On the Mad in America podcast today, we hear about the potential of lucid dreaming therapy to aid those struggling with post-traumatic stress. Our guest is Charlie Morley, a lucid dreaming teacher and bestselling author who helps people wake up in their dreams and harness the power of sleep for psychological growth.

Charlie became a Buddhist at the age of 19 and has been lucid dreaming for over 20 years. In 2018, he was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to research PTSD treatment in military veterans and continues to teach workshops for people with trauma-affected sleep. These teachings form the core of his latest book Wake Up to Sleep.

The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the audio of the interview here.

James Moore: Charlie, welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today for the Mad In America podcast. I’m thrilled to have you on.

Charlie Morley: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Moore: We are here to talk about your work, and in particular, the use of lucid dreaming as therapy. Later, we’ll discuss some really exciting research into using lucid dreaming for posttraumatic stress. But before we get there, I’m sure that some listening will know what lucid dreaming is, but many won’t. You are a lucid dreaming teacher, so could you tell us what lucid dreaming is, and perhaps describe the experience a little for those who might not have experienced it for themselves?

Morley: My job is to teach people how to have lucid dreams. So, the first thing is what is a lucid dream? A lucid dream is any dream where you’re actively aware of the fact that you’re dreaming as the dream is happening. So you are still sound asleep, but in the dream, you realize, aha, this is all a dream.

So anyone who is listening and thinks, I’ve had one of those where I was in the dream and then they suddenly realize, Wow, I’m dreaming now. My body is asleep in bed, I’m inside my mind and I’m exploring this three-dimensional hallucination of my psychology. That is a lucid dream. For those who haven’t had that experience, I’d ask them to perhaps think of a nightmare, where in the nightmare, they’ve thought, I’ve got to wake up, I’ve got to wake up. If you’ve ever had that experience, that was actually a lucid dream, too, because the moment you acknowledge the need to wake up, you had indirectly acknowledged you were dreaming. Of course, if anyone ever has had that experience or has that in the future, the first takeaway I’d like to offer is, if you can, don’t wake up.

If you’re in a nightmare, you realize it’s a nightmare and you have that feeling of having to wake up, then don’t wake up. Every time you wake from a nightmare, necessarily, the nightmare has to recur because it’s like a therapy session cut short. In almost all cases, nightmares play a healing role, and every time we wake ourselves from a nightmare, either intentionally or just because the nightmare is so scary, the nightmare recurs. This is why when people say that they don’t have happy dreams that recur, that dream where I had a dinner date with my favorite celebrity for example. Because that was integrated in the moment and it was a wonderful therapy session. But the one where you replayed that trauma or the one where you had a future projection of some threat that may befall you, every time we wake ourselves from one of those, they have to recur, not because the brain hates us, but because it loves us.

It makes me think of when I went to Zoom therapy during lockdown and there were a couple of times when my internet went down in the middle of a session. As soon as the internet went down my therapist, because he loves me, started texting me and emailing me. Not because he is trying to have a go at me but because he wants to get back online so we can finish this wonderful healing discussion we were having. That’s how the nightmares are working.

Anyway, I digress a little bit there but essentially a lucid dream is any dream you’ve had where you know that you’re dreaming as the dream is happening, but you are sound asleep. Then, once you know it’s a dream, you can choose what happens and you realize that if I’m conscious in my unconscious mind, then this is a similar state to hypnosis. It’s like a very, very deep state of hypnosis. You’re right at the bottom of the iceberg in a lucid dream because you can’t get more unconscious than asleep.

So the elevator pitch is that anything you can treat through hypnotherapy, you can also treat through lucid dreaming whether it’s working with confidence, working with PTSD or childhood trauma. Training athletes to be better in their discipline, there is a lot of research on that or whether it’s for spiritual practice. It has a long history in Buddhism, Toltec Shamanism and Sufism. So lucid dreaming is not a new thing at all and it’s got good providence.

Moore: There’s a brilliant TED Talk that you did a little while ago that talks about embracing the shadow and you talk there of the innate healing potential that we all have but can’t necessarily connect to. So is lucid dreaming a possible route to that healing potential?

