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10th December 2018 

Lucid Dreams

For most of us, dreaming is something quite separate from normal life. When we wake up from being chased by a monster, or seduced by that gorgeous 25 year old, we realize with relief or disappointment that "it was only a dream".

But lucid dreams are different. Lucid dreams are dreams in which you realise you are dreaming while still in the dream. You realise you are dreaming and are able to consciously interact with the dream.

The term lucid dreaming was coined by the Dutch psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden in 1913. In his book ‘A Study of Dreams’, he wrote:

"The seventh type of dreams, which I call lucid dreams, seems to me the most interesting and worthy of the most careful observation and study. Of this type I experienced and wrote down 352 cases in the period between January 20, 1898, and December 26, 1912... the re-integration of the psychic functions is so complete that the sleeper reaches a state of perfect awareness and is able to direct his attention, and to attempt different acts of free volition. Yet the sleep, as I am able confidently to state, is undisturbed, deep, and refreshing".

The term ‘lucid dreaming’ was originally coined by Frederik van Eeden, but it was Keith Hearne, a British psychologist, who proved that they truly exist. On the morning of 12th April 1975, at the University of Hull’s sleep-laboratory, Keith Hearne, along with his dreamer, Alan Worsley, agreed that on becoming lucid within the dream, Alan would signal his lucidity to Keith by moving his eyes in a predetermined pattern. He succeeded. Keith found the signal in the midst of REM sleep. So lucid dreams are real dreams and do occur during REM sleep.

He communicated the data, and other examples, to Professor Allan Rechtschaffen of Chicago University. Prof. William Dement at Stanford University was also informed. Much later, Stephen LaBerge, at Stanford, produced similar work.

Although many authorities quote Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) as the first to mention lucidity in dreaming, Buddhism, founded in 500 BC, had lucidity as part of its basic goals. Yoga, an even older practice, gave methods to wake up in sleep.

Here in the west, it was the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796) who spoke of using lucid dreams to control his nightmares, which leads us to the current therapeutic use of lucid dreams.

A pilot study was performed in 2006 that showed that lucid dreaming therapy treatment was successful in reducing nightmare frequency. This treatment consisted of exposure to the idea, mastery of the technique, and lucidity exercises.

If a person suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) has a distressing dream about their trauma it could be very beneficial to re-experience the trauma while having more control and less fear. This gives the opportunity for exploration of other possible outcomes or the exploration of feelings in general. They can use this control to deal with the stress in a sort of "virtual" way and also be free to go at a pace that they feel is comfortable.

For many people, having lucid dreams is fun, and they want to learn how to have more or to induce them at will. One finding from early experimental work was that high levels of physical (and emotional) activity during the day tend to precede lucidity at night. Waking during the night and carrying out some kind of activity before falling asleep again can also encourage a lucid dream during the next REM period and is the basis of some induction techniques.


Induction Techniques:

1. Reality Checks - The simplest form of reality check is just asking yourself "am I dreaming?" If done consistently, this habit will carry over into your dreams and you will eventually get lucid by doing a reality check in a dream.

It is important to note that you should never do a reality check mindlessly. Take a minute to look around you and ask yourself if your surroundings are really logical. Ask yourself how you got there, why you are there, and where you are going. Remember your day from the moment you woke up to this present moment.

Read some text, or glance at a digital clock or watch. Wait a few seconds and then do it again. If the text or time inexplicably changes, then you are in fact dreaming. Even if the time or text doesn’t change, try to focus on changing it for a moment. In dreams text often changes upon a second glance and we almost always accept it, even though clearly it is an alarming clue that we are dreaming.

2. MILD (Mnemonically Induced Lucid Dream) - This is done on waking in the early morning from a dream. You should wake up fully, engage in some activity like reading or walking about, and then lie down again. You must then imagine yourself within the dream you awoke from, but this time see yourself realising that you are dreaming. At the same time keep repeating "the next time I dream, I will recognise that I am dreaming". Keep this going until you fall asleep.

