Is your lucid-dream self really yourself?
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#1: Is your lucid-dream self really yourself? Author: GOB PostPosted: Wed 08 Dec, 2010
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I'm fascinated with the idea of personal identity and if your self changes over time, whether we should care about ourselves in the future etc.

So the question is, 'Is the person who you feel to be yourself in a lucid dream, the person that feels and has many of your attributes, really the same person that you are in reality?'

I guess I could ask the same question applying to non-lucid dreams but LDs are more closely linked to reality, more vivid and as you are meant to be in control of them and (most of us) actively strive to experience them, it would be more troubling to realise that the dream self and the real self aren't identical.

I ask this because often in lucid dreams (and very often in normal dreams) I am not exactly the same as I am in real life. Physically I can be very different, but that is not very interesting, it is mentally that I mean. The things that I say I will do when I LD, I don't actually do and I just 'think' differently. Partly, this will be because of the excitement/anxiety that you are realising the unreality of your surroundings but I feel it is more than this. Possibly, it is because parts of your brain that are active in waking life are not active in dreams, or perhaps they are over-active. This would have the effect that you have an altered mind in the dream.

Sorry for such a long post, what do you think?

#2:  Author: Quiesco PostPosted: Wed 08 Dec, 2010
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Your LD self is your mind, in an ever changing body. No matter what happens to the body, the mind never changes. So in a way, your LD self is you.

#3:  Author: EagleBeak PostPosted: Wed 08 Dec, 2010
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I was wondering the exact same question, but in some dreams I actexactly like myself, remember things I want to do in an LD etc. I came to the conclusion that it really was me after that.

#4:  Author: Smooker PostPosted: Wed 08 Dec, 2010
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I think that in my dreams I'm the same person but like another version ,like a transformation of my personality .

#5:  Author: ZRVera PostPosted: Wed 08 Dec, 2010
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Mm, I believe my dream self is me. One of my main reasons to want to LD is so I can be everything that I want to be but can't IRL. Even in NDs I can sometimes end up as those forms or people that I want to be. I love dreams because then I can be a person I don't get to be in my waking life, whether I'm conscious it's a dream or not. So yes, those sides are still me, I believe, just a different part of me.

#6:  Author: arne saknussemm PostPosted: Wed 08 Dec, 2010
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There are some big differences.

#7:  Author: BeRightBack PostPosted: Wed 08 Dec, 2010
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I do notice that I can't remember or think as clearly in a LD as in WL, but that's just like being very tired, drunk or have just woken up. That doesn't change the fact that it's stll me. I do notice that i have less bounderies in dreams,but also that's just because you know nothing can harm you.

#8:  Author: krakatoa PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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This depends largely on what you mean by "identity" and "your self". I usually do not try to define myself. For one thing it is difficult, and also it is not much more than a way to set limits for yourself(It is literally what you are doing). I see myself as my consciousness, and that is what I am when I am dreaming, because if "I" wasn't, I wouldn't have any experience of it.

But if we are talking more about personality traits, and how they would be different when dreaming as opposed to when awake I am not sure. Is it not still you if you are in an altered state of consciousness? Is it not you, only feeling different and acting different? What's to say a person cannot be different at different times and still be the same person?

But if I am different in a dream, and I am not myself, then whose self am I? Seeing as it is something happening in my brain, I say that the self that is present in the dream belongs to me. Since that personality is the one I have at that time it must be who I am, and so: I am, a self, that is mine. In other words, I am myself.

#9:  Author: Harsyra PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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In normal dreams i can be alot different from the person i am in WL, and my personality can be totally changed. But i think that most people experience this, as the "logical" allways seems to fail, you(atleast I do) response different to situations in dreams v.s WL etc.? In LD I am more like my self like I am in WL just that i act very different because i know it is just a dream and i can do whatever i feel like without any unwanted consequences. But ofcourse it is me, it just depends on the circumstances.

#10:  Author: ZRVera PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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Mm, but now that I think about this more, I think the question is not necessarily psychological. Is it your "body", just without limitations? Your body is part of who you are, so is your dream body "you?" I myself would prefer to think of it as my dream body is whoever I want to be but can't in WL, so no, I'm not the same in that respect, and I like that. I don't know how much different that is though from what I've said before..