Morley: Yes, exactly that. It’s like that old iceberg theory of consciousness. It is very outdated and simplistic, but quite a good image to use here. If we think about things like hypnotherapy, maybe some forms of psychedelics, mindfulness practices, shamanic journey and yoga nidra, all of those take a strand of the conscious mind and just dip it down beneath the surface of the water into those upper echelons of the iceberg.

However, in a lucid dream, you are taking that strand from the top of the iceberg and dropping it right down to the bottom, right below the surface because you can’t get more unconscious than asleep. It might take days, weeks, or even months to have your first lucid dream but once you get to that state, there seems to be a profound depth in the unconscious, which you can access.

Moore: One of the many things that you do apart from writing and speaking is that you’re a lucid dreaming teacher. So, if people listening were interested in learning more about how to lucid dream are there some simple things that they can start to do at home that might help them along that journey?

Morley: Of course. It’s a big subject, and there are books and courses on it. But I always like to offer the four “D”s, which are four steps that people can take today to get them on the path to lucid dreaming.

The first D is dream planning. So, decide what you want to do in your first lucid dream. Some people hear this and think, “Wait, how is that the first technique? Surely you should teach me how to lucid dream first.” But this is the technique. The “why” is more important than the “how.”

If you can fall asleep tonight after listening to this and think, imagine if, through lucid dreaming, I can meet my inner child and transform childhood trauma. Imagine if through lucid dreaming I could ask profound questions to my unconscious mind or very practical questions like “What career path should I take” and receive an answer in symbolic form. Imagine if I could use lucid dreaming to work with that phobia that’s been plaguing me all my life in the same way as we might use exposure therapy. I can use that in the lucid dream to possibly even greater effect. If you can fall asleep with a good “why” that’s way more important than all the “hows.”

So the first thing I’d say is to think about what you want to do through lucid dreaming. That question would be a similar question to ask if you had a session with the world’s greatest hypnotherapist. If you had a free session with them today, what would you like to work on? That is basically what you are asking yourself. If I had access to my unconscious mind, and I could heal anything or I could explore any parts of it, what would I choose to do? The answer to that question becomes your dream plan. In the study that we’ll talk about later, everybody had the same dream plan. It wasn’t to meet their favorite movie star, it wasn’t to work on their athletic discipline, it wasn’t to ask what career path should be. It was to intentionally face and transform a trauma or wounded part of their psyche. So that’s the first thing, dream planning.

The second “D” is dream recall because we need to train ourselves to remember our dreams. Some people say that they could be lucid dreaming every night but don’t remember it. Maybe, but probably if you are lucid dreaming, you are going to remember it because it is kind of a peak experience that imprints in memory quite powerfully. Most lucid dreaming techniques are based on knowing the lucid dream environment so well that you recognize it when you’re in it.

So the first thing we need to do is start remembering our dreams. So as you fall asleep tonight or before you fall asleep we need to remove the barrier to entry. The big barrier to entry for dream recall for many people is the belief that some people don’t dream. That is an urban myth, it’s just not true. Everybody dreams every night if you sleep. If you stay awake all night, you’re not going to dream. But if you sleep, you dream, and unless you’ve had a heavy head injury or a stroke or some sort of traumatic brain injury, you will be dreaming every night. Even if you have had those conditions, within a few weeks the brain will rewire itself to allow a dream to occur because dreaming is so important for our survival. Without dreaming, we wouldn’t be able to integrate our wounds and we wouldn’t be able to remember new information.

As the great sleep scientist, Professor Matthew Walker said, “We dream to remember and we dream to forget.” I like to say that we dream to remember, we dream to forget, and we dream to heal. This is the point of treatment. As for how to train yourself to remember your dreams as you pass through the hypnagogic state, that drowsy state as you fall asleep restate over and over in your mind, I have excellent dream recall. Tonight, I remember my dreams. If you do that as you’re falling asleep, it’s a self-hypnosis technique to help you remember your dreams.

