Dutch psychiatrist, Fredrik van Eeden, coined the term “lucid dreaming,” and he called false awakenings, “wrong-waking-up-dreams” before the modern term emerged.
False awakenings are often associated with lucid dreams, and they are sometimes thought to be a form of lucid dreaming without the awareness typically found when fully lucid. False awakenings are sometimes considered to be “pre-lucid” dreams.
Many skilled lucid dreamers are able to use their false awakenings to induce out of body experiences; I will explore the latter subject in a future blog.
I have experienced both the loss of lucidity as well as becoming conscious as a result of false awakenings. Below are two excerpts from my own dream journal to illustrate losing and gaining consciousness from falsely awakening:
…I try to levitate but can’t. I am still musing this has to be a dream. M tells me maybe I should sit down – like I must be nuts. I feel really weird and flee their house. As I round a corner I come to a flight of stairs – suddenly in some house – I stop at the landing and think “this is a dream, I will test it by leaping off, but that could be really dangerous if I’m not dreaming…but this really has to be a dream!” As I think this I go into the air and I am flying and aware; but then my eyes begin to open and I am like no you’re waking up go back into the lucid dream…but I get startled by noise outside and see the sun rising and wakeup (false awakening) on the sofa bed…I think “S#*% I finally got lucid and now I’m up…”
…I rounded a corner and made eye contact with some big heavy-set man (reminded me of a Soprano’s type guy); and I said, “oh my God, this is a lucid dream”, but as I tried to say that aloud I was unable to speak. I thought…I’m going to fly…like to both “reality test” and prove to the guy this was a lucid dream. I floated supine. I was having difficulty – had the feeling of sleep paralysis – being pulled back to my physical body like I was out of body. I awoke (false awakening) into another dream where I was flailing around in bed – looks like it does in waking physical reality – I couldn’t feel my face and recognized sleep paralysis once more, I become lucid again…
Upon searching through my dream journals I found several instances with regard to becoming lucid and “rounding corners” in a dream, which brought to mind the words of one of my spiritual teachers, Rev. Marilyn Muir, who said during her Illusions of Self class, “once you turn that corner in your mind you can never go back.”
She meant once we became cognizant of our own self-deception we cannot slip back into the ignorance of those illusions, however this does not seem to apply to lucid dreaming as demonstrated by the excerpt from my dream journal; but there is something to this movement that seems to trigger awareness regardless of our ability to maintain consciousness.
How can we intentionally make false awakenings an opportunity to achieve lucidity rather than losing awareness? We can train ourselves for the next false awakening that we will be mindful to test our dream environment. Well-known lucid dream researcher, Dr Keith Hearne, developed the FAST technique, “False Awakening with State Testing,” by intentionally inducing false awakenings in the laboratory:
1. Do not speak or make any gross body movements, but simply try to move a hand or a foot.
2. If you feel that you can move your body, keep generally still but attempt,
say, to push your hand through the bed.
3. Listen carefully to what is going on ground you. Are the sounds appropriate,
or incongruous and perhaps distorted?
4. If there is light around you, should that be so? If you are viewing a bedroom
scene are the details correct?
5. Attempt to float up slowly from the bed, or even to sink through the bed.
6. Will yourself to be in another room of the house.
Considering we rarely question whether or not we are sleeping when we are actually awake the odds are high in favor of still being within a dream, and through this process we can turn false awakenings into lucid dreaming adventures.