We tackled part 1 of what to expect when lucid dreaming earlier, where we talked about the different sensations you will experience as you go through the different stages of sleep and into lucid dreaming. We discussed there that some sensations are easier to deal with than others, and then there are those that truly need to be understood and faced with courage in order to overcome: sleep paralysis and nightmarish hallucinations.
What is sleep paralysis?
The first step of taking control of something we fear is to understand it, so, let’s understand! Sleep paralysis is not an evil phenomenon that just hit us with no rhyme or reason. In fact, sleep paralysis is a very crucial element of sleep, as it is the mind’s way of protecting the body from being harmed when you act out your dreams.
When our ancestors first climbed trees to stay away from predators, sleep paralysis served to save their lives by not having them move unnecessarily and fall off the tree. These days, sleep paralysis makes sure we don’t suddenly punch our night light when we dream.
The fear of sleep paralysis comes from one crucial fact: that while sleep paralysis affects most of the body (with the exception of the lungs so one can breathe) it does not affect the eyes. And this is where the nightmarish experiences come in.
Sleep paralysis switches on and off around the time when we are crossing from being asleep to being awake. And because of this, sometimes people tend to wake up while the sleep paralysis “switch” hasn’t been turned off yet. It is very disconcerting at best, horrifying at worst, feeling to experience being awake and not being able to move.
In the mildest cases, it simply causes the body to not be able to move for a few seconds or minutes. In the worst cases, the sleep paralysis includes terrifying hallucinations, which science has attributed to causing many reports of ghost sightings while in bed, alien abductions, and many more.
And because experiencing visions and hallucinations are part of the lucid dreaming experience, people who associate it with the hallucinations caused by sleep paralysis, and end up being turned off from trying.
So if this is a very real and terrifying risk, what should we do?
Fear is the mind-killer
The best way to deal with sleep paralysis, and the hallucinations that may come from it, is first to be able to stem your fear. Once you find yourself in a sleep paralysis state, it is very important NOT to panic. Especially since, and this is very important, it is the same fear that one experiences in sleep paralysis that causes the hallucinations!
In a sleep paralysis state, your mind may already be in a half-dreaming stage. But if the conscious mind (that is, the one that is awake and unable to move) panics, this can cause the part of the mind that is still dreaming to conjure up horrifying visions and images. It does this because the mind will try to find “explanations” to what is happening and why you are feeling fear, to make sense of what is going on.
Oftentimes this is based on your own personal or cultural beliefs. Whereas the Japanese might find themselves hallucinating a kamishibai demon sitting on their chest, the Swede might see “the old hag”, or the American might see aliens trying to experiment on them.
But if you can recognize sleep paralysis when it occurs, and calm down while it is happening, not only will you greatly reduce the chance of experiencing terrifying hallucinations, you will also be able to deal with them should they still happen (since you are aware of your situation and know that what you see isn’t real!)
Most importantly, however, is that sleep paralysis is actually a -very- important element of certain lucid dreaming techniques, and can easily lead to astral projections and out-of-body experiences should you be able to do it with good control. So don’t be afraid of sleep paralysis! In fact, we have previously discussed many different lucid dreaming techniques as well as different tips on how to start lucid dreaming.
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