The third “D” is dream diaries. Once you remember your dream, don’t forget to write it down. The act of writing down helps us remember things as we all know. Also, the act of writing down your dreams pays homage to them. It tells the mind that this is something important to me. An area of my life that I used to ignore, now I’m bothering to write down into my phone or notebook in the morning. Also, by writing down our dreams, we start to find patterns that occur in our dreams, and that leads us to our fourth and final “D,” which is dream signs.

A dream sign is any part of the dream that can indicate to you that you are in fact dreaming. Most dreams are full of dream signs. For example, talking animals, dead relatives, being in countries you don’t live in, being friends with movie stars, anything that doesn’t happen in your everyday life, but only happens in dreams, that’s a dream sign. By writing down your dreams, you start to note these things. Let’s say you write down your dreams for a week, and by the end of the week, you start to see that you dreamt of zombies twice last week, or at least twice a week I dream of my childhood home, something like that.

Once you start to see those patterns emerging in your dream signs, you are then on the path to lucidity because you can say “Okay, if between now and breakfast I see my dead grandma, I must be dreaming,” or “if between now and breakfast I’m back in my child at home, I must be dreaming.” So you create these lucidity triggers using the perspective part of the memory.

The same perspective memory part of the brain is really well wired. If you owe someone money and decide that the next time you see a cash point you’ve got to remember to get out money. Then you can forget about that. But the next time you see a cash point, something’s triggered. It’s stored and the goal-orientated part of the brain will keep that flashing light on until you see a cash point.

You can do the same thing with your dream signs. The next time I see a zombie or the next time I see my dead grandmother, I know that I’m dreaming and those triggers will go off. You will be in the dream, completely unaware that you’re dreaming and then suddenly you have this moment and think “Whoa, I’m dreaming.” It’s so cool when that happens and most people wake up in the excitement. So my job is to kind of keep people calm when that first happens. Anyway, those are the four Ds that will get people started tonight.

James Moore: The dream diary particularly strikes me as really important. I’m sure that people listening will have that experience of coming around from having a dream and remembering it. But the remembering only lasts a very short time before it starts to evaporate, doesn’t it?

Morley: You’ve got to try and get there before it evaporates. It’s like catching a feather and if you grasp at it, the action of grasping pushes the feather further away from you. So you need to kind of see the feather falling and then have an upturned hand and just allow the memory to be caught by your mindful awareness in the morning. But it’s a muscle that can be trained and will get better and better with time.

James Moore: Is there any sense of what proportion of people spontaneously lucid dream without any effort compared to perhaps the number of people who need some help or direction to start doing it? Is it common?

Morley: Fifty-two percent of people surveyed in America reported having at least one lucid dream in their lifetime. Two Harvard studies show that children naturally lucid dream. Not every child every single night but they concluded that lucid dreaming is a spontaneous natural arising of childhood brain development. So it seems like lucid dreaming comes factory-installed. It’s not something we need to learn how to do, it’s something we need to remember.

Moore: I so recognize that. I’ve got a 13-year-old daughter, almost every morning when I see her first thing she takes great delight in describing to me the dream she’s had. She can describe it in minute detail. She’ll ask me, what did you dream about, and I can’t really remember but her recollection is incredible.

Morley: She’s got a bit of a leg up because at 13 years old she’s pretty much got the longest Rapid Eye Movement dreaming period she’s ever going to have. Adolescence is when you have the most dreaming time, which is why it’s so important to let her sleep in if you can.

Moore: I’d like to come on to talk about a recent peer-reviewed study that you facilitated. It’s fascinating to read. It was undertaken by the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California and it was reported in the journal Traumatology in June 2023.
It’s entitled “Decreased Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Following a Lucid Dream Healing Workshop.” So before we come on to talk about the results, which are pretty amazing in themselves, could you tell us a little bit about the study? How was it undertaken and what was the study looking for?

