Lucid Dreaming – Step 2, Knowing you’re in a dream

Once we can remember our dreams by day, the next step in working with dreams is being able to tell you’re in them while you’re asleep and dreaming. Most of us go through dreams thinking they’re real, or maybe not thinking anything at all, just experiencing. Often we have a sensation of disorientation when waking when we suddenly realize that what we were just doing, feeling, or thinking isn’t real, the situation is actually nothing like that, and the wonderful or terrible thing that was just happening fades into oblivion. Profound relief or disappointment can follow, or just a sense of puzzlement.

Remembering your dreams, and especially the part where you consciously experience the state between dreaming and waking, starts to blur the lines between the two states and allows for more exercise of consciousness while dreaming. You don’t have to do anything special to make this happen, it just does. On the other hand, if you’re in a hurry to get better at it, there may be some things you can do to improve this skill.

Start with a recurring dream, as these are ones you are most likely to be able to recognize while you’re in them. Whether good or bad, these can be used for practice. If used with a nightmare, it may help you eventually “cure” them, or learn to deal with them effectively. If used with a nicer dream, you may eventually be able to direct your experience in that dream and enjoy it more fully.

Pick out a detail or two to focus on that is always or almost always a part of the dream. It helps if it’s a nonsensical detail, something that couldn’t happen in daily life. Before you go to bed each night, preferably when you are relaxed and approaching dreamstate, tell yourself that if you see that detail in a dream, you will know you are in a dream and that what you are experiencing isn’t real. Make that detail a trigger and imagine your consciousness coming on line as soon as you see that part of your dream. Actually see yourself in the dream realizing that it is a dream and having full awareness of that fact.

While it may not work the very first time, keep reinforcing this idea each night before you go to bed. When you wake up and are working on remembering your dreams, note details of them that could have triggered a realization that this is a dream and not real (something that couldn’t be true or wouldn’t be happening in “real” life).

Eventually, you will have your first realization that you are in a dream. It may be a bit frustrating at first, because initially it can be hard to do anything with this except observe the dream with a different state of consciousness. Making the dream do anything different can be difficult at first, particularly if it is a dream with well-ingrained pathways in your mind. Trust that eventually it can be done, and at least enjoy the realization that you’ve succeeded in this step. Don’t forget to write down this aspect of your dream when you wake up!


33 thoughts on “Lucid Dreaming – Step 2, Knowing you’re in a dream

  1. Paul Gautam says:

    When I dream, most of the time, I think it’s 2 step dream
    I see something in a dream
    and then I woke up in the dream , not really ,in the dream , something wakes me up.
    After I know that I’m dreaming ,in my dream, after then, I really really wake up.What’s that ? Is it Natural? My friends say that it happens to them sometimes . Even if it’s normal situation, I’m curious to know how our brain handles such complicated processes.

  2. I’m not sure how the brain does it – I’d like to know that myself. But I do know that the experience of being in a dream without knowing it and then suddenly realizing you’re in a dream is normal. Something usually triggers that realization, and that trigger is something you can practice by thinking about it when you’re awake. Basically, something that just is so far from reality that it jogs you eventually – like speaking to a person who’s dead or nonsensical things strung together or falling off a cliff and not getting hurt. The dreams that are hardest to recognize as dreams are those that are possible and could happen, though maybe not likely the way they are in your dream.

  3. I know i’m in a dream and a noise goes off in real life, say my alarm clock usually. However the sound in the dream usually happpens seconds before the alarm actually sounds…..SPOOKY?

  4. louise says:

    i think i have actually started to get the hang of this ,i have just had a lot of crazy dreams during a nap i finally realised i was dreaming whilst in my dream and was able to kinda control what i wanted to do i wanted to see my self in my bed i ran up my stairsand my bedroom door just kept getting further away and sirens where going off and a figure stood in front of it , i got scared so turned back around to wake my self i opened my eyes but could not wake my body so went back to sleep i then eard a voice and a big warning screen telling me me to be carefull los of other screens kept popping up with instructions on how much you are allowed to use of your brain and not to pass these boundarys . so weird i actually feel as though i nearly did something that we are not aloud to do, i have had a few dreams knowin im dreaming and felt i had some kind of control i even left my body and looked down at it, i got scared and pulled back in i coildnt move but my eyes opend this time aswell, it is exciting although i dont think u can really have an out off body experience i do think i will learn to control my dreams and u never know i could go to any place i want any world, even though it would not be real the thought of being able to make yur own world is very exciting and im gonna keep practicing untill i perfect it,

    has anyone else had an experiance like this.

