Things I’ve seen in mirrors during lucid dreams
by Martin James Hunter
I love lucid dreams, even the ones that turn into nightmares. I’d even go as far to say I prefer them. They’re like a superior breed of horror movie. And the crazy thing is anyone can try it. For some it is easier than others. I had difficulty at first, but now can do it up to a few times a week.
Feel like giving it a try? One of the simpler techniques is achieved by forcing sleep paralysis. It’s called the WILD technique. It’s easier than it sounds. You could even try it tonight if you wanted:
Start off by lying on your back when you feel yourself getting tired. Then focus on something relaxing. Descending a set of stairs. The ticking of a clock. Also, breathe slowly. Listening to theta binaural beats through headphones also helps greatly. They work for me.
Eventually you will feel the urge to turn onto your side or roll over. You may also be tempted to move your tongue or swallow. It is important that you ignore these impulses. It seems that by remaining still, you trick a part of your mind into thinking you are asleep.
Soon after this your body will ‘lock’. You won’t be able to move your arms or legs. This is hypnagogia, more popularly known as sleep paralysis. This is what usually happens when you are asleep at night, except this time you will experience it awake.
I think the part of your brain responsible for dreaming activates here. If you do it you’ll see what I mean. Picture it like superimposing a dream over reality. You might experience visual and audio hallucinations, or sometimes there will be nothing but a disturbing atmosphere. Perhaps a presence in the room.
It can be incredibly terrifying – I’ve had my share of nightmarish apparitions – but it is also harmless.
I have had several experiences through inducing sleep paralysis. I still remember my first, lying there watching shadows roaming over my walls. Maybe a little less than twenty of them. What started a quiet wailing in the distance, gradually built up until the screaming was deafening and right in my ear. It took me a moment to wake up and by the time I did I was a confused mess. I lay there for about half an hour wondering if I had really been asleep, and if I still was.
I’ve seen cloaked figures standing around my room facing away, a thin old woman pointing at me through my window, the static on my the wall before my bed, and shadowed hands slowly covering my eyes from behind. None of them were pleasant experiences, but me being me I kept going out of curiosity.
There is a recurring figure I have encountered maybe ten times through sleep paralysis. I always notice it in my peripheral vision, and whenever I am overcome with fear and helplessness. More so than with anything else I have dreamt about. I am never able to turn to it since I am paralysed, but always know it is the same figure. I always feel that if I look at it I will regret it.
Occasionally I see it in my normal dreams and my lucid dreams. It is never a pleasant experience. I usually wake myself when I detect it. Dreams never go well when it turns up.
A vivid sleep paralysis experience from half a year ago: I had just slipped into sleep paralysis and was lying there paralysed. I knew something was wrong right away. There was a dull throb resonating in the distance. Like a huge underwater machine or something. I could only watch as my bedroom door slowly began to open. I live alone.
When the door in my bedroom is fully ajar I still can’t see the doorway because of where my bed is positioned. So in the dream I just stared at the edge of it in sheer horror waiting for whatever it was to enter. The next thing I knew I was watching its horrible face rise slowly over the side of my bed, half a meter away from me. Never forgot that one.
Sleep paralysis becomes more manageable with experience. There are ways out if you cannot handle a particularly unpleasant episode of it. Either concentrate on moving a single finger or toe, or hold your breath. This should be enough to wake you up.
I believe some people confuse supernatural and extraterrestrial experiences with sleep paralysis. The first time I woke from it I was certainly convinced something otherworldly had happened. It took me a while to calm myself down enough to think rationally again. This was well before I knew what hypnagogia was.
Forcing sleep paralysis is an easy way to experience lucid dreaming. It is also the first step in the WILD technique. But lucid dreams themselves are infinitely more amazing. I’m glad I learned how to experience them. I’d even go as far to consider them a hobby, which is why I still do them on a regular basis. I think of it as exploring the surreal.
A good place to find full instructions on how to lucid dream can be found just about everywhere on the internet. There are also numerous online communities where you can discuss the attempts and experiences of others, and receive help.
