Dream control allows the dreamer to manipulate dream content consciously, changing the outcome of the dream, or adding new elements to the dreamscape. Dream control is largely intuitive, but at the same time can be augmented with certain techniques that tend to work for many people.
The most important thing to remember about dream control is to respect the spontaneity of the dream. For many lucid dreamers, the first lucid experience is so mind-blowing and enjoyable that they don’t understand why later on in their practice, dreaming can be a bit of a drag. We try to summon a beautiful dream character, and the dream gives us a hag. We try to go swimming in crystal clear waters, and we are given a scummy pond for our trouble.
The interesting thing to note here is that dreaming is much more enjoyable when there are three things happening:
Discovery means that we are actively participating in the creation of the dream, but are not fixated on a certain outcome. If the dream beauty becomes haggish, instead of being irritated, we are intrigued at the complexity of our mind. We may ask this old woman why she is here, and use the opportunity for self-inquiry. We may also ask her to show us something useful or interesting.
When we are in a mode of discovery, we are able to tap into the dream’s endless creativity with a lightheartedness that is joyful and appreciative of the experience.
Flexibility means that we are taking things as they come, rather than having a rigid plan for the dream. Planning is fine, but the deeper we delve into lucid dreaming, the more we find that our dream self doesn’t care as much about plans as our waking self does.
Our dreaming self is naturally very fluid, and flows from experience to experience. When we are able to bring consciousness to that fluid nature, we can open up our experience and stretch the boundaries of what we traditionally “like” and “don’t like,” and what we think is “good” or “bad.” For instance, we may have sex with that old lady and really like it a lot! Or we may realize she is actually a doorway to some other universe. There is no reason at this point not to be expansive (and open-ended) in our approach to dreaming.
Presence means we are grounded in the nature of the dream, and that we remain focused and lucid throughout the experience. If the dream throws us a curve ball, we can respond with intelligence and humor (as opposed to pummeling the dream characters for not fulfilling our conscious desires). Presence also prevents us from slipping back into non-lucidity.
However, since most are reading this to learn how to control dreams, below are several basic techniques for actually altering the content and direction of dreams.
Basic Methods for Dream Control
1. Don’t look at it. It can be hard for the waking mind to believe that objects can appear from thin air in a dream, or that reality can be bent right before our eyes. A way to “hack” this mind barrier is to not watch as the dream content changes. This can involve
- Looking away, and looking back, telling yourself, “The object will be there when I look back”
- Pulling an item out of your pocket, bag, etc.
- “Remembering” where you last saw a person or object, and then going to that place
- Turning around, and expecting the scene to be different
An example would be, “Oh, now I remember where Jessica Alba is. I last saw her at the ice cream parlor.” Then go to that place. It doesn’t matter where the ice cream parlor is–just travel in the direction that feels right.
2. Use Thought. Often by telling ourselves a thing is so in a dream, we can influence the course of the dream. For a while, I had trouble flying (and still do, actually)–I was not able to get very high off of the ground, and couldn’t maneuver well when I did. At times, I was able to say to myself, “I’m flying higher!” and the dream would respond by allowing me to fly higher.
Another example would be to change an ugly thing into something beautiful, or a beautiful thing into something ugly. Tell an ugly dream character how beautiful they are, and really mean it. Compliment them and offer them a gift. Watch them transform in front of your eyes.
3. Use Perspective. If you have ever imagined that you are squashing someone’s head between your thumb and forefinger, then you know what perspective is. Things that are far away seem smaller than things close up.
You can (ab)use perspective in a dream to manipulate dream contents. Look up. See the moon? Reach out and take it. Now take a bite out of it. Yum. See that stop sign? Bend it over–doesn’t matter how far away you are. See that swimming pool? Bring it over to where you are. There isn’t any space in a dream (it’s entirely a mental construct), so objects can be moved around as you desire.
4. Use a handicap. If what you are trying to do just isn’t working, try using archetypes or examples where you have seen it done on television. For example, Daniel Love suggests freezing the dream by saying, “Computer, freeze simulation.” If you are into Star Trek, then you know this works for the holodeck. It also works in dreams!
Another example would be to imagine that whatever you are trying to do is slightly less difficult. For example, if I am trying to walk through a wall, but can’t seem to pass easily through it, I might put my hand on the wall and imagine it slowly passing through, like jello. Once my hand is through, I can easily pass the rest of my body through as well.
5. Use dream characters. If you are having issues, ask a dream character to help you. Try to be polite, as if you order them around, they may decline to assist. You may ask the dream character to remove an item from the dream, or to help you complete a task. If they do assist, thank them and tell them you hope to see them again in your dreams. This can aid the subconscious mind in manifesting that same character again in the future.
6. Be OK with what happens. The easiest way to lose control of a dream (and not get what you want) is to get angry, and begin thinking things like, “This just isn’t working. This a load of shit. None of these dream characters can help me in any way.” Since thought is so powerful in dreams (and because the dream actually is you), the dreamscape will begin to mirror your thoughts and feelings.
The easiest thing here is to just relax. If it doesn’t work (Jessica Alba is simply nowhere to be found, or when you find her, she rejects you) that’s fine–enjoy having an ice cream. If you can’t manage to pull the pool over to you, that’s fine too–enjoy a nice, present walk through the dream environment on your way over to that nice dream pool.
The most important point is to appreciate what is happening. If you aren’t having any fun, then you likely are not doing yourself much good, either. If you have your own methods of controlling dreams, feel free to share in the comments below!