    • Mia Lewis says:

      wow I have an experience like that, I notice I’m dreaming and I’m leaving my body. So then I try to wake myself up before I leave my body in fear some other soul may take over, it’s so weird and I feel so paralyzed trying to wake myself up.

  5. Zakk Nilles says:

    i am going to try id like to know im dreaming then control it to make me happier in my sleep

  6. ivan says:

    I don’t know how to explain this but, here i go. I had a dream last night and i knew it was a dream from the beginning, i don’t know how i knew i just did. In it was my friends and i kept telling them it was a dream but they didn’t believe me. i remember walking to the bathroom and looking in the mirror and telling myself that i need to wake up….but i couldn’t. i tried really hard “even pinched myself in the dream” but i could’t wake up, i was starting to get scared. i remember going to my friends and telling them this was a dream but they still didn’t believe me, so i told myself i had to prove it to them. i concentrated to make myself float and i did!!! i wasn’t even shocked that i did it, i just wanted them to believe me. They didn’t even care.. i was beginning to freak out!! i kept telling myself wake up wake up. finally i did! i woke up sweating and breathing hard! i only slept 4 hours that night….what does this mean?!?!?!?

    • To me it says that you’ve just taken the first step in knowing when you’re in a dream and learning how to wake yourself up! It is very hard to do at first, which explains all the trouble you had managing it. But you did it! That’s really good. The more you try this the more effortless it will be, and it won’t seem so strange anymore. You’re just observing yourself in another mental state, which I think is kind of neat.

  7. Amy says:

    I’ve been working on my myself through my dreams. Remembering them. Looking up the meaning of colors, numbers, etc. Last night, I had my first experience of knowing I was in a dream. I began having the recurring dream of losing my teeth. Right after I looked at the second tooth that had fallen out, I realized it was a dream. I yelled, “Wake up! You’re in a dream!” I didn’t wake up entirely, but I left that dream. I was somewhat shocked in the morning. I guess I didn’t realize I could know I was dreaming in the way that I did. I appreciate any advice you could give me. I feel like I have achieved a milestone, but I don’t really know what to do with it.

  8. It’s really your choice what to do with it. To me, the two most useful things are that 1) you can remember a dream better if you’re aware that you’re in it (not sure why that is) -and I always feel that remembering your dreams can provide many insights, and 2) just what you did – waking up if you’re in a dream you don’t like. No reason you should stay and suffer there, especially if it’s a recurring nightmare or anxiety dream.

  9. Sarah says:

    I had a dream last night i was at a friends flat and started to have a panic attack in my dream but whilst dreaming and deep asleep i new in my dream i was draming nd i was tryin to tell my mind to get out of it and when i finally woke myself out of it i woke up with a strange noise buzzing very loudly in my ear it was very strange but what was even stranger i was looking at the meaning of dreams before i went to sleep that night i was going to write down every little bit of detail to the dream when i woke as i could remeber every part but then soon fell back to sleep and cant really remeber it now just remebering i knew i was dreaming and waking up with a werid sensation and hearing that strange noise very loudly in my head what does this mean?

  10. Caroline says:

    Last night I realized I was dreaming. I was around my house, but the area was slightly changed. But while I was climbing a large hill, I realized I was in a dream. The first thing I did was make myself fly. That seems to be what I do when I realize these things. Then I felt myself waking up. It was weird though. It was like I was farther inside myself watching this happen. I forced myself back to sleep. It wasn’t difficult either. It was kind of cool :)

  11. Jeffrey says:

    I was wondering a few months ago if you could realize you were in a dream while inside the dream. I soon forgot about it and a couple weeks later it happened to me. I was in school, in class. The classroom was totally different than in actual person along with the seat arrangement. For some reason with nothing happening out of the ordinary I figured out that I was in a dream, but i wasn’t 100% sure so i was scared to do something crazy just yet. Then after sitting their for a couple seconds I was absolutely positive it was a dream, For some reason I walked up to my teacher and couple of students and said, “You know this is a dream right?” Surprisingly they said yes. Then the bell rung, i started walking down the halls having no clue where im going. I walked into the first classroom i saw next, having the mindset that i was going to punch someone shtraight in the face just for the heck of it. right when I was about to punch some chick in the face i woke up. Im hoping to have another one of these it’s pretty crazy.

