What If We Treat Life Like a Lucid Dream?

Photo by h.koppdelaney

A guest post by Ryan Hurd .

Paying attention to your dreams is one of the easiest ways to be happier, more creative and more successful. Sounds like a bold claim, but it’s based on solid evidence from thousands of psychologists and dreamworkers. To make my case even plainer: bringing dreams back into your life put you on the fast track to learning what you really want in life and discovering the emotional blocks that are in your way.

Emotional blocks — the real obstacles

We are emotional creatures; it’s part of our mammalian heritage. The limbic brain still makes most of our decisions, even though we often tell ourselves how rational we are. Old hurts from the past, and the coping mechanisms we learned in defense of this pain, create emotional blocks that prevent us from seeing the world clearly. They keep us stuck in our ways, making the same old mistakes like we are living in a repetitive nightmare.

Photo by ViaMoi

These emotional landmines take a lot of energy to avoid, and —more than all the external causes put together— they rob us of our creativity, limiting our success and happiness.

That’s where dreaming comes in.

Dream science today

Modern dream science has come a long way from Freud’s cigar. Today, dreaming is known as a vital cognitive process that solidifies memory, enhances learning, and creates a safe haven for us to workshop the business of living in the privacy of our own minds.

Dreams meld today’s concerns with yesterday’s solutions. Because the rational mind is depressed in dreams, limbic system has a chance to integrate short- and long-term memories in its own fashion. In this way, dreams speak a different kind of language that is based not on reason but on emotional intelligence.

This is precisely why we dream about standing in the high school cafeteria, anxiously looking for a place to sit, again and again. That scene holds a private myth that is trying to sooth a present-day anxiety. It may seem bizarre to the rational mind, but emotionally the connection is strong and relevant. And that, in a nutshell, is how dreams can provide important clues to what we want and how to move past the fears in our path.

Why dream interpretation is over-rated

Before I go any further, let me say that “dream interpretation” is not really what I’m talking about here. Of course, we all have a natural curiosity about what a dream means, and the more we work with dreams the easier it is to make one-to-one connections. But keep in mind that dream dictionaries can only tell you about cultural symbols and some common bodily fears that we all share.

The problem with this cultural level of interpretation is that we all have our personal mythology at work in the dream, too.


Photo by ViaMoi

For example, a red rose may not remind you of a passionate rendezvous like the dream dictionary says, but, instead, of being abandoned by your father when you were 12. That’s your story, and no dream dictionary can anticipate that.

So, if you are new to dream work, stay close to the emotions in the dream instead of focusing on the translation of a particular dream image. It’s about building bridges between the emotions in a dream and the waking mind.

Don’t worry: the dream’s significance will become apparent as you learn to master the feelings that are connected to those bizarre dream images. That’s why only you will can know what a dream really means.

A Quick Method for Unlocking Dreams

Here is a quick method to harness the power of dreaming. This dream journaling exercise teaches you how to identify old emotional patterns, so can prevent those landmines from going off unexpectedly in your daily grind. That means a more courage work life, and more satisfying love life too.

1. Keep a dream journal.

If you don’t remember many dreams, keeping a dream journal is the quickest route to inviting them back. Record them in the morning when you take your tea. Describe not only what happened, but also how you felt during the dream. It’s also helpful to give each dream a title.

2. Sit with the feelings.

This next step works best with repetitive dreams. Recording it will naturally stir up strong emotions again. Take a couple minutes and try to locate where the feeling lives in your body. Is it in your belly or your chest? See if you can find a name for this feeling. This is a method discovered by psychologist Eugene Genlin, author of Focusing.

3. Watch for the feeling to re-emerge during your day.

Now that you’ve isolated a feeling and named it, that feeling is marked in your body map. Make an intention to notice the next time that feeling comes up in your waking life. You may be able to see the connection immediately, or you may have to wait a while.

4. Read the dream again.

Once you’ve made a connection between the feeling and waking life, go back and read the dream again. The dream may offer a clue that only you can recognize. Also, try to determine how old you are in the dream. This can be a further clue that you may be trying to solve a new problem in an old way. Is it effective or ineffective? By asking these kinds of questions, you are decoupling the waking life issue from your old habits and assumptions.

5. Track follow-up dreams.

Track your dreams over a month and watch for a repetition of this dream theme. You may notice a shift in attitude taking shape in the dream that can open up new possibilities, new joys, as well as opportunities to trust instead of fear.

This quick method is just scratching the surface of how dreams can power a creativity revolution. With some training, dreamwork can show not only the way back but also the way forward. It all starts with owning your emotional life, the key to every success story.

The best part: you’ll always know when a cigar is just a cigar.

Read more articles by Ryan Hurd on his blog DreamStudies.

{ 2 trackbacks }


  1. Diana says:

    I’ve been recording my dreams for over 30 years. The ones that are probably most important are the ones that slip from me just as I’m waking and I try all day to grab it.

    When I read…”a red rose may not remind you of a passionate rendezvous like the dream dictionary says, but, instead, of being abandoned by your father when you were 12″… it made me tear up. Father issues. Funny how the mind is so firmly connected in the past despite years of psychoanalysis.

    But I came to this post thinking I need to make my dreams real. My dreams for the life I want. Sometimes that seems elusive.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Well, excuuuse me! =-.

  2. I’m not familiar with dream work (and I often don’t remember my dreams). I found this interesting though; “So, if you are new to dream work, stay close to the emotions in the dream instead of focusing on the translation of a particular dream image.”

    That’s a different perspective I’ve never thought about before. Thanks.
    .-= Sami – Life, Laughs and Lemmings´s last blog ..Kindness Can Save a Life =-.

