This series on myths about dreaming takes a look at some of the myths that dominate the public conversation about dreaming. Last week’s article discussed the myth of dreams as merely ‘day residue.’ This article explores another myth: that dreams must be controlled or manipulated.
The ability to control or manipulate one’s dreams can be an exciting, and even useful tool for many people. One example of being able to control or manipulate one’s dreams emerges from lucid dreaming – the ability to recognize that you are dreaming, while you are dreaming, and in many cases, exert control over the dream. This is a wonderful avenue for exploration, experience, and discussion of the dream world. However, fascination with lucid dreaming and other methods for controlling dreams have also led to a somewhat prevalent myth about how dreams ‘should’ be.
Myth #2: You should try to control, change, or manipulate your dreams. You might sometimes feel that what’s going on in your dreams is not the way it’s ‘supposed’ to be – that somehow, you need to fix your dreams. You might think, “Uh-oh, I had a nightmare last night,” or “I have a recurring nightmare,” or “I have a recurring theme in my dreams.” You might be tempted to try to force your dreams to be a certain way, or be actively trying to learn control of your dreams. You may become stressed when your dreams don’t conform to your expectations. However, is the idea that your dreams ‘should’ be controlled, changed or manipulated really accurate?
Truth: Trying to control, change, or manipulate your dreams can make dreaming hard work.
Many people have experienced uncomfortable and even frightening dreams. For example, an oft reported dream is where one is standing in front of or with a large group of people and suddenly realizes that they don’t have any clothes on. Another is the old dream that one has forgotten something important on a big day – forgotten to bring the wedding rings, forgotten to finish the report, forgotten to pick up a child.
In the face of these kinds of dreams, you might sometimes think that you need to do something to change or manipulate your dreams. And although it’s possible to do that, trying to control or manipulate your dreams can make also dreaming hard work. Trying to force dreams to be a certain way can be stressful.
It is often a lot easier and more fulfilling to allow the dream world to communicate with you in whatever form occurs – to accept whatever communication happens, and perhaps inquire into it with a spirit of wonder, as in, I wonder what’s going on here. The power of wonder is dramatic, not only in dream life, but in waking life, too.
Imagine a forest. Try to picture it in your mind, hear the sound of the wind in the trees, smell the soil and the plants of the forest, and feel the earth beneath your feet. There’s an integrity to the forest, yet many people think that they somehow have to go in and change it. They might want to clear the trees, so that they can grow crops, or cut down the trees, so that they can use the wood for a productive purpose, or mine the minerals or the oil that’s under the forest, so that they can be used productively. Any of these actions would disrupt the integrity of the forest, until finally, it’s no longer a forest at all. People can strive to live in harmonious and compatible ways that keep the integrity of the forest intact.
The same is true of your dream life: Your dream life has an integrity which, if you allow the waking world to wait a moment and allow the wholeness of the dream world to emerge, will allow you to find a deeper experience of your dreams than you might have thought possible.
Try This: Before you go to sleep tonight, take a few moments to do so some deep breathing and tell yourself that you will allow your dream world to be what it is. Cultivate a sense of wonder about what the dream world might hold before you fall asleep and again when you wake in the morning.
The Wisdom of Dreaming: A Guide to an Effective Dream Life helps you to experience the wholeness of your own dream world from several directions. This guidebook can help you to develop a sense of gentle inquiry and wonder that allows your experience of your dream world to expand naturally, without forcing it to happen. You can check it out here.