). If we
sleep long enough we will reach an advanced stage of sleep where our body begins
to experience rapid eye movement (REM). It is during this REM period that we
experience most of our dreams. Many scientists try to speculate the reasons for
dreaming through biological our psychological means. This proves to be very
frustrating for someone trying to find empirical meaning and truth about his or
her dreams.

There are countless books written about dreams with just as many
different interpretations and meanings for specific dream references. For
psychics, astrologists, or psychologists who attempt to interpret dreams, there
are numerous factors that must be considered when endeavoring to find meaning in
a dream. Because of these numerous factors that contribute to the condition of
dreaming, many different paths have been created for exploration. From Freud's
sexual symbolism to the current random recollection theories diversity in dream
interpretation abounds. However, there is a way to dream and not be at the mercy
of your subconscious mind.

For the past ten years a bright psychologist at Stanford University, by
the name of Steven Laberge, has been studying dreams and the physiology of the
human body during the dream state. His research may sound commonplace if it
weren't for the added fact that he is training people to control their dreams.
His subjects are learning to become aware of their dream experience as it is
happening. Once they are aware of their dream they can simply take complete
command of their dream and can consciously cause anything to happen. To the
semi-conscious mind the experience is virtually identical to being awake. This
concept is nothing new, in fact many of us will experience at least one of these
dreams in our lifetime.

There are a variety of stimuli that he uses to induce this state of mind.
One method is playing a tape recording of the phrase "This is a dream" during
the sleeper's REM. He may also use conditioned tactile stimuli. Light, however,
appears to be the best stimulus means of providing an external cue to the
sleeper that they are dreaming. This is because environmental light seems to be
easily incorporated into dreams and, when properly conditioned, reminds dreamers
that they are dreaming(6). Use of a special light device has been promising: 55%
of 44 subjects had at least one lucid dream during one study(5). The
possibilities for human progression that this concept creates seem to have no

For years psychologists and others have sought to find a perfect semi-
conscious state of mind where a subject will have a strong link with their
subconscious and may even interact with an interviewer using this frame of mind.
Another name for this state of mind is called hypnosis. Although the "lucid"
state of mind that Dr. Laberge's patients experience is not completely conscious
or subconscious, they are still asleep, and the world that they are in is very
detailed and just as realistic as our waking world. That is what puzzles most
people who look into his research. Although not mentioned by Dr. Laberge in his
studies, I think that there is a definite opportunity for a great unlocking of
the secrets of the human mind.

Many practical applications exist for lucid dreaming. There are of
course the obvious, nightmare therapy, self-confidence enhancing, and general
mental health improvements, but there are so many more ideas not yet explored.
Some of these may include depression therapy for physically handicapped people
allowing them a very real sort of fantasy fulfillment. Paralytics can walk,
dance, fly, or do as they wish sexually whenever they choose. The possibilities
for creative problem solving seem to be obviously enhanced. There even seems to
be a great amount of possible sensorimotor practice that could possibly be used
by stroke or other nerve damaged patients. And finally to quote Dr. Laberge(1),

"lucid dreaming can function as a "world simulator." Just as a flight
simulator allows people to learn to fly in a safe environment, lucid dreaming
could allow people to learn to live in any imaginable world; to experience and
better choose among various possible futures."

What makes humans extraordinary in the animal kingdom is our awareness
of being. It is an awareness of our life and existence coupled with our advanced
capacity to reason that makes us different than the other animals of the Earth.
I believe that it may not only be our awareness of thought, but the exact
capability of being aware somehow of our subconscious motivations. A strong
sense of our subconscious can be obtained in a state of sleep where the sleeper
is fully aware not only that he or she is dreaming, but that he or she is
actually sleeping. Humans can now do this regularly without any type of
influencing hypnotic suggestion given by a hypnotist. This state of mind seems
to be more powerful than any kind of hypnosis, even self-hypnosis. I believe
that somewhere locked inside our minds is an empirical understanding of our
existence not just an awareness.


1. LaBerge, S.(1985). Lucid dreaming. Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher. 2. LaBerge, S.
& Rheingold, H. (1990). Exploring the world of lucid dreaming. New York:
Ballantine. 3. Llinas, R. & Pare, D. (1991). Of dreaming and
wakefulness. Neuroscience. 4. Watson, J. (1928). The ways of behaviorism. New
York: Harper. 5. LaBerge, S., Kahan, T. & Levitan, L. (1995). Cognition in
dreaming and waking. Sleep
Research, 24A, 239. 6. LaBerge, S. (1990). Lucid dreaming:
Psychophysiological studies of consciousness during
REM sleep. In R.R. Bootsen, J.F. Kihlstrom, & D.L. Schacter (Eds.),
Sleep and Cognition.
Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association (pp. 109-126).


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