Hi Mary -
You are the envy of nightmare sufferers everywhere! Just when a dream starts to get unbearable, you can wake yourself up -- just by repeating the simple mantra, "Wake Up!" in your mind. I know a lot of readers want your secret!
Lucid dreams are defined as dreams in which we know that we are dreaming. They are unusual, because normally we don't realize we are (were) dreaming until after we've awakened. The most common response to the introduction of consciousness -- or lucidity -- into a dream is that we awaken our bodies at the same time. This is true in your case as well, and as you know, it can be a pretty cool trick. You do not have to endure the discomfort of being in a dream you would really rather skip!
People who practice lucid dreaming, however, will tell you that you've just taken the first step toward opening a wonderful new door in your dream life. Instead of waking yourself up, why don't you stay in the dream, and work to discover creative solutions to your dream problems? For example, if you are being attacked, why not ask the attacker who he or she represents? Is it an unsolved problem in your life? Is it a past experience that still saps your energy? The dream will respond to your questions, not always with direct, literal answers, but with clues that will point you in the right direction.
Lucid dreams are fabulous opportunities for learning and adventure. We can fly without wings, write "dream poetry," compose a musical symphony, and work on our next great painting. Instead of the sky being the limit, now it's only our imagination!
If you wish to gain familiarity with lucid dreams, keep a dream journal and either write down or tape record your dreams when you awaken from them. Before sleeping, review the dreams in your journal and remind yourself that you want to recognize your dreams tonight. Also, try using the "snooze" button on your alarm or clock radio. Because we dream heavily in the morning, the snooze alarm will awaken us repeatedly from "rapid eye movement" (REM) sleep. This will give us several opportunities each morning to remember our dreams -- and to begin the adventure of a lucid dream.
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