#11:  Author: Quiesco PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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When I think of myself, I'm mainly focused on personality, the mind. The body changes throughout life, but the mind, besides maturing and growing, is usually about the same after awhile.

#12:  Author: GOB PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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Thanks for all the responses.
Note that I'm not saying that our dream selves magically jump into someone else's consciousness when we are dreaming. Obviously, it is our mind that dreams but I wondered why it seems to be quite changed in dreams, to the point where you might legitimately ask whether it is still ourself.
I think I am inclined to agree with the people that have said that the dream self seems like a transformation of our normal self.

I feel less inclined to try and LD recently because of this fact that in the dream, I seem very different. When I'm waking I want to LD to enjoy myself but then I am in the dream and it doesn't seem exactly "myself" I am pleasing. This may just be because my lucid dreams haven't been very clear but rather opaque. Hopefully this is the reason and I'll keep on trying.

#13:  Author: Smooker PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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Sometimes in LD its like If I have multiple personalities in one body the first one is the original and the second one is a character in a movie or something .

#14:  Author: kNightOwl PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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I dont think that our whole brain works the same as it does when we are dreaming vs as it does when we are awake. When we are awake we have an explanation for everything. If we see an elephant in a city then we must be at a zoo. When we are dreaming if we see a pink elephant at the zoo that is flying, then we might think that the elephant got some magical paint all over himself that made him fly.

So I believe that we are not 100% our true self in our dreams. Maybe more like what our mind views our self as, or we are a certain "self" that is appropriate for what situation we are in.

Also what if a non-voilent person has a dream where he/she is a mass murder. Is that there true self?

Also I usually never can see my body in my dream, if you are reffering to your physical self, so I cannot comment on that.

#15:  Author: Beat Doctor PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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Actually, whole dreamworld is you. Only your mind, your memories, your thoughts. So its you, no mather how similar it is to real world.

#16:  Author: ze_gobou PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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Then, maybe our LD selves are closer to "us" than our real-life selves.
Is you real-life self really yourself ?

#17:  Author: HandTrick PostPosted: Thu 09 Dec, 2010
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Hm, from much thought whilst in LDs and observation of my dreams, it would appear that when you become lucid, you possess your dream body from your subconscious. As your subconscious is almost like a different person, an alter-ego. When in a normal dream, you do not really have full control of your dream body, as your mind is not in the lucid mindset, therefore your subconscious controls you. Meaning that in a ND you may not be yourself, but when lucid, you are. I can imagine your subconscious still has some influence on you whilst you are lucid, as you are stepping through its world after all.

#18:  Author: GOB PostPosted: Fri 10 Dec, 2010
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Beat Doctor wrote:
Actually, whole dreamworld is you. Only your mind, your memories, your thoughts. So its you, no mather how similar it is to real world.


This is such a reductionist way of looking at the question. Obviously the dream world is made from your mind and only your mind. However, that doesn't entail that who you believe to be yourself in a dream is the same person you believe to be yourself IRL. Your 'mind' isn't necessarily synonymous with 'you'. 'You' is created from different parts of your brain/mind working together. As other posters have said, the power your subconscious has is greater in dreams.

#19:  Author: GOB PostPosted: Fri 10 Dec, 2010
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ze_gobou wrote:
Then, maybe our LD selves are closer to "us" than our real-life selves.
Is you real-life self really yourself ?

This is an excellent point, and also quite a disturbing one as I don't find myself to be as morally sound in (lucid) dreams as I am in waking life.

#20:  Author: Beat Doctor PostPosted: Fri 10 Dec, 2010
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GOB wrote:
Beat Doctor wrote:
Actually, whole dreamworld is you. Only your mind, your memories, your thoughts. So its you, no mather how similar it is to real world.


This is such a reductionist way of looking at the question. Obviously the dream world is made from your mind and only your mind. However, that doesn't entail that who you believe to be yourself in a dream is the same person you believe to be yourself IRL. Your 'mind' isn't necessarily synonymous with 'you'. 'You' is created from different parts of your brain/mind working together. As other posters have said, the power your subconscious has is greater in dreams.

