Social Psychology of Lucid Dreams -or- Consensus Social Reality
Freedom - or - Dream Control
As I have mentioned in a different "Field Note", when I was a student in one of my last semesters at University I took a course on conformity. Conformity plays an important social psychological role in defining the way we see the "reality" of everyday life and the sense of reality in our dreams. As it turned out, while we (the group of twelve students signed up for the class) were performing conformity experiments with students we recruited from the University, our supervisors were conducting conformity experiments (unbeknownst to us) on us. The three supervisor's unethical experiments were denuded, and they did not even have a "debriefing protocol" in case they were found out! Remember we are talking 1983.
In everyday life we usually experience the fear of punishment of consequences which usually deters us from risking socially deviant behaviour. While dreaming, these social conformity pressures have an influence on our "attitudes" and can express themselves negatively, or as in the case below can give way to an exhilarating feeling of freedom and having free will.
Here is the dream;
Jesse, 19 North American Student
I was walking down a street that was unfamiliar to me. A very beautiful neighborhood, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. I began to walk down the road and came to a small intersection. There were no cars in the road. This place almost seemed to be a ghost town. Next, I looked up and I noticed there were people. A lady passed right by me like she did not even notice me. She was dressed old fashioned, like the 1930's. I remember her bonnet. She was pushing a baby buggy. I looked down at my clothes and I noticed that I was dressed normally, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. I noticed a couple sitting at a little deli-restaurant.
They were sitting outside on the patio enjoying lunch. I sat down next to them at the table. I got very excited because they could not see me. This is when I realized that I was dreaming. I figured that I could do anything that I wanted and not have to deal with any consequences. That is when I picked up the couple's wine bottle and smashed it up against the old building. No one looked at me. I started running down the street screaming and yelling out of pure excitement. I have always heard about people who knew they were dreaming and could control it and I was actually doing it. I could not change my location, only my actions.
Mr Hagen's Reply; Lucid Dreaming -or- Virtual Reality and Degrees of Freedom
Some of the aspects of your dream would require personal associations. There are some general observations that can be made, this is what's called a "lucid dream". You have made the realization that you are free in your dreams, with none of the consequences that would result in everyday waking reality. No one will look at you or punish you for your deeds. Therefore you feel free, and this is the whole point of your dream. You are free of what has been called "consensus reality".
One of the most important psychological functions of the mind is "reality testing", in your dream you realize that you are in a dream, which is a creation and "virtual reality" (or simulation) construct created by your mind. You realize that in your own mind that you are free. Although we are never completely free, already as a student, I had a clear understanding of the mechanical concept of "degrees of freedom". This idea is illustrated in your dream; "I could not change my location, only my actions."
In everyday life and social reality, the way that you are perceived in others' eyes reinforces your behavioural conformity. Said differently, others act as mirrors, they provide "mirroring" psychological feedback for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour about yourself. What you have discovered is what Charles Cooley called "The Looking Glass Self". If you went running down the street screaming in waking reality, people would look at you and most likely think that you had lost your mind. That is one of the reasons why you don't do it. You are afraid, as most of us are, of what other people would think. So this is why we usually conform to the norms of "visual culture" and the socially constructed consensus reality of everyday life.
The film "The Matrix" deals with the issues of the social constructionist view of reality, as does the film "Inception" and our conformity to it. In the classic scene in "The Matrix", Neo (Mr Anderson) listens to his boss tell him; "You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson. You believe you are special, that somehow the rules do not apply to you. Obviously, you are mistaken."
- Stephen LaBerge "Lucid Dreaming"
- Paul Watzlawick, "How Real is Real?"