Dreams, awareness, and the illusion of control within them

Every once in a while, I hear somebody claim that they can control their dreams, or that they've been able to do it before. Because experience is so hard to argue with, I've always just sort of taken them at their word and thought, "that's really interesting, I wonder what it would be like". Last night, however, I experienced it for myself. The amazing thing is, the experience didn't reinforce the stories I'd heard, it simply begged the question whether control within dreams is merely an illusion.

Last night, I discovered that I could "hard reset" or "reboot" one dream into another if it wasn't panning out the way I'd like. All I had to do is find a room where no one else was, close it off from the rest of the dream world, concentrate for a bit, and then when I walked out of that room, I'd be in the beginning of a new dream. Some "characters" would continue in the next dream world, but all the events (both good and bad) had been completely scrubbed and had never happened to the dream I currently occupied. Using this method, I was able to experience 5 distinctly unique dreams during one dream session.

While this might not be the same control that other people speak of, I was aware (in all five dreams) that I was dreaming. Furthermore, when I wasn't happy with the experience I was having, I knew how to, and did, affect change to the dream world. When my alarm clock (which coincidentally plays the song used as "the kick" in the film Inception) finally brought me back to reality, I was almost excited at the new found power I had gained over dreams. The excitement quickly dissipated though as I began to question whether you could ever really trust anything you see or experience in a dream.

Sure, it seemed like I had control, but was I really in control? Or was I simply watching a dream play out in which "the character" of me was in control of his dream? Will I ever be able to replicate this experience? Even if I could, how could I tell if I was really the one in control? How can anyone really believe that the control they experience within a dream, isn't simply a dream about controlling dreams? As Cobb tells Ariadne in Inception, "Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange".

posted by Christopher Schnese