I remember my very first proper lucid dream. I was in a car with my family on a journey I do not remember starting. We were driving down some impossibly huge bridge that miles away seemed to loop spectacularly. I realised then that such a structure could not possibly exist and it popped into my head that I might be dreaming. I poked my hand and my finger went right through as though it was soft rubber. Then I knew.
As soon as I realised I was dreaming the car stopped and my family turned to me. Not a word was spoken. I can still remember how disturbing the scene was. Later in the dream I forgot about the lucidity and again became lost in my subconscious. Lucidity needs to be held down, this again comes through experience.
It is important to teach yourself to perform reality checks when dreaming. These are very helpful in attaining lucidity. They can be as simple as turning a light on and off (switches tend not to work normally), poking a finger into your hand (it may pass through), or counting your fingers (there may be more or less than normal).
Looking at a mirror is a very interesting reality check. What you witness can be far more horrifying than anything fiction has ever dreamt up. If you can, try it.
In my strange way I am fascinated by the disturbing things I see in reflections. It’s a weird obsession of mine. Sometimes when I dream I will count my fingers, as a result become lucid, then go off searching for a mirror. I have a great list of things I have seen behind the looking glass.
There are warnings on the internet, that what you might see in the mirror can be so fucking horrible it can frighten you into a nightmare, or even wake you with a start. I am familiar with both outcomes.
Sometimes when I peer at my reflection nothing interesting happens. I might have different hair or be wearing strange clothes. One time I was naked (cliché), and another I saw a girl I was convinced was exactly how I would have looked had I been born female.
However there have been far darker images waiting for me. These are the ones I preserve on paper.
I have seen my body disfigured in a hundred ways. I have been contorted, elongated, twisted and swollen. I have had six arms like a deity of Hinduism. My body has been withered like a victim of the holocaust. My head has been stretched like a fleshy pipe. My teeth have been long and frightening. I have even not been there at all.
I have even seen the figure from before in the reflection, standing just out of focus behind me. I can almost feel the same sensation of dread just thinking about it. I didn’t have the nerve to look at him. Again I felt something terrible would happen if I did. I don’t think I ever will.
I have faced a blurred, shadowed version of myself. This one is a little difficult to explain. It was though the mirror was steamed up, except only around my dim reflection. Always out of focus, the rigid shadow watched me from a darker version of the bathroom I stood in. I remember the fear, and the hostility. When I awoke I was certain he was behind me. Took me a good hour before I dared to close my eyes again.
A few years ago I had a dream where I saw myself, except I was five again. He was watching me with deeply sad eyes, and I knew he was upset and ashamed of what I’d become. I woke up with wet eyes that morning and didn’t feel right until the next day.
That is one of the most powerful dreams I have ever had. I still remember tiny details like there being four toothbrushes in the holder, as there had been when I lived with my family. Remember there being a sticker of the genie from Aladdin in the bottom left corner, which I stuck there when the film came out (I would have been 5 or 6 at that time). In my youth it had stayed there for ages, becoming more and more worn from the condensation before someone eventually scraped it off.
In a more recent dream I looked in the mirror and appeared perfectly normal. I remember thinking for a moment= it was something that didn’t happen often. A horrible sensation of dread suddenly manifested and the room dimmed, and there was a deafening ungodly scream as my jaw snapped open with a single jerk – stretching impossibly far from the rest of my face.
I remember panicking and struggling to wake myself up. I’m usually good at this. I can usually wake up in seconds. On this occasion however it felt like aeons. I remember straining desperately to open my lids, quickly checking the mirror again, and seeing the deranged me reaching from the glass still shrieking. I joined in screaming as it bore down on me, waking up just in time.
As I said, I have a little notebook filled with lucid mirror experiences. I usually add one or two a week, although I have gone weeks without seeing a mirror in my sleep on some occasions.
I have been practising lucid dreaming for just over a year and a half at the time of writing, which is not long at all. I feel as though there is still so much to explore. I will update here if I have any more mirror dreams over the next few days. It is more than likely that I will.
If anyone has the nerve, try forcing sleep paralysis tonight. I would love to read about your experiences. Keep a pad and pen under your pillow and remember to start writing as soon as you wake up. Most dreams tend to slip from your memories like water cupped in a hand. Writing them down helps you recall details.
Chances are though that if you glance into a mirror, you probably won’t need a pen.