  12. Zach says:

    soo i had a dream i was at my girlfriends house but i rode my friends bike there that i saw the other day. weird lol. but like in the middle of the dream i felt weird and i kept asking myself am i dreaming? is this real? like while i was walking in the dream i would stop to think if it was real or not. then later in the dream i saw 2 of my friends and tried telling them that i was in a dream but they didnt believe me. and i had this dream in class after the TAKS test. its a test in texas kinda like the SAT. maybe i knew i was in a dream because my mind had already been thinking the whole day?

  13. Calizar says:

    For me it all started when i was 19 y.o. and inside a nightmare, i realised for the first time that im dreaming. I was walking down a road in dark forest that had long trees, after a bit i noticed there was a house on my left with a flagpole on its roof higher than the trees, ofcourse immediately thought that since im in a dream, this kind of leap would be doable. It was getting lighter and lighter till i could almost see the horizon, at that very moment i got violently pulled back from behind as if i had a rope through my stomach and a sharp stab to my belly button and instantly woke up… as if someone was trying to avoid me go “out of the boundaries”.
    The Navel chakra (a point just below your belly button) is associated with giving and receiving emotions. When related to dreams also often referred to as a binding point through which we feel emotions while dreaming.
    So i assumed im simply not ready to take controll of my dreams yet.

    For the past 6 years ive been trying to practice it and progress has never stopped.
    At the moment i see about 4-7 dreams a night, if i dont find the topic entertaining i wake my self up (as efforless as blinking an eye, trust me it gets really natural in time).
    I cant simply force myself INTO a specific environment but once inside you can change it as easy as imagineing it, for me at early on i used to imagine a door in front of me and thought what i want it to be like once enter it. Nowdays however, i like to find a random interesting topic i like and force it to turn out entertaining,
    It used to be fun to trigger random stuff like for example if a person is walking on the streets and i want him to trip or that a vase from the balcony would fall on its head… it happens… if i want to shoot out fireballs or fly, its as natural as if uve been doing it whole your life (or sleep if i may :D). Interestingly enough i cant seem to make people or other living things appear at will. (for example when i want to see someone who i found intriguing in a past deam)
    I also used to think while awake about the things i wanna do in dreams and then while in a dream i try to remember about some specific good idea what i wanted to do and i just make it happen. (while dreaming i also usually remember which night of the week it is, what time i went to sleep etc).
    One thing that was hard to do though is that when i woke up from a dream with an interesting story and really badly want it to continue after i fall asleep again… so far i can make it within the next minute or so, but once i wake up and take a bathroom break the story is sadly over for me. At the moment my wish is to be able to see the same dreams i saw day before it.
    For practice id have to say the best thing to do would be, once you notice its a dream try to focus on one thing one at a time and start “filling” your consciousness. As an example, every time you realise youre in a dream try to look at your hands, move one finger, then other fingers etc… to actually be able to remember to look at your hands at first is hard but once there youll be able to progress things further… think of it like this, in real life when we move your body, its natural… after all its OUR budy parts. When in a dream however everything you see is your own body, makes sense doesnt it? with that in mind you can start getting better and better at it.
    Next time youll be “bending a spoon” if u know what i mean *wink-wink*… afterall its just your imagination thats making it bend :D

  14. sanz says:

    I, too,sometimes realise in my dream that it is not reality.But the worse part is that whenever I get that realisation, it triggers my conscious mind and I’m not asleep anymore.It has also happened sometimes that I feel that i’m out of my dream,but unfortunately ,that,too,is a dream.Which is very irritating when you wakeup,i mean out of that dream-loop,finally.
    ofcourse not many will understand what i am saying,but some will,mainly the people who have commented here.

  15. MikeRobe says:

    This was probably the closest I’ve been to lucid dreaming in a while. I had escaped from a cell which reeked of fish (that bit was third person) and had run through a series of corridors to hide in a toilet. I could hear the guard shouting my name as he got closer. I thought to myself that if he found me I could wake up. That indicated to me that I knew I was in a dream. He found me (as in right outside the door), I force-woke. I had a few dreams before that, most of them lucid but I can only remember parts. I think “darn!” because I could have made anyting happen, but instead I opted to wake up.

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