SWEET DREAMS: Although dream control has populated science fiction for decades, new ways of reading the brain’s activity are making actual mind manipulation less of a fiction.
Some dreams feel so revelatory—if only returning to sleep would take us back there. It turns out, however, that our ability to shape our dreams is better than mere chance. In the blockbuster movie Inception, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his compatriots use drugs and psychological profiles to trigger specific dreams in people. Although the heavy sedation and level of detail incited are far-fetched, dream control isn’t entirely a Hollywood fantasy.
Techniques to control, or at least influence, our dreams have been shown to work in sleep experiments. We can strategize to dream about a particular subject, solve a problem or end a recurring nightmare. With practice we can also increase our chances of having a lucid dream, the sort of “dream within a dream” that Inception’s characters regularly slip into.
The ability to influence other people’s sleep worlds is still crude. But emerging technologies raise the prospect that, at the very least, we’ll get an idea of what others are dreaming about in real time.
We asked Deirdre Barrett, author of the book The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving—and How You Can, Too (Crown, 2001) and assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, about what dream-control strategies do and don’t work—and why…………………