A study suggests that facing your fears in lucid dreams may help you get over a phobia
The ability to control one's dreams during lucid dreaming has been shown to help people overcome unreasonable fears, according to new research. Only around half of those who faced their fears in a lucid dream also reported feeling less fearful when they woke up. To be printed in Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice.
In a lucid dream, the dreamer is conscious of the dream state and may sometimes even alter the dream's outcome. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the part of the sleep cycle linked with vivid dreaming, lucid dreaming has been investigated scientifically.
Researchers in the field of psychology have shown that this kind of dreaming has therapeutic potential, particularly for the treatment of insomnia and the prevention of nightmares. The purpose of the new study was to see whether lucid dreaming may assist with non-nightmare-related phobias and anxieties. If you're able to achieve lucid dreaming, you may safely investigate a terrifying real-world scenario.
Michael Raduga, the research's author and founder of the Phase Research Center, has stated, "We examine anything connected to phase states including sleep paralysis, lucid dreams, false awakenings, etc." Understanding its potential uses is a key objective. Since many people who practice lucid dreaming claim to have overcome irrational fears and phobias, we were curious about this phenomenon.
Raduga and his co-authors surveyed 76 lucid dreaming experts from throughout the globe via an online survey. Participants were instructed to produce lucid dreams and then face their fears while dreaming. Individuals indicated how scared they were before entering the dream and how scared they were while in the dream. They reported whether their terror was higher, lower, or unchanged after their lucid dream.
Fifty-five reports were analyzed by the researchers. With 71% of individuals experiencing intense dread before lucid dreaming, these findings suggest that most people start off with a rather high degree of anxiety. In the morning, half of the subjects reported feeling the same level of anxiety, whereas the other half reported feeling less anxious. Notably, nobody who participated in the dreaming reported feeling more anxious as a result.
Researchers anticipated that the degree of dread felt before entering the dream would affect the degree to which that fear was alleviated inside the dream. They state that in order for a psychotherapy impact to take place, "the target emotion must be felt clearly." The findings corroborated this theory, showing that more anxiety before the lucid dream was related to a larger chance of reduced anxiety upon waking. Sixty-two percent of those who indicated high levels of terror before the dream reported lower levels of anxiety after awakening. Only 25% of individuals who reported having low/average dread before the dream reported reduced fear after waking.
According to what Raduga told PsyPost, "if a person has phobias which cause them to suffer, it is feasible to get rid of the issue while being asleep." Learning how to intentionally enter a state of lucid dreaming and confront the phobia there is the simplest approach.
There was no correlation between the participants' degree of dread throughout the dream, their gender, their amount of experience with lucid dreaming, the technique they used to induce the lucid dream, or how they emerged from the dream, and the degree to which their level of fear changed (e.g., awakening because of a sound, deliberately waking up).
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) treatment is reminiscent of lucid dreaming because of the fast eye movement that happens during lucid dreaming. As the eyes are moved in a certain pattern, it is believed that the unpleasant emotions and ideas associated with these unprocessed memories would be alleviated. The authors of this study recommend more investigation into the link between EMDR and lucid dreaming.
Since "we made simply a peep in the direction of conquering phobias," Raduga emphasized the necessity for more research into the topic. Even if we didn't run into any problems throughout the course of the research, it doesn't indicate they aren't there. They are all going to have to be located. Knowledge is also required to generate lucid dreaming. In other words, it's not simple to replicate that kind of success in the real world.
Overall, the results are encouraging for the therapeutic potential of lucid dreaming in the treatment of phobias, particularly those with a high degree of intensity. Finding that participants' fear decreased after waking was unrelated to the amount of dread experienced in the dream supports the idea that the actual act of addressing one's anxiety is what matters. The authors suggest that participants in future studies on this issue be asked to talk about their fears when they appear in dreams.
"We expect many comparable studies from other research organizations in the future," Raduga added. The more we learn about the practical uses of lucid dreaming, the better. I imagine that many more psychological issues may be worked out in one's subconscious while dreaming.