3. EILD (Externally Induced Lucid Dream) - This technique relies on some sort of external cue to help you get lucid as you are dreaming. The most famous of these is probably the NovaDreamer, a device you would wear on your head which emits soft blinking lights that you will see in your sleep. There are other devices and signals which are more cost-effective, such as vibrating alarms. These will work for you if you are very familiar with your sleep cycles and will be able to accurately guess when you will be dreaming.

4. WILD (Wake Induced Lucid Dream) - WILD techniques can be so wide and varied that they could never be covered in one page. Because WILD depends on the dreamer to pass directly from a waking state to a dream state, each person will experience the transition differently as we each have different physical and mental responses to it. Nearly every WILD technique will have the same basic structure. Normally you would set an alarm or wake up naturally during the night or morning (though some take daytime naps). This is known as a Wake-Back-to-Bed. You would go back to sleep, only you would keep yourself conscious as your body falls asleep. By doing this you can directly enter into a dream and be lucid from the beginning.



Co-dependency

“Co-dependency is not about a relationship with an addict, it is the absence of relationship with self” - Terry Kellogg


The word “co-dependency” first came into the treatment arena in the early seventies and is still used today to describe a variety of behaviours.

Originally the word was used to describe a person whose life was affected as a result of their involvement with an addict. This person was seen as having developed an unhealthy pattern of coping as a way of dealing with someone else’s drug or alcohol problem. It was felt that they had become co-dependent or co-alcoholic as a result of living with an alcoholic.

Melody Beattie, who has written several books on co-dependency defines a co-dependent person as: “one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior”.

Sound familiar? How many times have you worried, fretted, or obsessed over someone's behavior when you logically knew that you had no control over it? How many times have you wondered “if only they would behave in a certain way, then everything would be perfect?”

It is very difficult to step outside of our own worries and look at the things that we have control of, and let go of the things that we cannot control. We typically want things to be going well, and agonize over how we can make those things happen.

The co-dependent is typically a caretaker. They take on the burden of being responsible for other people's happiness, emotions, feelings, actions, choices, and behaviors. They feel extreme guilt or anxiety when others have problems that they cannot solve. They often find themselves saying “yes” to requests when they would prefer to say “no”. They feel safest when they are giving to others, they try to please others instead of themselves, and they always find it easier to display anger when an injustice has been committed against someone else, instead of when it has been committed against them. They may become bored or restless with their life if they are not involved in some type of crisis or feel as if they need to create a crisis when things settle down in their life. They blame others for the spot they are in, and believe deep down inside that other people are somehow responsible for them. They often believe that other people are making them “crazy” and feel angry and unappreciated for all that they are trying to do.

Co-dependents spend a great deal of time in denial. They ignore their problems or try to pretend they are not really happening. They stay overly busy so they don’t have to slow down long enough to think about their situation. They find that they are sick often and the doctor may not be able to find anything physically wrong with them.

The road to recovery can be frightening for some co-dependents. They fear losing control, but have to learn to be responsible for themselves. The process involves learning to accept love and to fully give it in return. Recovery allows patients to take care of themselves in order that there is something left to give to others. This process involves learning about self-care.

Self-care may involve working with a therapist and learning new ways of coping. The following are some areas they may work on:

Learning to “unattach” yourself from a negative relationship or way of interacting.

Learning not to over-react to every incident in life.

Learning to set yourself free and give up some of the control that you think you must have in order to be happy.

Learning to see yourself as a survivor, and not a victim.

Learning to live without being dependent upon someone else, and how they are behaving.

Learning to accept yourself for who you are. You can accept your own feelings and thoughts.

Learning to deal with your anger in a positive manner.

Learning to communicate with others in an assertive manner by making sure that your rights are defended.



Depression

We often use the expression ‘I feel depressed’ when we’re feeling sad or miserable about life. Usually, these feelings pass in due course. But, if the feelings are interfering with your life and don't go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back, over and over again, for a few days at a time, it could be a sign that you’re depressed in the medical sense of the term.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life, but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, major depression (clinical depression) can be life-threatening, because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.

