Updated: Mar 6
By James S. Bray
When first deciding to become a lucid dreamer, one is left with a decision: which induction method to use?
Okay, this is a false dichotomy. A zero sum decision between the two options is not required. As oneironauts, we are free to choose to experiment with as many techniques as we desire, be they Wake Initiated (going from conscious to dreaming consciously), like WILD, FILD, DEILD, etc., or Dream Initiated (going from dreaming to dreaming consciously).
There does, however, seem to be a bit of a debate going on, in some corners of the lucid dreaming community, over which style of induction method is best; WILD or DILD?
Personally, I do find myself on the DILD side of the debate, but I don’t necessarily think I’m right. There are several factors to consider before making such a judgement and it’s important to remember that many of those factors are personal and outside of our control. We have no say over which technique will work better for us, aside from ensuring that we are doing them correctly. We don’t get to choose our personal neural connections, brain chemistry, or natural temperament.
We can only attempt to control our actions, to guide our habits toward the lucid dreaming practices that seem to be the most useful for us, as individuals. For instance, MILD Affirmations might be more useful for people who have higher suggestibility. WILD might be more accommodating of those who tend to wake naturally during the night and are able to return to sleep easily. Any debate or speculation about “the best technique” ought to be approached with these facts in mind. The Elephant in the Room
Before moving further, it might be a good idea to take a moment to address a debate within the debate. Namely, the question of whether or not WILD is suitable for beginners. These days, WILD is widely considered to be an advanced technique, though there are some people who disagree.
Personally, I think to call WILD anything but an advanced technique is a disservice to the majority of beginner lucid dreamers. My reason for labeling WILD as advanced is because it requires that the oneironaut learn an entirely separate skill set apart from the rest of the lucid dreaming practices. The dream journal is a fairly straightforward tool, as are reality checks, and both are incredibly easy to fit into one's life, as is MILD. Wake-Back-To-Bed (WBTB) is where things begin to get more technical, and once we get into WILD territory, we have to concern ourselves with learning to stay still and to take the experience as it comes, to learn how to maintain focus and consciousness as the body transitions into sleep, and then we have to get acclimated to the many strange sensations that can occur as hypnagogic hallucinations, and the weirdness that ensues as we transition into the dream itself.
Essentially, with WILD, we are required to use much more discipline to learn a more difficult skill set. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t beginners in the world who would absolutely master WILD with ease while being unable to have a single DILD. Extremes will always exist no matter what the subject.
From my own anecdotal experience, I get the impression that the majority of people learn to have DILDs much easier and faster than WILDs. Yet, we must always be careful to remind ourselves that we do not have the figures on how many lucid dreamers have the most success with WILD vs DILD.
So, this being the case, it would be a mistake for a beginner who has been struggling and unable to have DILDs, after a good amount of time, to not switch to a WILD technique to see if it works better. As well, it would also be a mistake, I think, for a beginner not to try to have DILDs at first (and for a frequent DILDer to not achieve a WILD at least once, for that matter).
I have simply seen too many would-be lucid dreamers give up purely because they tried to do WILD first, be it correctly or not (hint: only try WILD after WBTB). Absolute beginners usually aren’t ready for the technique as a lucid dreamer (no concept of the experience to motivate past the challenges) or they try it incorrectly because people vary in their ability to learn independently. It’s also worthy to note that, in order to learn about WILD, you also have to start hearing about experiences like sleep paralysis and hypnagogic imagery and those are two topics which don’t usually sit well with people who aren’t informed on and experienced with them. What's more, they’re both absolutely unnecessary to even know about for lucid dreaming and likely clouds the conversation more than it helps.
DILDs simply seem to be a more straightforward path for the average person, but you might have had more experiences that indicate the opposite to you. We’re all in our little corner of the community, so if you have other thoughts, I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below this article.
Dreaming Up a Better Best
The nature of WILD aside, I think the question the lucid dreaming community has been trying to answer with this debate is which technique is the most effective for the greatest amount of people.
This would be interesting information to know, but there are so many other answers we would need to have in order to get a clear enough picture to even attempt a guess. We would need to know the distribution; is the majority lead slight or dramatic? It would be important to know the skill and experience level of each dreamer to determine which techniques are used by which groups.
It could be that the majority have experience with one technique because the majority of lucid dreamers are beginners. We could therefore find something like the majority of long term lucid dreamers have the most success with WILD techniques, which should have some sway in the decision making process, if it were true. In order to find any of this out, we’re essentially talking about a study.