I am not talking about your brain, I'm talking about your mind. Brain is the physical part. I believe that the mind is a collective mass of thoughts and memories. And I believe there is nothing else. So your mind, for me, is you. Think of anything that is not a memory nor a thought. You probably won't be able to do that. Which would lead to a conclusion that dreams are you. Because they are only your mind, your thoughts.

#21:  Author: HandTrick PostPosted: Fri 10 Dec, 2010
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I guess it depends on your perspective on the matter.

#22:  Author: krakatoa PostPosted: Sun 12 Dec, 2010
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Is the self a rigid thing or does it have plasticity? When we try to define ourself, do we have a very well defined object in mind, or perhaps imagine that the self is such a well defined object, even if we have not noticed all the details yet? Can it be altered at all, and still remain itself? Where is the limit? For instance, if memories are part of the self, then do we turn into a different person if we forget something? If yes, then we must also turn into a different person if we learn something. If we accept that, we have to set a limit to the importance of the memories. Otherwise it is possible that we are not ourselves after learning simply that we have no milk in the fridge or, perhaps more on topic, that we are currently dreaming.

What about mental states then? Is it not part of the definition of a person that they have different behaviours in different mental states? A person can be a mean drunk, for example. It is then not that they are not themselves, it is that the person thinks and behaves different when he or she is drunk. That change in thought patterns and behaviour can be part of what and who you are. So if you think and behave different in a lucid dream, it is simply because you are in a dream state. And how big is this difference anyway? Is it so big that "you" are missing, and someone else is dreaming?

If we include the fact that we are human, in our definition of ourselves, then is it not expected that a human would be different while dreaming? The brain functions differently at the time and it is entirely expected that the mind would be affected. Just like you would expect that you would think and act different when you are afraid, or angry, as opposed to some other mental state, which you would consider your "default" state. Such a state, ofcourse, is a rather strange idea. And it highlights the fact that we have to consider the "self" IN RELATION TO certain mental states. That is, we have to think, when considering if we are ourselves in a lucid dream, "is this how I would act and think if I were in a lucid dream?" Much like how we would consider how we act and think when we are mad, or sad, or tired, or drunk, to name a few. This means that you can think and behave any old way you want and still be yourself.

#23:  Author: GOB PostPosted: Sun 12 Dec, 2010
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krakatoa wrote:
Is the self a rigid thing or does it have plasticity? When we try to define ourself, do we have a very well defined object in mind, or perhaps imagine that the self is such a well defined object, even if we have not noticed all the details yet? Can it be altered at all, and still remain itself? Where is the limit? For instance, if memories are part of the self, then do we turn into a different person if we forget something? If yes, then we must also turn into a different person if we learn something. If we accept that, we have to set a limit to the importance of the memories. Otherwise it is possible that we are not ourselves after learning simply that we have no milk in the fridge or, perhaps more on topic, that we are currently dreaming.

What about mental states then? Is it not part of the definition of a person that they have different behaviours in different mental states? A person can be a mean drunk, for example. It is then not that they are not themselves, it is that the person thinks and behaves different when he or she is drunk. That change in thought patterns and behaviour can be part of what and who you are. So if you think and behave different in a lucid dream, it is simply because you are in a dream state. And how big is this difference anyway? Is it so big that "you" are missing, and someone else is dreaming?

If we include the fact that we are human, in our definition of ourselves, then is it not expected that a human would be different while dreaming? The brain functions differently at the time and it is entirely expected that the mind would be affected. Just like you would expect that you would think and act different when you are afraid, or angry, as opposed to some other mental state, which you would consider your "default" state. Such a state, ofcourse, is a rather strange idea. And it highlights the fact that we have to consider the "self" IN RELATION TO certain mental states. That is, we have to think, when considering if we are ourselves in a lucid dream, "is this how I would act and think if I were in a lucid dream?" Much like how we would consider how we act and think when we are mad, or sad, or tired, or drunk, to name a few. This means that you can think and behave any old way you want and still be yourself.