  3. Ryan Hurd says:

    Diana, I’m glad the post connected with you even tho it hurt a little… our personal stories can be so blunt and raw compared to the standard fairy tales of life. And great point about the “most important dreams” being the ephemeral ones!

    Sami, I’m excited the emotional perspective about dreams is fresh to you .. in my view dream images are still an important threshold into the dream; in fact one prominent dream researcher, Ernest Hartmann, theorizes that the easiest way to work a dream is with the “central image.” I don’t mean to suggest we disregard them, rather we don’t “interpret the dream away.”
    .-= Ryan Hurd´s last blog ..EcoDreaming: How Nature Speaks in our Dreams =-.

  4. Ahh, you really nailed it with “emotional blocks”. Not only do they keep us from living our lives as fully as we should, all that blocked “sludge” inside can create pain in the body.

    What a great post and fantastic suggestions. Thanks for sharing!

    Dayne 🙂
    .-= Dayne | TheHappySelf.com´s last blog ..The Magic of Doing Things Slowly =-.

  5. Thank you for your insightful article.

    I’m a firm believer of greater self-awareness through the exploration of dreams. Just in the past week or so I’ve come to realize that I have a lot of guilt and sadness over a couple of friendships that I’ve let slip through the cracks. If I hadn’t been recording my dreams in a journal I wouldn’t have realized how much I missed those people in my life. Now I know I’ve got to do something about it…
    .-= lucid dream girl´s last blog ..Figures my most vivid dream in days would feature a CHAINSAW =-.

  6. janice says:

    I have two recurring ones that I’ve had for many years; one full of promise, solutions and unexpected delight and the other a classic anxiety dream. I, too, liked what you said about being aware of the emotional charge of the dream. With ‘new’ dreams, that’s sometimes all I can remember in the morning when I’m jotting them down.
    .-= janice´s last blog ..Alfonsina and the Sea =-.

  7. Mary Jaksch says:

    I really enjoy your guest post, Ryan!

    I’ve never kept a dream journal and hardly ever remember a dream. Do you think that keeping a journal helps us to remember?

  8. Ryan says:

    Dayne, thanks for the warm words – emotional sludge does somatize into bodily pain – relatedly, some dream researchers are actually working with the healing imagery of dreams to help cancer patients with their pain management, as a complementary healing modality to the meds.

    lucid dream girl – right on, I enjoy your blog too.

    Janice – great, you have found the hook to keep those dreams from re-submerging after waking up. that is the dream work!

    and Mary – thanks for the opportunity to spread the gospel of dream studies! Journaling is actually KEY to recalling more dreams. I just wrote a post on my blog 2 weeks ago about how to keep a dream journal and increase recall. also sharing the dream outloud is great for recall – it brings the dream into the world, into language, and into some one else’s head…
    .-= Ryan´s last blog ..EcoDreaming: How Nature Speaks in our Dreams =-.

  9. Lori Hoeck says:

    I’ve found asking myself, “What is the underlying emotion or feeling in the dream?” helps me more than anything.
    .-= Lori Hoeck´s last blog ..What you can do about a shooter in the building, part 2 =-.

  10. What a great post! I love the concept of lucid dreaming, though I’ve never been able to do it, and I love the idea of applying it to our lives. Fabulous!
    .-= positivelypresent´s last blog ..a positive present just for you =-.

  11. Marcia Dream says:

    I agree that looking at a dream dictionary by itself, without considering the experiences of the dreamer, isn’t usually very helpful. However, a dream dictionary can be a starting point, as it can provide information about shared symbols that are derived from our shared evolutionary history. Of course, that is only a starting point; you will learn much more if you consider how the dream is related to your own personal experiences.

    I don’t understand the title of your post though – “What if We Treat Life Like a Lucid Dream?” – In a lucid dream, you are aware that you are dreaming, so you do things that a sane person would never do in waking life, such as jumping off the top of a tall building. Treating waking life as thought it were only a dream would be dangerous. In fact, schizophrenia is thought to be a condition in which dreams somehow enter waking life.
    .-= Marcia Dream´s last blog ..Meaning of Dreams =-.

  12. THERE IS ONLY ONE! Since I was a child, one particular dream has always revisited me at night. I’m surrounded by at least a dozen angry men in a circle that want to attack me.

    The dream always ends quickly with me being stabbed in the stomach, to the right of my belly button.

    Coincidentally, I have a birthmark in that exact same spot, but I never really stopped to think about what it could means (if anything).

    Other than that, I NEVER remember my dreams! Sad isn’t it?
    .-= Panayiotis Pete Karabetis´s last blog ..The Duality of Tango’s Musicality (2 of 2) =-.

  13. […] sure you guessed it. Ryan got the gig. In fact, you can see his post here. (By the way, I’m happy to report that Ryan has now joined our A-List Blogger […]

  14. mari says:

    Like the above commenter Marcia Dream, I am wondering about the use of the word “lucid” in the post’s title. I see nothing about lucid dreaming in this post. Journaling your dreams is not the same as lucid dreaming, which, as Marcia points out, is knowing that you are dreaming while you are dreaming. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucid_dream for a more in-depth description and origin of the term lucid dreaming.

  15. Amie says:

    This is interesting! Most often I can’t recall my dream and what’s its all about. I have dreams though that seems like real that I remembered so well and I can still feel the emotion when I woke up in the morning, took it as a warning to me and actually saved me from bad situation and stress.
    .-= Amie´s last blog ..New Year- New Beginning! =-.

  16. […] sure you guessed it. Ryan got the gig. In fact, you can see his post here. (By the way, I’m happy to report that Ryan has now joined our A-List Blogger […]

  17. Lilly says:

    For the life of me I have never thought of framing my mindset in that manner, even though after reading about lucid dreams.
    Lilly´s last blog post ..San Antonio Nightlife

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge