Photo by Ryan Brohm via Iowa State Daily
Lucid dreamer, dream-work coach, and writer, Patrick Paulin, has a deep interest in lucid dreaming for personal transformation and growth. Along with this interview, he submitted an article about an interesting encounter with a deceased dream figure. Welcome, Patrick!
When we talked after the New York City regional dream conference, you mentioned that you were quite young when you had your first lucid dream. Would you mind sharing that lucid dream?
Not at all. I was around 8-years-old at the time and, like many children at that age, I was troubled by frequent nightmares. Actually, from an even earlier age, I had developed a knack for recognizing particularly scary dreams as nightmares while they were still in progress. Invariably, I would use this moment of lucidity to squeeze my eyes closed as tightly as possible to wake up in my bed with relief. This time, however, was different.
I recall entering into a scene that was like a twisted fun house or maybe the kind of haunted house that pops up around Halloween every year. Only rather than walking through it in a line with other children, I was alone. It was dark and the path was narrow. At each turn, there stood a horrifying monster or beast of some kind. Each was full of fury and threatened to attack such that I would scurry along the corridor only to encounter another.
The level of terror continued to build then reached an ultimate crescendo as I frantically sprintstumbled into a small enclosed room. I could see no way out other than the way I came in. I watched the doorway anticipating that, at any moment, each of the monsters would pile in and that would be the end of me.
This was a familiar moment. Overcome by fear and panic, I believed that I was going to die. Such as with prior nightmares, as I was faced with this thought, relief was immediately delivered by way of lucid awareness. Wrapped up in a fleeting moment, I recognized that I was dreaming, felt a sense of relief, and proceeded to clench my eyes in order to escape. However, in an unprecedented outcome, I did not wake up. I opened my eyes and was standing precisely where I was at the beginning of the dream. I was at the entrance to the fun house.
The dream had reset itself. Standing there, still alone, all of my fear had completely dissolved. I was filled with peace and confidence as I took my first step back into the corridor. With head high, I approach the first turn where, inevitably, there stood the first monster. Outrageously, this monster and each one to follow merely stood and watched me walk by. No more menacing growls or posture and no threatening gestures. They simply stood, arms at their sides, and watched as I passed. Upon reaching the final room for a second time, I woke up.
Looking back, how did that lucid dream and its symbolism connect with your life at such an early age?
Following pretty linear first-grader logic, my takeaways at the time were simple and related only to my dreamlife. First, I realized that I had more power than I thought. It occurred to me, based on this one experience, that I could face a nightmare and it would no longer threaten me. Second, and perhaps more profound, I believed that I was not alone. I had to acknowledge another presence that was on my side. If I had my way, I would have woken up from the nightmare when I squeezed my eyes closed. Instead, something clearly outside of my control but overwhelmingly positive happened.
Furthermore, even as a kid, I understood that the feelings of peace and confidence were somehow put in me. One moment, I was terrified and the next moment, at total ease. I believed that I must have an ally. Again, both of these resonating beliefs were limited, in my perspective, to my dream-life. At the time, however, that was a big deal.
Now that you are older, does it seem like your larger awareness sought to educate you about lucid dreaming by bringing you back to the beginning of the dream, so you could lucidly move through the scary twists and turns while consciously aware, and ‘see through’ the fears?
As an adult, I look back on that lucid dream with a tremendous amount of appreciation and fascination.
Not only was it was a landmark moment back then but again and again as I gained a more mature understanding of what took place that night. I can now appreciate the broader life lessons that were presented to me. That, in fact, it is powerful to boldly face the things that scare you and that doing so builds a sense of peace and confidence. Furthermore, when you occasionally have that sinking feeling that you are on your own, you‘re really not.
As far as the lesson about lucid dreaming itself, the seed was planted for a lifelong passion but it wouldn’t be until many years later that I understood the broader implications such as pursuing lucid dreams through induction techniques. At the time, I simply saw it as a rare gift. An experience that was afforded to me so that I may learn something or benefit. I guess I still see it that way. Just with the added adventure of proactively pursuing it.
As you grew up, what was it about dreams and lucid dreams that hooked you on paying attention to them? What did you make of it?
There were different aspects of dream-life and dreamwork that caught my attention over the years and served to reinvigorate my passion. While in high school, I took a particular interest in dream incubation for problem solving. This was when I first experimented with attempting to influence the dream subject matter through nighttime suggestion. I was delighted to experience almost immediate feedback! Of course, my requests were pretty trivial and having to do with assignments, sports, and other high school things. For example, I recall being faced with a large term paper assignment in my World History class. I decided to incubate a topic to report on.
That night, I dreamed of being held in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. It was a full-on nightmare. I can still vividly recall the horrendous conditions, rancid smells, and an atmosphere steeped in fear and violence. There were gunshots and people were falling to the ground. This was not a lucid dream and when I did finally wake up, I was shaken and deeply disturbed by the experience. The thought that hung front-and-center in my mind was, “Be careful what you ask for.” I couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed by the experience. That said, I went on to write the paper, no doubt, with a level of emotional investment that would not have been there otherwise.
It was toward the end of high school and into college that a different aspect of dreaming took my attention. Having kept a detailed dream journal for the better part of a few years, I was beginning to see connections between dream details and future events. For the sake of context, this was the early 1990’s before the advent of Google and a searchable internet in general. I had not heard nor read anything about the precognitive nature of dreams. So, as I noticed little synchronicities, I would dismiss them as coincidence.
That is, until one night during my senior year in high school, when I had the following dream that was both bizarre and disturbing. It was one of those cryptic early in-the-night dreams. I was a third party observer and no one was actually in the dream. I saw a small cage. In the cage stood five hamsters. Then, the cage was slowly lowered into a large container of water to the demise of my furry friends. Again, I wasn’t actually in the dream and, therefore, could not intervene. Nor was the scene violent. They were not thrashing around or even making sounds. I woke with the details fresh in my mind so I took the opportunity not only to write it down but produced a sketch.
Later that day, in my English Literature class, we had a mini-field trip planned to visit a classroom of first graders. Each of us had been paired up with one of these kids over the prior couple of weeks writing letters back and forth while they read a particular story that involved writing to a distant relative. On this day, we joined the first grade class to meet, chat, and watch the movie adaptation of the book.
I was warned by the teacher that the little girl I was to sit with was more introverted than the rest so I would really have to drive the conversation. Naturally, the first question I asked was, “Do you have any pets?” She answered, “No.” After a pause, she continued. “Well…” [uh oh, I thought] “…I did have five hamsters but…” [oh no] “… they all drowned.” Ok! Message received. Dreams can show us the future and/or provide telepathic insights that cannot be easily explained. Determining the purpose or benefit of this anomaly is yet another compelling area of dream exploration.