Morley: There have been literally dozens of studies over the past 20 years that have shown that lucid dreaming is one of the most powerful treatments for nightmares, which are a hallmark of post-traumatic stress disorder. What there hadn’t been so far was a study asking could lucid dreaming treat not only nightmares but post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in general. So we recruited 55 people. We had 144 people apply, and 55 made it through because there were certain criteria; people had to have chronic PTSD. They couldn’t just have a low PTSD score. I understand this sounds very arbitrary, but there’s a checklist from the DSM-5 that has this series of questions that we used.

So we needed people who had chronic PTSD and many of them were “treatment-resistant” but they were still suffering. At the beginning of the study, we took people’s PTSD scores, so they took the PTSD scale and they also took the nightmare experience scale. So basically how severe your nightmares are and how severe your PTSD symptoms are and the average score was way above the PTSD threshold. As a group, the average was pretty high. This is a highly traumatized group. We then had six days of online training. So this was me teaching the group about guided meditations, nap practices, yoga nidra, which is a form of conscious sleeping and daytime awareness practices. We had videos that people could play in the middle of the night of me encouraging and guiding them through the techniques.

Originally the study was going to be an in-person retreat but then COVID happened so I needed to try and create as close to an in-person retreat as possible. One of the main things you can do in an in-person retreat is utilize multiple wakeups. So these are optional but if you fall asleep and you sleep all through the night, essentially you’ve got only one chance to fall asleep during the self-hypnosis technique and one chance to recognize your dreams. But you can wake people up at multiple times in the second half of the night, once they’ve got all their deep healing, deep sleep under their belt, you don’t want to mess with that. In the early hours, when they’re in these long REM periods, you have multiple chances for people to use the techniques. In the group, very few of them slept through the night anyway. Many said, “Oh I do this anyway, I wake up three or four times actually, this is perfect.” There was kind of a sense of empowerment where I said, “Well, your sleep cycle is great for this study.”

However, the night before the study began, this wonderful guy, Konstantin Koos, who was one of the major funders, asked how many lucid dreams we were going to have in the one-week study. And I had to be honest with him, I said, “Maybe none.” I’ve worked with veterans groups and British military groups for the past seven years, where a group might have up to maybe 50% PTSD survivors or sufferers or whatever they choose to label themselves. if anything. But I’ve never worked with a group where 100% have PTSD. So maybe we’re going to spend the week just doing sleep hygiene techniques just helping them get to sleep. I didn’t know whether we’d have any lucid dreams.

Actually, we had a very high level of lucid dreaming. 75% of the participants had at least one or more lucid dreams in the six-day study. Now, when I do the four-day intensive retreats in person, maybe we’d be around 70% of people would have a lucid dream. But a lot of people would tend to have their lucid dreams when they leave the retreat. A bit like your muscles don’t grow in the gym, it’s afterwards. They have four days of training and might get a little bit frustrated but it’s when they go home and suddenly, all the emails come to me saying, “I had my first lucid dream.”

But it turned out that we had a very high level of lucidity. And I think this is because, in the group some were veterans, some were childhood sexual abuse survivors. Two-thirds were women, and most were either from the U.K. or U.S., with a few from Australia and Europe as well. Everyone was in different boats. You know, we’re never in the same boat. When people say we’re in the same boat, I think, No, we’re not. Looking at the patriarchy and this racist society we live in, ageism and sexism, we’re not in the same boat. But we’re in the same storm if you know trauma. People know that storm. The storm seems to have similar weather conditions, whether you’re a veteran, whether you’re civilian, whether you’re a man, whether you’re a woman, really any person.

So I think the magic was created in the group because everybody knew the same storm and so we had a very high level of lucidity. Not only a high level of lucidity but a high level of what we were going for, which was a healing lucid dream. Out of all the dream plans they could have chosen, they all had the same dream plan, which was to face and embrace the trauma, or explore and send love to a wounded part of their psyche. A lot of the people that we’re working with were survivors of childhood sexual abuse. And there’s one theory that says when you become lucid, you would call out to meet the trauma. You know that the trauma wants to be witnessed, and the fact we have never witnessed it in the safe space of our minds is why the trauma is still there.

