Study Shows How to Control Your Dreams

Carl Jung devoted much of his professional life to analyzing dreams, much to the chagrin of his colleagues. He saw a connection between these nighttime visions and our seemingly innate penchant for mythological symbolism. While he discussed the creative scenes one encountered during sleep in terms of mandalas, he was always careful to stick to as rigorous a scientific method as possible in his interpretations.


Jung demanded that we give up any idea of a universal analysis of the unconscious—as he termed it, the ‘objective psyche’—as he felt there was no deductive method available. Theoretically, he wrote in his essay ‘Individual Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy,’ we can never know in advance the dreamer’s web of associations, nor can the analyst rely too heavily on technical rules. He goes on,

It should therefore be an absolute rule to assume that every dream, and every part of a dream, is unknown at the outset, and to attempt an interpretation only after carefully taking up the context. 

In his time dreams had many possible connotations. Some believed them to be messages from a divine source, while others thought they were the language of our deeper, darker self: the unconscious. Those of a more psychological and scientific bent felt dreams were rubbish, mental chatter and hallucinations. Jung gingerly attempted to give form to the formless. 

Yet what if we can control the formless? Some people report being able to control their dreams, termed ‘lucid dreaming.’ Perhaps we’ve all had such moments; on occasion I know I’ve been dreaming while dreaming, and was able to manipulate the weightlessness of my body through situations with ease. It is thought that the more you fall asleep with this intention, the more you are able to control (and remember) what happens. From Jung’s time to today practice makes perfect. 

A study in Germany has shown that not only can you control your dreams sometimes, researchers can do it with electrodes most of the time. In a double-blind study, they electrically stimulated 24 volunteers with 40 hz of juice—the frequency associated with our brain’s ability for self-awareness—all of whom had no history of lucid dreaming. The result: dreamers were able to control their experiences seventy-seven percent of the time.

This study offers a potential breakthrough in PTSD therapy, for one. I consider it a sort of unconscious mirror box solution. Trauma victims and veterans often suffer intolerably while asleep; giving them control over their dreams holds the possibility of alleviating the mental and emotional weight of their waking life.

It also sheds more light on our rapidly expanding knowledge of how consciousness operates. Many of our previously held assumptions of our brains have been proven wrong in the last decade. Seeing auras, once thought a mystical ability, turns out to be the neuronal cross-wiring known as synesthesia. And of course, since 2007 scientists have been able to induce out-of-body experiences in laboratories. 

Electrical stimulation doesn’t predict the content of the dream, so in this Jung’s ideas remain intact. Now armed with the ability to turn lucid dreams on through stimulation does shed light on the dreaming phenomenon in general. For one, we are secure in our knowledge that dreams don’t come from anywhere ‘out there.'

Until we have a firmer grasp of the mechanisms of consciousness, it will be difficult to make many assumptions regarding the function of dreams. Walking in this direction, however, does offer insight into the time we spend awake and the murkier domain of sleep. Perhaps spending more time controlling that matrix will reveal new secrets about the daytime as well. 

Image: Sergey Nivens /shutterstock.com

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less