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Lucid Dream Definition: How to Define Lucid Dreaming

Updated: Mar 4

Have you ever wondered exactly what a lucid dream is?


Today we'll help you to correctly define lucid dreaming and explore the complete and accurate definition of a lucid dream.



 

Definition of 'lucid dream'

lucid dream

in British English (ˈluːsɪd driːm ) NOUN A lucid dream refers to a dream in which the dreamer fully understands they are dreaming. To qualify as a lucid dream, the dreamer must also exhibit high-level cognitive functionality, such as clarity of thought and logic, just as they would in a fully awake state. In a true lucid dream, the dreamer's actions and thoughts must align perfectly with the knowledge that they are in a dream. A lucid dreamer may choose to control their dream.


 


How to define a Lucid Dream - The Important Details



So let's start at the beginning....


Lucid dreaming is a very young and evolving subject, with our knowledge regarding the nature and foundations of lucidity in constant flux and growth.


It is not surprising, then, that the definition for a lucid dream is also under constant revision.


 


The History of Lucid Dream Definitions


Before the term "lucid dream" was popularized by 20th century Dutch writer Frederik Willem van Eeden, it went by various other names.


In the world's first book on the subject Dreams and How to Guide Them: Practical Observations, French dream explorer Léon Hervey de Saint-Denys, referred to them as "dreams in which I was aware of my true situation".


Oliver Fox (the pseudonym for Hugh George Callaway), an early writer on the subject, called them "Dreams of Knowledge".


Over the years there have been various terms and definitions, but none have perfectly captured the subtleties of the state.


Currently, there is no "official" definition, but the common, but incomplete, casual definition for a lucid dream is:


"A dream in which the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming"

However, as with many things in life, this is not the whole picture.



How to Define a Lucid Dream


A lucid dream is a unique psychological state characterised by two important elements: knowledge and cognizance.


Element 1: Knowledge


As is commonly understood, for a dream to become lucid, a dreamer must know that they are dreaming.


However, knowledge does not necessarily mean that the dreamer is lucid.


There is a certain category of non-lucid dream in which a dreamer will know they are dreaming, but not have the critical mental faculties to understand or respond correctly to that knowledge.


These are colloquially referred to as "fake lucid dreams" or "semi-lucid dreams".


For example, in a "fake lucid dream" a dreamer may be "aware they are dreaming" but respond to the dream in a manner that is not consistent with that knowledge, such as becoming fearful of a dream monster, or becoming frustrated by an argument within the dream.


For a dream to be fully lucid, another more subtle element is required: cognizant critical thinking.



Element 2: Cognizance


As we all know, knowledge without understanding is little more than rote parroting.


The same is true for lucid dreaming.


In order for a dreamer to make use of the knowledge of their state, they must have active logical and critical faculties, aka cognizance.


This is further tentatively supported by the science of lucidity, where a lucid dream is distinguished from a non-lucid dream based on the activation of the prefrontal cortex -- the area of the brain required for rational critical thinking.


For a dreamer to be lucid, they must know that they are dreaming, and also comprehend the meaning of that knowledge.


This requires the areas of the brain required for critical and logical thinking to be "online".


In practical terms, a lucid dreamer not only knows they are dreaming, but responds to the knowledge that they are dreaming, under all circumstances, with the clarity of mind that matches this knowledge.


In other words, their actions and thoughts within the dream must always conform to a complete knowledge and understanding that everything they experience is an illusion without consequence.


For example, a lucid dreamer may encounter a monster in their dream, but the combination of knowledge and cognizance will allow them to be fully aware that this dream demon is little more than a phantasm, an illusion of the mind. Therefore, fear would be an entirely illogical and inappropriate response.


Equally, they will not mistake dream characters for external sentient creatures, nor will they become lost in the plot of the dream.


A person who is truly lucid in their dreams has two key abilities: they have the knowledge that they are dreaming, and they are able to fully understand the significance of this realization with a clear and logical mind.





 

The Correct Definition of a Lucid Dream



The current complete and accurate definition of a lucid dream is:

lucid dream

in British English (ˈluːsɪd driːm ) NOUN A lucid dream refers to a dream in which the dreamer fully understands they are dreaming. To qualify as a lucid dream, the dreamer must also exhibit high-level cognitive functionality, such as clarity of thought and logic, just as they would in a fully awake state. In a true lucid dream, the dreamer's actions and thoughts must align perfectly with the knowledge that they are in a dream. A lucid dreamer may choose to control their dream.



 



CONCLUSION


The human mind is a subtle and complex space, and while it's tempting to oversimplify concepts and definitions, this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.


It's important to note that demanding an accurate and representative definition isn't an exercise in pedantry, but a recognition that a definition is a distillation of key components of a concept, and therefore a very important linguistic tool. The more precise a tool, the more useful it can be.


Using a correct and complete definition of lucid dreaming not only helps us to understand the processes involved, but helps to minimise misinformation, maximise understanding, and creates a space where learning how to lucid dream becomes a much easier process for those new to the subject.


I hope today's article has helped enlighten you as to the true nature of a lucid dream, and will give you the confidence to distinguish between your own lucid and semi-lucid dreams.




 

References:


https://www.dreamscience.ca/en/documents/New%20content/lucid%20dreaming%20pdfs/vanEeden_PSPR_26_1-12_1913.pdf


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie-Jean-L%C3%A9on,_Marquis_d%27Hervey_de_Saint_Denys


https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-36190-w


https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01885/full


https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24021850/







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