Dreams: Lucid Dreaming, Jared Loughner & The Tucson Shooting

Dreams: Lucid Dreaming, Jared Loughner & The Tucson Shooting

Jan 14

Jared Loughner mug shot.


By Ryan Hurd
Dream Studies
January 13, 2011

Original Link

Jared Loughner is the man alledgedly responsible for the Tucson shooting last Sunday, which resulted in the death of six people and the injury of fourteen others. Since the shooting, and Loughner’s arrest, several details about his life have come out in the press. His favorite books include Marx’s Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He has an active Youtube profile detailing his political and literary influences, and, according to various sources, has reportedly been fighting mental illness for years.

Jared Loughner is also a lucid dreamer.

Already, several news sources have commented on Loughner’s passion for “conscience dreaming,” as he called it, the ability to control your dreams. Today, CNN followed up with a balanced piece (see below), interviewing several dream researchers. Unfortunately, some local TV networks have not dug so deep, suggesting that conscious dreaming — the actual term for dreaming with self-awareness — is a gateway to mental illness.

Let’s be clear: becoming self-aware in your dreams has never been correlated with mental illness. Knowing when you are dreaming is not a slippery slope into self-delusion, nor a dangerous fantasy realm that leads to the inability to distinguish reality from dreams. Actually, lucid dreaming is a normal part of life for millions of healthy people.

However, I can’t blame those not familiar with lucid dreaming for making these associations. Remember that our Western model of mental illness has to do with confusing a shared reality with internal hallucinations, and behaving as if the two worlds are one.

Well, in popular lucid dreaming culture, you’re instructed to do “reality checks” during the day in order to “question whether or not you’re aware.” The purpose of this activity is to illicit a cognitive pattern that repeats in your dream, so that you ask the same question and then realize, “hey, this is a dream.” Lucid dreamers are also fond of saying that a conscious dream feels as real as waking life, and cannot be distinguished from reality.

But these mental gymnastics do not suggest that lucid dreamers can’t distinguish waking life from the dream while they are awake. Rather, the shock of this “virtual reality” usually bring about joy and awe about the power of imagination. And what people do with the insights from lucid dreaming defines them.

For instance, Tibetan Buddhists practice dream yoga, which is a series of lucid dreaming meditations that allows the meditator to manipulate the content of the dream in ways that poke holes in the self-generated dream architecture. The practice shows that the dream world is an illusion. This insight is further used as metaphor in daily life, to bring about a clarity that the waking senses are similarly an illusion that prevents us from seeing clearly. This is the central philosophical heart of Buddhism, whose adherents are some of the most peaceful people on the planet.

Let’s talk about another troubled young dreamer. He was a sickly writer, holed up in cabin for the winter. He was obsessed about the nature of reality. One night he had a series of dreams which showed him, as objects appeared and disappeared, that his senses could not be trusted. The last dream was lucid, and he interpreted the dream as it occurred. When this man woke up, he felt a sense of awe about the universe, an emotional breakthrough that mirrored the logic in the treatise he had written the day before. The treatise was Discourse on Method, and the young man was Rene Descartes, the father of modern philosophy.

And here’s my point: dreams, lucid or not, tend to mirror our concerns, beliefs and problems we are grappling with. This is called the continuity theory of dreaming, and it’s largely accepted by cognitive psychology. That’s why Buddhists have meditative lucid dreams and Descartes had philosophical lucid dreams.

It’s more than ironic that Loughner misspelled “conscious dreaming” as “conscience dreaming.”

Perhaps when alleged shooter Loughner began having lucid dreams, the dreams reflected his waking delusions that nothing is real and therefore nothing matters. It’s not my place to diagnose, but as dreamworker Robert Moss noted, it’s more than ironic that Loughner misspelled “conscious dreaming” as “conscience dreaming.” In the final analysis, nihilism does not need evidence, only a lack of compassion.

I’m deeply saddened and disturbed by the tragedy in Tucson. I’m also saddened that the media is grabbing for someone or something to blame, be it political rough-housing, lucid dreaming or mental illness. Let’s hold up the light of our own lucidity and compassion as the public spectacle of Loughner’s trial continues in the month to come.

You may also be interested in this statement about lucid dreaming from the International Association for the Study of Dreams (see below).


By Robert Moss
January 9, 2011

Original Link

We have precious few clues to just what was going on in the disturbed mind of the young man who shot U.S. Rep. Gabrelle Giffords and killed several others in a horrific crime in Tucson on Sunday. While we pray for Congresswoman Giffords’ recovery, I want to respond to news reports that the killer boasted of being a “conscience dreamer” and that he was going to show the world what this means. He apparently posted this self-description in a MySpace profile where he also declared that “conscience dreams were a great study in college” and that his favorite reading included both Hitler’s Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto.