So there’s one theory that you become lucid and then call that childhood trauma to come to you. Working with trauma survivors, I felt that that that is way too confrontational. When we tried that before, we were getting people saying that suddenly neon flashing signs would appear in the lucid dream saying access denied. What an amazing sign from the dream warning not to go there. It is very hard to do damage to yourself in a lucid dream. A bit like you put your hand in the fire and it gets pulled out. If you’re in a lucid dream, and you go too far then you just wake up. There’s an ejector seat button in the lucid dream, and it will wake you up if it gets too much.

But what we realized was if you could meet the internal archetype that was wounded by the childhood sexual abuse that you survived, that would be a way in. So most people who are working with childhood sexual abuse made a dream plan to meet their inner child. They became lucid and they would call out their inner child.

The cases varied but in one of the dream reports, a woman did this and there was a little girl who was just crying with her back to her. And she realized that this must be my inner child. This is like a symbolic representation of my childhood. And she asked, “What do I do?” and we said, “Whatever happens, hug and show love,” whether that’s literally a hug, whether that saying loving things, whether that’s sending mantras, whatever it was. In this case, the woman said, “I love you, it’s not your fault”. Then the girl turned around, and she embraced her. As she embraced the little girl, she kind of dissolved into light and the whole dream dissolved into light, and she woke up. It was a very powerful experience.

She was one of the 85% of people in that study who, by the end of the week when we checked their PTSD score again, the score was so low it had fallen beneath the PTSD threshold. They were no longer classified as having post-traumatic stress disorder. 85% of participants had a similar experience. When the scientists crunched the results data it was such an audacious result that they thought there was a problem with data collection. They said this is incredible. So they double-checked and said, “Okay, we still have a problem with data, we’re going to triple-check.” The triple-check came back and they said, “Okay, this data is correct, we have a number of people where the PTSD score is so low that they’re not classified as having PTSD anymore. But could it be just some sort of flash in the pan? Could it be the group energy you’ve been talking about, Charlie, we’re all in the same storm. We need to do a follow-up.” So one month later, everyone took the same tests again, the same nightmare experience scale, the same DSM-5 self-report, and PTSD score questionnaire. And not only had it stayed that low for those 85% of people, it dropped one point below. So it seemed to be getting better with time not getting worse. So that was when we knew we had something to publish.

But we struggled to get it published. This is something I’ve heard people in scientific studies say before and you think, “Oh come on, there’s no conspiracy to not publish.” It’s not a conspiracy, but I think when you get audacious results, the editor of the journal puts their neck on the line. What if you haven’t collected the data correctly? What if there is a problem with the study? So we got turned down for publication by a few places.

However, once the funders and the scientific organization we did it with saw the results, they were so impressed that they funded us for a 100-person randomized control trial, which we completed a few months ago. Once we completed that, the journals that turned us down before were very open to publishing. So I think they just wanted to see, Can you pull it off again? Now we haven’t actually crunched the data on the randomized controlled trial yet but the scientists say the results are promising. So we believe we got a similar result again, although those results haven’t been finalized.

Moore: I’m so pleased that you did find some way to get this published. I’ve heard from others that treatments not seen as mainstream really do struggle if they’re slightly different to what’s gone before. And the results are staggering. Firstly, the number of participants that had lucid dreams during the workshop at 76% is really incredible.
As you mentioned before, one of the standout issues for people who have had a stressful experience and had a post-traumatic stress reaction to it is nightmares. To the extent that I’ve heard people say that, they are frightened to go to sleep at night, because they’re plagued by nightmares. So how did people react when you said, “Part of the therapy is engaging with your nightmares maybe in a different way, or becoming aware of your nightmares.” How did they respond to that?

Morley: Almost entirely positively. When you begin experiencing nightmares, it is deeply pathologized by both the medical system and society. Look at the way we use the word nightmare, if I’ve had a bad journey to come and visit, I’ll say it was a “bloody nightmare.” This is a small thing, but a nightmare is basically a negative thing and if you have nightmares, there’s something wrong with you.