The following are all symptoms of depression, and if you tick off five or more of any of them you are probably depressed.


* I am low-spirited for much of the time, every day
* I feel restless and agitated
* I get tearful easily
* I feel numb, empty and full of despair
* I feel isolated and unable to relate to other people
* I am unusually irritable or impatient
* I find no pleasure in life or things I usually enjoy
* I feel helpless
* I have lost interest in sex
* I am experiencing a sense of unreality
* I am not doing activities I usually enjoy
* I am avoiding social events I usually enjoy
* I have cut myself off from others and can’t ask for help
* I am self-harming
* I find it difficult to speak
* I am having difficulty remembering things
* I find it hard to concentrate or make decisions
* I blame myself a lot and feel guilty about things
* I have no self-confidence or self-esteem
* I am having a lot of negative thoughts
* The future seems bleak
* What’s the point?
* I have been thinking about suicide
* I have difficulty sleeping
* I am sleeping much more than usual
* I feel tired and have no energy
* I have lost my appetite, and am losing weight
* I am eating a lot more than usual and putting on weight
* I have physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
* I am moving very slowly
* I am using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual


Depression presents itself in many different ways. You may not realise what's going on, because sometimes your problems seem to be physical, rather than mental or emotional. There are also some other mental health problems often linked to depression.

People who are depressed often have anxiety as well, the two problems often occur together and each can make the other worse. If you are feeling anxious, your mind may be full of busy, repetitive thoughts, which make it hard to concentrate, relax, or sleep. You may have physical symptoms, such as headaches, aching muscles, sweating and dizziness. Anxiety may cause physical exhaustion and general ill health.

If you are severely depressed you may start to have experiences or thoughts that others around you do not share. For example, you may hear voices, see visions, believe that you are evil, or are influencing events in a way that is harmful to others. You may believe that you are a bad person and you deserve to feel as you do. These are false beliefs and may be part of the depression.

You may feel that life is not worth living and start thinking about ways of killing yourself. Thoughts like these may seem difficult to control and be very frightening. If you feel that you may harm yourself you can call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 to talk to someone immediately.

Depression is like Hell on Earth, it's dark, lonely and very selfish. The feeling of not wanting to live, but not wanting to die...



The Shadow

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us” - Hermann Hesse (born 2nd July 1877, died 9th August 1962)


From infancy and through childhood and adolescence we pick up from our parents / carers both conscious and unconscious messages about what is acceptable in terms of our body, our feelings and our behaviour. All that is unacceptable is suppressed and repressed and becomes part of our shadow. We not only take in and repress what is unacceptable, we also internalise our carers’ attitudes to these unwanted qualities and characteristics of ourselves. The harsher the attitude, which may have been expressed by withdrawal of love, rejection, physical / emotional / sexual abuse, the more hostile we are to these facets of our shadow. At worst, the shadow becomes entwined with abandonment anxiety so that its emergence can really feel like a matter of life or death.

The assimilation of the shadow, leads to self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Grievance and blame give way to the taking of responsibility and attempts at sorting out what belongs to whom. A fierce conscience, which tends to be punitive to the self and others, can relax and personal values can be set in counterpoint to collective morality.

As individual attention is habitually focused on the persona (social role / mask), the deeper neglected aspects of the personality continually sabotage the individual’s conscious intentions. In order to account for these frustrations, while also avoiding their true source, the shadow is conveniently projected onto other people, resulting in what can often be perceived as threatening and unfriendly circumstances.

The first sign of shadow projection appears as a strong emotional reaction to anyone or anything in the environment. It feels impulsive and automatic, more like an unconscious reflex than a conscious, intentional response. It is this very tendency which serves as the prime indicator that the shadow is in play. By becoming aware of the people to whom the persona is positively or negatively attracted, in addition to the outwardly focused perceptions which accompany such attraction, it is possible to recognise the shadow.