It’s been suggested that by “conscience dreaming” he was trying to say “conscious dreaming”, and one of his classmates has told reporters that he was obessed with trying to “control” and “manipulate” dreams.

I don’t know whether this young man ever came upon a copy of Conscious Dreaming, but if he did he could not have comprehended a single word. In that book, as in all my work, I explain why it is crazy to seek to control and manipulate dreams. Our dreams are often a corrective to the delusions of the ego, and give us perspective that we desperately need, so we need to listen to them carefully and seek feedback from others, in a careful and respectful process of dream sharing, so that we can be helped to see things we may otherwise miss. As I wrote recenty at my website, using the term Active Dreaming that best describes my overall approach.

As a method of conscious dream navigation, Active Dreaming is not to be confused with approaches that purport to “control” or manipulate dreams; it is utterly misguided to seek to put the control freak in the ego in charge of something immeasurably wiser and deeper than itself.

Clearly, the shooter was not “conscious” in any sense that matters. Nor — to take his own strange phrase — was he a “conscience dreamer”. He appears to be the very opposite: a person driven by delusion and deaf to the voice of conscience as it speaks to us through dreams.

There is a literary model for this kind of psychosis. It was given to us by Dostoyevsky in Crime and Punishment, his magnificent study of a young man who becomes a murderer because he will not listen to his dreams.

Before Freud and jung, in Crime and Punishment Dostoyevsky developed a depth psychology that suggests that becoming fully conscious of what dreams can bring is an antidote to madness and delusion. The central character is the novel is a mentally unstable former student who plans a murder which he justifes by a weird egomaniacal philosophy.

The relevance of the novel to our understanding of the recent tragedy — and perhaps many others — is that if the killer could only hear the voice of his dreams, also the voice of conscience, he would be absolutely unable to commit his crime.While Raskolnikov is planning his crime, he dreams that he is a boy again, on a bridge, weeping and protesting as a brutal driver flogs his mare to death, insisting all the while that he has the right to do what he likes to the animal. Raskolnikov is shaken by the dream, which puts him in sympathy with the victim rather than the abuser. He receives multiple dream warnings, which show him, with ever-sharpening focus, the madness of his waking intentions and the consequences of acting them out. In Dostoyevsky’s vocabulary, the dream as an authentic experience (son) is the corrective to fantasy (mechta), here the product of a diseased imagination. But Raskolnikov spurns his dreams. It is as an unconscious dreamer that he moves, like a sleepwalker, to kill his victim.

After his crime and his confession, as he lies ill in a prison bed, he dreams that the world has fallen victim to a horrible plague caused by a new strain of infectious trichina that are actually spirits with minds of their own. Plague victims become insane, yet believe themselves to be in possession of the ultimate secrets of science and life itself. This is the very image of his own form of mental illness.

It seems that, in Arizona as in Dostoyevsky’s Russia, we are groping to understand what happens when a disordered personality casts adrift not only from daytime rationality but from the wisdom of dreams. Such a personality develops a deranged philosophy that seems to justify murder. As violent wakeful delusions grow stronger, night dreams offer a corrective, holding up a mirror to the brutal insanity of those fantasies. But the madman refuses to look look in that mirror of dreams, and so the terrible evil fantasy is played out.

We may call this pattern the Raskolnikov Syndrome, and it may be this that came to roost in its black horror in Tucson at the weekend.


By Robert Waggoner and Jodine Grundy
The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD
January 13, 2011

Original Link

The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) for over 27 years has served to bring together many of the world’s great scholars, practitioners and authors in the field of dream research, clinical practice regarding dreams, sociology, spiritual practices, culture and the arts as well as other fields of study. Members of the organization adhere to a code of ethics that governs practices in dreamwork in both small and large contexts.

Since the tragic shootings in Tucson much attention has been focused on the psychological state and motives of the alleged killer, Jared Loughner. Information about Mr. Loughner included reports that he kept dream journals and was involved with practices of lucid dreaming. While it is not appropriate for IASD to comment on this individual’s state of mind or his practices and how they related to his abhorrent behavior, we do note that it appears he has a record of drug use and mental problems. So, it is possible that what he experienced and recorded may have been hallucinations or delusions rather than dreams as most people understand and experience them.

Nevertheless, since his lucid dreaming has repeatedly been mentioned in the media, it seems useful to briefly summarize the best information and most helpful viewpoints on lucid dreaming.

Lucid dreaming, or the ability to become consciously aware of dreaming while in the dream state, has been scientifically accepted since 1980 through the research work of Stephen LaBerge at Stanford University.

