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Combined Technique

Girl Behind a Sheet


Paul Tholey (1937 - 1998) was a German Gestalt Psychologist who conducted pioneering research into lucid dreaming. His "Combined Technique" includes the core components of critical reflection, intention, and auto-suggestion, which can be used either individually or combined (as they are in this technique). Today these form the foundations for almost all lucid dream induction strategies. 

When the three elements of Tholey's lucid dream induction techniques are used together, they become a highly effective means for inducing lucid dreams (in the form of DILDs).

Today many practitioners use Tholey's techniques without any knowledge of their source. Few, for example, recognize Tholey as the man responsible for popularising the concept of "reality checks" - a concept Tholey called"critical reflection". Stephen LaBerge (influenced by Tholey) later referred to them, "Critical State Checks". 

The following outline of the technique was kindly translated from the original German, by dream explorer Alexandra Enns. Minor edits and additions have been added. 

The Technique

1. Each day, regularly (ideally 10 times or more) and seriously ask yourself the critical question: “Am I awake or asleep?”. This form of critical reflection is should be performed with a high level of mental acuity and critical thought.  

2. While doing this, imagine yourself being in a dream (including your dream body). 

3. Take an inventory check your memory, both the immediate and more distant past. Are there any gaps? Does everything make sense? Take time to really consider this this reflection.

4. Always ask yourself the critical question in situations that may also be characteristic of dreams; each time something surprising or improbable happens. It is also important to do so when you are in an extremely emotional situation.

5. If you have recurring dreams, always ask the critical question when you are in a similar situation during waking life. Do you often experience feelings of embarrassment in your dreams? Then ask yourself the critical question in all awkward situations in your day. Do dogs frequently emerge in your dreams? Whenever you meet a dog during the day, always ask yourself the critical question. These dreamlike scenarios are now commonly referred to as "dream signs". 

6. Are you often faced with extreme dream situations that are hard to experience in the waking reality, like falling or floating? Then, during your waking day, imagine yourself in such an experience. In addition, this idea must be connected with the thought that you are dreaming.

7. At night, allow yourself to fall asleep with the strong conviction that you will experience a lucid dream (autosuggestion). Also use this technique before a nap or while falling asleep after a short awakening during the night.

8. If you cannot remember your ordinary dreams at the start of this practice, it is suggested that you start recording a dream journal in order to develop your dream recall. 

9. Visualize yourself performing a very specific, simple action in the dream (i.e. beginners: passing through a wall, lifting a heavy weight with just one hand etc.)

10. Practice regularly, but not doggedly. Do not set a deadline and be patient instead. The first lucid dream will definitely come!


Paul Tholey (1937-1998)

Skill Level:


Lucid Dream Type:

Regained awareness (DILD)

(anecdotal & community reported)


Sense preference suited:


Hints & Tips:

Tholey's "technique" should be considered as a lifestyle adaption rather than something one experiments with occasionally. 

The principles outlined underpin the core thinking behind a lucid approach to life. 

Critical reflection is the core mentality behind what we now call the "reality check", and demonstrates that all reality checks require a sophisticated depth of critical thought. Whatever your preferred method, the test is always less important than the mindset that one adopts while performing it. 

However, it is useful combine one or more modern reality checks, such as the nose pinch test, to the critical reflection period of Tholey's technique, as this allows for a direct experiment to establish one's state. 


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