The contents of projection are the secret characteristics which the persona refuses to acknowledge. And ending this externalisation of the personal contents of consciousness is what Jung’s former mentor, Freud, was pointing to when he proclaimed, “where id was, there ego shall be”.



Working with Dreams

Dreamwork is ancient, it’s long tradition evidenced in the temples of Asclepius in Greece where individuals travelled to be healed through their dreams. Dreams have been an important aspect of many spiritual traditions, and even Freud considered the study of dreams to be his most important work. There are many methods of dream analysis and it can be helpful to assess them from various aspects, including mythical, archetypal, alchemical, and collective, paying attention to which resonates most.

Current day Jungian psychotherapists work with dreams in a number of ways. One is to interpret the dream by ‘sticking to the image’ in order to meticulously define what it means. Another way is to interpret the dream by the method that Jung called ‘amplification’. To amplify a dream is to compare the images in the dream to images in other sources, for example, myths, in order to identify archetypal parallels. Finally, Jungian psychotherapists work with dreams by the method that Jung called ‘active imagination’. This is not an interpretative method but an experiential method. Active imagination is a conversation with the dream images. Clients, using their imagination, actively engage with the dream images in a dialogue.

Post-Jungian archetypal psychologist James Hillman, in his book The Dream and the Underworld, takes Jung’s methods a step further, suggesting that we allow the dream and dream symbols to remain as they are, choosing not to analyse and interpret them but to simply interact with them and see what comes about. He stays with the process and activity instead of seeking an outcome or solution. He values the description over interpretation, the act of making a thing come alive rather than suffocating it with a contrived explanation from outside the dream. Hillman wants us to honour the dream in it’s own realm, the underworld, and to allow ourselves to play with the dream - make wordplays, associations, observing our thoughts as we let them lead us to wherever they may lead...

Dreams hold knowledge and insight for us on many levels, often at the same time. Every dream is a spontaneous, involuntary expression of the archetypal creative impulse. This universal longing to express our deepest selves, and discover more about who we are in the process, is alive deep in all human beings.


“This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theatre where the dreamer is at once scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic”
Carl Jung



Addictions

Vast numbers of us do things to excess, or have the feeling that it might be difficult to stop doing something, or sometimes wonder why on earth we have just done something that seemed attractive before we did it.

Over 25% of all Britons smoke, for example, a behaviour that costs tens of thousands of pounds in the course of an average lifetime, and not only shortens that life but makes it unpleasant for others and often dreadful for the smoker. However, a proper understanding of the givens of human nature could change all that.

Addiction spreads to every kind of pleasurable behaviour: drinking, surfing (wave and internet), sex, food, and so on. Some activities or substances can generate a feeling that is so powerful that life without that feeling may never seem worthwhile again. For example, many gamblers have a big win early in their career and then spend the rest of their life chasing that buzz.

So what is it that makes addictions so easy to acquire and so difficult for most people to shake off? The answer lies in the chemical reward mechanisms that the human brain uses to motivate itself to act and learn.

The excitement we get when we are keen to do something is produced by dopamine, a natural brain chemical, very like cocaine in its effect, that raises our emotional level so we want to take action. And the warm feelings of satisfaction we get after doing something (eating, laughing, having sex, or achieving some new understanding or skill) are produced by endorphin, another natural substance (which is similar to heroin). Working together these chemicals keep us interested in doing the biological functions that preserve the species, and stretch each one of us to learn and achieve.

In a well-balanced life, a reasonable amount of natural reward is felt by the human every day, but in a life where essential emotional needs are not met and abilities are not stretched, the rewards do not come and life feels flat and meaningless.

This kind of life is rich territory for addictions to target, as every addictive substance or behaviour either stimulates a reward mechanism or provides a chemical reward directly. Dangerous activities stimulate production of dopamine, generating a feeling of exhilaration; injecting heroin gives a warm, cosy feeling like the natural feelings of satisfaction you might get after fulfilling any biologically necessary function.

For many people the need to escape from their present reality and engage in some form of delusional activity gives them a quick high or false sense of freedom, which in turn traps them into a destructive pattern of behaviour which can become chaotic.

