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Do Lucid Dreamers Control the Dream, or Relate to the Dream? by Robert Waggoner

Lucid Dreaming Control

Check out the surprising and thought provoking answer in this article by Robert Waggoner

I taught myself how to lucid dream in the spring of 1975, which turns out to be the same spring that Keith Hearne recorded the first ‘eye signal’ of lucid awareness in the University of Hull sleep lab from the sleeping lucid dreamer, Alan Worsley.

In my first book, Lucid Dreaming, Gateway to the Inner Self, I suggest an important and radical metaphor, which has changed many people’s view of lucid dreaming:

No sailor controls the sea. Only a foolish sailor would say such a thing. Similarly, no lucid dreamer controls the dream. Like a sailor on the sea, we lucid dreamers direct our perceptual awareness within the larger state of dreaming. [p 17]

You might think, ‘Wait a second! I do control the dream! Isn’t that what lucid dreaming is all about?’

My response generally goes something like this: If you control the dream, who made the grass green and the sky blue? Who created the new scene when you came around the corner or flew through a wall into a new room? Did you control all that new scenery and detail into being?”

I also point out that if lucid dreamers control the lucid dream, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to learn how to manipulate things. If they control the lucid dream, their lucid dreams wouldn’t suddenly collapse and end.

Control suggests a fundamental dominance or authority over. By contrast, lucid dreamers show varying degrees of ability to manipulate themselves within the dreaming.

At this point, the lucid dreamer acknowledges that their control seems limited to directing their focus. They don’t control the color of the various items, the new vista when they fly over a hill, the items in the rooms they just entered, or necessarily the length of the lucid dream itself. Rather, they direct their focus within the larger dreaming around them.

When unaware of these points, a lucid dreamer stumbles into the philosophical perspective of the lucid solipsist – one who believes that his or her waking self in the dream is the only reality.” [p 23]

Obviously the lucid dreamer can influence and manipulate dream objects, dream figures and more, as he or she explores within the lucid dream. However, he or she does not ‘control’ all aspects of the dream, or all of the new vistas, dream figures and surprising developments. These happen outside of the lucid dreamer’s involvement or conscious control. Influence the dream – yes. Control the dream – no.

So why is this issue of ‘control’ important to you and other lucid dreamers? How can an understanding of this make you a better lucid dreamer?

First, you begin to realize that lucid dreaming actually involves ‘relating’ or a relationship. You might say that you relate to your unconscious mind, which apparently calls forth dream figures and new vistas (and that answer may suffice for the first five years). The important thing is that lucid dreaming is more about relating. Once aware of this, you have a new relationship to the dreaming.

Second, since lucid dreaming involves relating, you may begin to probe who or what you relate to – its characteristics and depth. As you do so, you may suddenly realize that lucid dreaming puts you in touch with your larger awareness (which is why I call my first book, Lucid Dreaming, Gateway to the Inner Self). Interacting with the larger awareness through lucid dreaming shows you or introduces you to a sense of your totality (so that you do not solely focus on the ego’s doings, and ignore the larger portion of your being).

And finally, as you go deeper on the path, and realize that the only way to discover an ultimate reality lies in completely letting go, your relationship with your larger self will serve to support your progress and surrender.

Lucid dreaming is an ancient and revolutionary psychological tool for exploration, which has been scientifically confirmed in recent times. By understanding it as a relational tool (and not a tool under the ego’s control), you can move deeper and deeper, achieving new and more powerful realizations. To do so, however, you must have a clear understanding of it as relating and realize: No sailor controls the sea.


Robert Waggoner © 2016

Quoted segments are from Robert Waggoner’s book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self (Moment Point Press, 2009). Visit his book’s website at www.LucidAdvice.com or his free online magazine, Lucid Dreaming Experience at


January 18, 2021

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