When I was young, I had a friend suggest that if I’m ever having a bad dream, I should simply change the dream. Within a few days, I had a dream that something was chasing me. At some point in the dream, I remembered my friend’s advice and decided to make whatever was chasing me disappear. It worked. I merely wished the thing away, and it was gone. In my dream, I thanked my friend aloud.
For a period of time when I was a bit older, I was frequently aware of the fact that I was dreaming. Usually, this had devastating results. As I became aware that nothing I was experiencing was real, it would begin to slip away from me. Just as I was trying to control my dream, knowing it was all in my head, it would became difficult to see and to act. I suspect that my awareness of dreaming was causing myself to wake up, and I was getting caught somewhere between being awake and dreaming. I think my dream vision became impaired because, in all likelihood, I was trying to open my non-dream eyes.
At other times, I would know that I was dreaming, but that knowledge was regarded matter-of-factly and inconsequentially, like knowing the capitol of Maine. It’s questionable that I really knew I was dreaming, rather than that I was simply dreaming that I “knew” I was dreaming. My “knowledge” made no difference to the dream, and I didn’t seem interested in, surprised by, or in any way impressed with the information. I didn’t appreciate it. It didn’t resonate with me.
Sometimes I would talk to the people in my dreams about the fact that I was dreaming. For some reason, I well remember a dream wherein I asked a good friend of mine if I was dreaming. “No,” he calmly replied. I continued to badger him with my suspicions about it being a dream, but he remained unconvinced. He continued to assure me that it wasn’t a dream. What a liar.
On a few occasions, I’ve had dreams that I know I’ve had before. Sometimes that tips me off that I’m dreaming. I believe I’ve also had “faux” repeat dreams, where I believe during the dream that I’ve had the dream before, but I actually haven’t. It’s a kind of dream déjà vu. It all seems very familiar, though it’s new.
Sometimes I repeat a portion of a dream within the same night, as though the dream is set to loop. I’m not sure if it was a genuine repeat dream, or a looping dream within the same night, but I once dreamed I was being chased around a tree. (Being chased isn’t a recurring theme in my dreams, by the way. An inability to get where I’m going by vehicle is, however. Stay tuned!) At some point while being chased, I thought to myself, “I’ve dreamed this before. That means I can just step away from the tree and the person chasing me will continue to run around it.” It worked. My awareness of the dream being a repeat allowed me to break free of the loop, while the person chasing me remained stuck on repeat.
Over the last several years, I’ve occasionally had dreams that are rather stressful and that I choose to wake up from. Up until the moment I decide to wake up, I have no awareness that I dreaming. But then, feeling adequately frazzled, I will think something like, “I don’t have to do this, it’s just a dream! Wake up!” And then I do. Perhaps I’ve just spent what feels like hours walking around a high school building, trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go for class. Suddenly, I’ll remember I’m done with high school and my experience must be a dream. So I stop it. I had such a dream last night. After attending a rock concert, I was driving a large truck through a rainstorm. Several roads were flooded, the height of the dirty water reaching up to the windows of the truck. The current hurriedly pushed me along, and my steering helped only slightly. I feared I would crash. Eventually, I was on a road that wasn’t flooded. It was a long, gradual hill. I followed the road down, down, down, hoping to find my way home. When I got to the bottom of the winding road, I was at the entrance to some kind of military base. I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I couldn’t turn around because it was a one-way road. The guard at the gate told me they’d have to harness my truck to a helicopter and fly it to my home. I knew they’d end up charging me something like $700,000 for doing this, so I vehemently denied the offer. They finally let me in with a group of soldiers on a kind of bus, my truck being towed behind us. I had a lot of anxiety. It wasn’t clear to me how I would be getting home, and I felt in a very precarious position. After some time, I spotted a gift shop or little grocery store of some kind along our route. I felt that my only hope of getting off the base and safely home was to exit the base by way of the store. I begged to be let off there, even though I knew I was endangering myself. If I were caught on base unescorted and without military credentials, I’d be in big trouble. It’s the kind of dream that doesn’t sound like a big deal when you hear about it, but it was very stressful to be the one dreaming it. I willfully ended the dream without explicitly coming to understand that it was a dream. It’s like I just threw up my proverbial arms at some point and commanded myself to wake up. (The command was explicit, but there was no, “Hey, this is a dream!” moment.) I felt greatly relieved when I opened my eyes. I shut them again for some peaceful sleep.
I know I’m not unique in having these kinds of experiences. What kinds of experiences that I’ve mentioned have you had? What other interesting dream-awareness experiences have you had?