Often an addiction masks a recurring depression or anxiety which the person feels unable to face.

Most addictions have specialist agencies or helplines dedicated to dealing with the specific issues. It is helpful to read around the subject and become informed in order to acknowledge an addiction is present. Acknowledgement can be a long and arduous process, often involving family and friends. Treatment can be highly effective with proper support.

Counselling can be an effective form of treatment, and may help sufferers to recognise their illness and try to understand it. A chance to look at acknowledging real emotional needs and examining the underlying causes can be an excellent foundation to building a new, healthier way of living. Individual counselling may also offer the chance to build self-esteem and self-respect.

To get away from addictive behaviour it is necessary to understand two things: the way these reward mechanisms work, and the way life should be constructed in order to receive the natural rewards that make addictive activities less attractive.



Grief and Depression

“I will not say ‘do not weep’, for not all tears are an evil”
- J.R.R. Tolkien (born 3rd January 1892, died 2nd September 1973)


The stages of mourning are universal and are experienced by everyone. It occurs in response to an individual’s sense of loss, such as the death of a valued being, human or animal, or even an individual’s own impending death. There are five stages of normal grief. They were first proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying”, published in 1969. The five stages do not occur in order and everyone spends a different amount of time working through each step, sometimes moving back and forth until the final stage of acceptance. Throughout each stage, a common thread of hope emerges.

The key to understanding the stages is not to feel that you must go through each and every one of them in precise order. Instead, it is more helpful to look at them as guides in the grieving process.

1. Denial and Isolation
The first reaction to learning of terminal illness or death of a cherished loved one is to deny the reality of the situation. It is a normal reaction to rationalise overwhelming emotions. It is a defence mechanism that buffers the immediate shock. We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger
As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to fade, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, redirected and expressed as anger instead. The anger may be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger may be directed at our dying or deceased loved one. Rationally, we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We then feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.

3. Bargaining
The normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. Secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable. This is another defence to protect us from the painful reality.

4. Depression
Two types of depression are associated with mourning. The first one is a reaction to practical implications relating to the loss. Sadness and regret predominate this type of depression. We worry about the costs and burial. We worry that, in our grief, we have spent less time with others that depend on us. This phase may be eased by simple clarification and reassurance. We may need a bit of helpful co-operation and a few kind words. The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.

5. Acceptance
Reaching this stage of mourning is a gift not afforded to everyone. Death may be sudden and unexpected or we may never see beyond our anger or denial. It is not necessarily a mark of bravery to resist the inevitable and to deny ourselves the opportunity to make our peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm. This is not a period of happiness and must be distinguished from depression.

Coping with loss is a ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience, nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing


“The pain passes, but the beauty remains” - Pierre Auguste Renoir (born 25th February 1841, died 3rd December 1919)



Repression

“Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me” - Sigmund Freud (born 6 May 1856, died 23 September 1939)

Central to Freud’s account of the mind was the theory of the unconscious, not discovered by Freud, but by the poets, philosophers and writers that preceded him. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Charles Dickens and George Eliot, all had described the importance of unconscious feelings and thoughts. But for Freud the unconscious was not just about latent thoughts and emotions, it was also a realm of the mind with it’s own impulses, it’s own mode of expression and it’s own mechanisms.

One of these mechanisms is ‘repression’. Freud believed that conscious thoughts and emotions, when unbearable to the conscious mind, are repressed. The problem with repression is that this is not a one-off event, self contained and easily forgotten. Instead it is a continuous event requiring a great deal of energy to sustain the illusion that the thought and emotion no longer exists. At the same time the repressed thoughts and emotions seek to find alternative methods of expression, symbolic expressions of the original pain. These often manifest as phobias, obsessions, nightmares...

Finding ways to release the repressed emotions and alleviate the strain of keeping the pain at bay is what Freud hoped to achieve with his ‘talking cure’ of Psychotherapy.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways” - Sigmund Freud