Yes, conventionally, it is thought that if someone is in a certain mental state then they are still themselves. If you are drunk you might be very forgetful and a bit agressive for example, but you may still argue that it is still yourself. However, there is obviously a limit. If you radically alter someone's chemical balance then they will be severely mentally changed. To say that they are still 'theirself' just because it is still their physical body completely undermines the whole sense of the term 'self'.

You say that we have to set a limit on the importance of memories because "otherwise it is possible that we are not ourselves after learning simply that we have no milk in the fridge". Well, that is true to a very minor degree. Whenever we take on any new memory or belief we do become very slightly different. Of course, learning some information about your posessing milk does not alter you enough to say that you are not yourself but having an accident that results in you losing all of your memories arguably does result in you losing your self.

Of course your point that we have to expect a certain altered mental state when we are dreaming is completely valid but there is a limit to how changed I can feel that I start to wonder if it is still the person I believe I am, from day to day.

#24:  Author: GreenDragon PostPosted: Mon 13 Dec, 2010
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Personally I'm not sure I see dreams in such a way that I might not be myself. I frequently dream of being completely different people, with different lives and stories. I see this as being a sandboxed situation where I am evaluating something to do with my; self, real life, or situation whatever that may be.

Perhaps I can explain better through example, if I am stressed about work, and have anxiety dreams where I am a different person who kills somebody and is being hunted by the police. Then I would say that dream came from my fear of making a mistake and being held accountable for that. I am seeing my anxiety manifesting in my dreams. So given that it came from a real life thought, and what I was currently worried about, I would still see that as being myself, just expressed in a different way.

One thing I want to state clearly is that I see my sub-concious as me, it is part of me, not some separate entity, it is not self aware in my eyes. Its a product of the patterns I am operating with. If I hold the pattern that bad acts are punished, then the reaction in a dream, lucid or not, of police trying to arrest me; isn't because I have upset my sub-concious, it's because its a pattern in my beliefs. Perhaps a subconscious thought, is a good description, but not in the sense that my subconscious thinks, its something I think, I just am not always aware of thinking this, or that I can change it, its a pattern I follow, a program perhaps which I have written for myself.

In response to those who say losing memories means loss of self, I would say we don't remember every memory we have had at all times, often we have reactions that can come from past events we don't even remember. I don't see why temporary isolation from a memory in a dream changes us any more than forgetting some event that happened to us. Even if that isolation is from the parts of ourselves we hold sacred. I see it as a function of a healthy mind, that is looking at things from different angles, and without other perquisites on our thoughts.

#25:  Author: krakatoa PostPosted: Sat 18 Dec, 2010
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GOB- Since you mention the TERM self, the issue of definition comes into view again. It depends on your definition of the self if the sense of it is undermined or not. It is not a clear and obvious thing what the self is. I don't see any obvious reason why a person cannot change and still be themselves. They would change, obviously, but that does not necessarily mean that "the self they were" is dead. I am not sure either if it makes sense to me that you can be one self, and when your personality changes, be some other self which is not you. Then WHO is it that is being these selves? It seems likely to me that this would be the real self. And in that case the contents of your personality are not so important.

Try thinking of it this way. Your memories, are simply things you possess. If you accept that, then no amount of forgetting or learning changes who you are. Because it is still YOU who are forgetting and learning. And if your physical body is not who you are, then your brain is just a possession as well. So if the brain is in a state of dysfunction, it cannot provide you with the memories and abilities you once had, but it is still YOUR brain, your memories, and your abilities. Couldn't you say that if you lose all your memories, you are still yourself, only having lost your memories, like you might lose your house or car or job? Somebody lost those memories- who?

Like GreenDragon above, I have dreamed I was somebody else. Or did I dream it? Was it I who dreamt it being someone else at the time? I had the priviledge of experiencing a shift when this character was falling asleep and WILDed, and during this I realised I was dreaming. I reflected later on that as it happened, it was like I took over. That my self appeared. I was present. Or I realised that I was the one dreaming. Something happened when that conscious awareness came in. Still, I experienced what happened before too. I did, not somebody else. I was the one who in the dream was this different person. Yet the experience was of shifting to the "real me". If anything, the whole experience just made matters more confusing.



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