Since then, lucid dreaming has been widely explored by curious dreamers and scientists. International research indicates that a majority of college students report having had at least one lucid dream experience. A smaller percentage indicates that they have frequent lucid dreams. On becoming consciously aware in the dream, lucid dreamers often report flying through space, interacting with dream figures and manipulating objects in the dream.

Lucid dreaming has been successfully utilized by psychotherapists to assist people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), who suffer from recurring nightmares.

Lucid dreaming also has a long history in various religions, such as Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism. By becoming consciously aware in the dream state, many religions feel that the lucid dreamer comes to a clearer understanding of waking reality.

Scientific research has not noticed any harmful effects to practicing lucid dreaming. Instead, lucid dreamers normally show higher levels of mental acuity and creativity in some perceptual tests.

Though the recent movie, Inception, used a more extreme Hollywood version of “lucid dreaming” as a plot device, it’s distorted representation — gun battles and almost continuous violence — has little to do with real lucid dreaming. In actuality, lucid dreams normally consist of consciously creating wonders like flying, making items appear and disappear, and other Harry Potter-ish actions — all the while, clearly knowing that this is a dream.

Some recent news articles have examined the life of the alleged Tucson gunman, Jared Loughner, and suggested that his interest in lucid dreaming may have something to do with his waking actions. Unfortunately this seems pure speculation, and does not correlate with the experience of millions of lucid dreamers around the world, who find joy, healing and creativity in their lucid dreaming experience.

Robert Waggoner
IASD Board Chair

Jodine Grundy
IASD President


By Elizabeth Landau
January 12, 2011

Original Link

Life doesn’t always go the way you want, but sometimes dreams do.

A lucid dreamer is a person who is aware that he or she is dreaming and is able to manipulate the plot and outcome of the dream, like a video game. It is not uncommon, and in children it can happen frequently, even as an expression of creativity, said Gary Schwartz, professor of psychology and neurology at the University of Arizona.

It appears that Jared Loughner, allegedly responsible for the shooting at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, took a keen interest in the phenomenon. In the YouTube video called My Final Thoughts: Jared Lee Loughner! that is said to belong to him, he talks about conscious dreaming and reflects a blurring between waking life and reality — “Jared Loughner is conscience (sic) dreaming at this moment / Thus, Jared Loughner is asleep,” he writes.

Loughner likely was referring to lucid dreaming, experts said, which has been studied scientifically and shown to be a real phenomenon. In fact, humans have known about lucid dreaming for centuries; Tibetan Buddhists began practicing “dream yoga” more than 1,000 years ago as a means of attaining a purer form of consciousness through awareness in dreams.

Research suggests that various techniques can increase the frequency of lucid dreams. For instance, you can remind yourself before you go to sleep that you want to be aware that you’re dreaming when dreams happen, said Deirdre Barrett, psychologist at Harvard University and the Cambridge Health Alliance and editor of Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams.

You can also do certain checks to see whether you’re awake or dreaming in the dream. According to the Lucidity Institute, these include reading letters or numbers and then looking at them again after a moment (they will most likely change or seem weird in a dream). If that doesn’t convince you, visualize yourself in a dream and then imagine yourself in a dream activity (nothing will happen if you’re awake).

Such reality checks played a prominent role in the movie “Inception,” in which dreamers had “totems” to help them distinguish the two states of mind, such as a metal top that can stop spinning only in real life.

When dreams go too far

While characters in this movie began to lose their grip on waking life, confusing dreams with reality is actually a sign of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, Barrett said. That confusion is not nearly as neat or clear-cut as what is portrayed in “Inception.”

Getting interested in lucid dreaming is a “completely innocuous activity,” as is keeping a dream journal, she said.

But saying that dreams are more vivid than waking life, and having trouble distinguishing between one’s dreams and reality, are red flags for mental illness, she said. If you know someone like this, encourage him or her to talk to a therapist, she said.

This does not mean the person is dangerous in any way, but he or she should seek help, she said.

“If you become extremely confused due to psychotic illness, you might be confusing dreaming and waking while confusing right and wrong,” Barrett said.

There is the possibility, however, that in combination with mental illness and other factors such as hostility and drug use, an obsession with lucid dreaming could become harmful, Schwartz said.

“If you develop the belief that what you do in the dream world, you can do in the real world, in the hands of someone who is mentally deranged, it can become extremely dangerous,” he said.

Getting to the point where waking life seems like a dream is rare, Schwartz said.

“Most people who practice lucid dreaming and take it seriously are people who are sane,” he said. “They are very aware of what it is, and aware of the need to discriminate what is and what is not their dream. It’s completely safe.”



Pulse on Dreams
An Introduction To Lucid Dreaming
What is Lucid Dreaming?
Exploring Sex & Lucid Dreaming
Neuroscience of Lucid Dreaming
NHNE Dream Bookstore
Dream Studies Website
The Dream Tribe
The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD)



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