This is just not the case anymore. There’s a great study at Rush University in Chicago, that showed a direct correlation between people who are having nightmares about the traumatic event that happened to them, and how quickly they recovered from the trauma-induced depression that followed. It wasn’t that you had to have nightmares to heal, because nightmares are one of the ways that we can heal, but those who were having nightmares healed quicker. That’s been reported again and again. So this isn’t conjecture, we know this. Nightmares in almost all cases are playing a curative role, and it’s a bitter medicine, but it is medicinal.

I think by just presenting people with that shift of perspective, and then backing it up with the science, you kind of see this collective sigh of relief in the room. I’ve heard this on two occasions, clinical psychologists who said that they are more worried in some cases when a client is presenting without nightmares after a deeply traumatic experience. When they present with nightmares at least it shows that the inherent healing mechanism of the dreaming mind is being engaged. Whereas when it’s not, it could be that the person is deep into repression, and denial. Of course, repression is simply being a safety mechanism with the mind saying we cannot go there, that is just too much to even relive in a nightmare.

My Buddhist meditation teacher got diagnosed with PTSD, almost 40 years after the war zone trauma that led to it. That was when he retired. He was a well-known meditation teacher and was just living on the road teaching retreats constantly for 30 years. Then when he retired and there was kind of space for his psyche to kind of go through the files, he started having these terrible nightmares. He was diagnosed with PTSD almost 40 years later.

He was a perfect example of someone for whom the nightmares are a good sign. It’s showing that after 40 years of holding on to this stuff and repressing it, now you’ve got the time and space in your retirement to kind of release the pressure valve. I remember him always saying, “Thank God now and not death.” And I thought, wow, what a profound statement that he knew that trauma was still in him.

So, in answer to your question, yes, almost all people react very positively, I think, because it’s such a new perspective. And there’s so much science on it. Often people find their nightmare experience starts to drop straight away after they’ve simply heard the reframing of nightmares. It’s such a powerful reframing that people’s frequency of nightmares may increase, but the perceived level of distress from the nightmares drops right off the scale. They think, “Yes, I had a nightmare but I have this new perspective that actually, it’s not so bad. It doesn’t mean I’m unspiritual. It doesn’t mean I’m broken. It shows that I’m healing.”

If you cut your arm, a scab appears. And the scab can be a bit disgusting and can be itchy, and we can be ashamed of the scab. But thank goodness for scabs. If there wasn’t the scabbing mechanism within our body, we’d get gangrene every time we scratched ourselves on a rosebush. So this kind of mechanism of the mind that heals itself is a good thing and I think to offer people that reframe is deeply empowering.

Moore: Thank you, Charlie. I have to say that I like the thought of this as a therapy rather than, perhaps intensive psychotherapy or drug treatment. Because from what I understand, there are other benefits to lucid dreaming. So it’s helpful for insomnia, it’s helpful for daytime focus and many other things too, so I’m guessing the participants as well as addressing their traumatic experiences, were probably finding improvements elsewhere in their lives.

Morley: Yes, everything you just said and also they started having fun. This part of their life, that third of their life where they’re usually asleep, which they’d usually associated with trauma, nightmares, and insomnia. Suddenly, waking multiple times in the night could be used on the lucid dreaming path. Having nightmares meant it was easier to get lucid. Over a third of all spontaneous, lucid dreams begin as nightmares because of course, fear boosts our awareness. So basically scary dreams are easier to get lucid in. And then there’s this reframe that your nightmares are okay.

For someone who has had post-traumatic stress nightmares himself at a younger age, I remember that feeling. I remember eating coffee just to stay awake. I was so young I didn’t really like coffee yet. So I was eating instant coffee from a spoon just to stay awake because I dreaded the nightmares so much. So I really know that horrible suffering, and to be able to flip that and look forward to the night time because now I have tools is something really powerful.

Moore: You mentioned that you’ve done a follow-up study and I guess that’s going to take a little while before it appears in print. But what else would you like to see happen in investigating this work to help people who have had such difficult experiences?