The problem is that there are so many relevant questions to ask and relationships to be made, that we are still in the dark about, that we can’t even make an educated guess. We should also be prepared to find results that we don’t like, in such a survey. What if WILD and MILD are so close that it’s basically irrelevant? What if it’s some dissatisfying split where we find that MILD is better for beginner success and there’s a certain point where the suggestibility wears off and WILD becomes more relevant.
We should also know that it’s still early into lucid dreaming research. There could be a really simple take on WILD that we haven’t yet discovered, which could make it incredibly effective for beginners and experienced alike; or vice-versa, we could discover a more potent method of suggestion which could be harnessed toward influencing us to become lucid with little effort. Simply put, we don’t know what the current facts are, we don’t know what the future will hold, and it’s still a major possibility that even all of the techniques we know today will be laughable in the next 50 years.
As lucid dreamers, we might want to take a moment to consider what our goal is with this debate. It’s becoming less common than it used to be, but I still see a little bit of elitism when the conversation takes place today, between fervent believers in a specific method. Personally, I say this debate is irrelevant at the current juncture. Like everyone, I have my opinion of where to start, but more broadly I think that people should experiment with both methods and see what works best for them, because in the end that’s 90% of matters. Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
The rest is down to preference. It’s actually a pretty fair point to make that we could be unconsciously biased toward a specific method based on factors other than efficacy. For instance, when I started to have success with WILD, I found that I actually had a lot of trouble getting used to entry. Sometimes, I would wake-induce into a falling dream.
Other times my perspective would sort of snap into place, which often caused discomfort in the dream (imagine your bones breaking into existence). If those things didn’t happen, the feeling of having no body to suddenly be standing somewhere in a dream made me feel dizzy and I just didn’t like it.
Honestly, I can count on one hand the amount of dreams I’ve wake-induced to that weren’t uncomfortable. I’m sure these are all issues I could have gotten used to if I decided I wanted to continue to pursue WILD. Personally, I didn’t see the point because I was already having more frequent MILDs. But, even if WILD had been giving me better results, I still would have chosen against it simply because I don’t like my specific brain’s preset options and have no real drive to configure them myself.
There could be others like me or the exact opposite and that’s kind of the point. On top of all the other hard facts that we do not yet know, we also don’t know how much of this has nothing at all to do with frequency of lucid dreams and how much has to do with personal preference or the luck of the draw with what early experiences the dreamer has had with a new technique. Self reporting isn’t always reliable and the human mind is great at rationalizing reasons for things, like on why it is they prefer one thing to another.
Our minds love to find patterns where none exist and there is an ever-present veil of subjectivity through which we view the world, so we could be entirely fabricating our own conclusions based on what we happen to remember or happen to have noticed at the time, with little insight to what actually happened versus how it seemed to us.
Even when a lot of humans come together to talk about things online, we can come to a consensus that’s entirely wrong based on a vocal minority or on the opinions of other dreamers we just so happen to talk with, in the community. That’s why it’s important to question our beliefs and preconceptions whenever possible, to challenge ourselves to come up with more tangible and rational reasons for the views we hold.
Bring It In
Folks, we are again confronted with the harsh truths of existence. There are so many things that we don’t yet know and more still than we could ever understand. We try to come to some understanding and, I think, we do a pretty good job as a bunch of apes on the surface of an amusingly small rock, but we simply have to live with not having all the facts. On this topic, I think that we will only have to do so for a while; I do believe we will have much better answers to this debate in the future.
When, I cannot say, but until that time, I think we’d all do a lot of good if we stopped looking at techniques in terms of being the best and instead focus on what sorts of techniques and practices might be best for which people. Perhaps we could do with a slight culture shift. If beginners ask which technique to use, we might do well to help them find which practices might be best for them by asking some probing questions (boy, my call center days are paying off now, aren’t they?).
People who are light sleepers, have trouble getting or returning to sleep, have poor focus, or aren’t well attuned to their ideal WBTB times, might do better with a DILD technique.
People with a lot of meditation experience, some lucid dreaming experience/poor results with DILD, bravery to face possibly uncomfortable/frightening hallucinations and bodily discomfort, and those with a good amount of determination, might be a better fit for WILD. If you find that you fancy one technique over another, try to figure out what it is you like about that technique and why you think it works well for you personally. If you’re giving advice to a new lucid dreamer with similar or opposite traits, you could possibly give better advice by relating it to them in those terms. Overall, I think the way toward helping more people find the best technique for them is to conversationally open the space up for them by letting them know it’s encouraged to explore and kindly informing them when it takes to have success with each technique, while realizing that we don’t have all the answers quite yet. If we do that, I think the lucid dreaming community will be that much more pleasant a place for it.
Credits: Digital artwork by BEEPLE