Morley: The end goal is that I would love this to be offered in the same way as mindfulness meditation. Twenty years ago, it was only done by people who are into yoga and Buddhists and hippies, all of which I am. And now it can be offered in the UK National Health Service. I hope that one day the same will happen with lucid dreaming. It is non-invasive, it’s non-addictive, it’s non-medical, it’s free, and you do it in your sleep. I mean, that sounds too good to be true. It’s not. It takes some effort, and you need to learn how to do it. These people in the study gave up six days of their life, but they gave up six days of their life to learn a technique which for some of them profoundly shifted their lives for the remainder of it. So yes, I would like to see this offered in mainstream medical health settings.

One thing that came up from the study was that for many people, lucid dreaming takes a certain amount of effort and not everybody seems to be able to do it that easily. What we found in the study was even those 25% of people who did not have a lucid dream in the six-day study were part of the 85%, whose PTSD score dropped off the scale. Why? Because it seems like just learning to lucid dream, even before you have that first breakthrough experience is such an empowering counterweight to the disempowering energy, the post-traumatic stress display I like to call it as I don’t believe it’s a disorder, that leads to a deep healing.

So that was amazing. The scientists weren’t so keen on that data point, because it kind of messes up the rest of the data. They think, Oh, it would be better if only the people who lucid dreamt had a decrease in symptoms, and everyone else stayed the same. We actually found no, even the people who just tried to lucid dream had a decrease in PTSD symptoms. I think that’s powerful.

Moore: It is and it speaks to what you were discussing earlier about reframing the experience. Perhaps they are not nightmares, perhaps they are paths to healing. In your TED talk you talked about embracing the shadow. When you have seen your talk and when you’ve read the paper, suddenly it makes complete sense that the route to healing is not exactly by facing your fears, but by viewing your fears differently and interacting with them through the lucid dreaming process.

Morley: Absolutely.

Moore: Is there anything we didn’t cover that you think people listening should know about lucid dreaming?

Morley: I think just to encourage people to learn how to do it. This is something that kids know how to do naturally so even if you don’t remember having a lucid dream, your inner child does. I think that lucid dreaming has such a fun element to it because it maybe rekindles this childhood memory that our dreams are fun.

So learn how to do it, there are books, there are websites, there are online courses, there’s loads of stuff for free and I have videos on YouTube. This is open source. You do it in your sleep. You know, people who are working two jobs and trying to provide for kids and stuff often think when will I find time for spiritual practice? When will I find time for the healing? When will I find the free money for therapy? Lucid dreaming isn’t affected by any of those, you do it in your sleep.

Even if you get what would be considered quite broken sleep can be great for lucid dreaming too. The more we sleep, the more dreams we have. But even if you do have broken sleep, that can be good for it. Give it a shot. This is a very powerful modality and it’s free, non-invasive, non-medical, and non-addictive. The worst that can happen is nothing. The best that can happen is you completely transform your life while you sleep. So that’s worth a shot.

Moore: Charlie, it’s been so fascinating to get to talk to you about this. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me.

Morley: Thank you so much.


MIA Reports are supported, in part, by a grant from The Thomas Jobe Fund.


  1. This is a great article! In fact, I often think that dreams are underutilized in the process of trauma in our culture because we cannot observe them, or we categorize them as “subjective” experiences. The only thing I would add is that it is okay to wake up if a nightmare becomes too overwhelming. It is also okay to plan ahead of time to have the same dream reoccur because, often, with some traumas, we need many nights to process them so as not to overextend our nervous system. Additionally, I believe that dreams can be a way to mitigate psychosis, as they are similar in that one is a state of sleep and the other is a state of wakefulness, yet both follow the same rules of an “un-reality” like experience.

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    • I was also thinking about the connection with psychosis, as it seems from my observations of my partner’s psychotic episodes that it’s like waking dreams with no lucidity. (He also tells me that he never dreams.) Could Charlie Morley comment on this perhaps? Thank you so much for an amazing article.

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  2. Thank you very much for this great interview. The path of working with the dream consciousness in the same way as with the waking consciousness is, in principle, a logical consequence of an all-encompassing life.
    It clarified some inconsistencies for me, made them “lucid” ;-). I immediately bought a book, now work theoretically and hope soon practically.
    These are the ways we need, for a new understanding of human beings.

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