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False Awakenings, OBEs, and ME
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Art by J.A. Fitzgerald
from Janice:
I have had a keen interest in the dreamworld for as long as I can remember.  As a small child I could program in advance the subject of a dream, wake myself up from a disturbing nightmare, and even seemingly project visions on the walls with my eyes open.  One night when I entered my room to retrieve a toy flute I loved, a glowing green hand between the bed and the wall gave it to me.  I said, "Thanks," left, then did a doubletake.  When I moved away at age eight most of these manifestations disappeared, though I still had vivid, well-plotted dream action.

Then at age thirteen came a new and terrifying development.  I had read about astral projection and sure enough, began to wake in the night immobile, unable to cry out, often with the sense of some extra limb floating about. This horrible state continued to plague me during my teen years, especially at sleep onset, when it offered such additional tortures as buzzing noises, pain in the jaw, and a succession of grotesque faces and gobbling voices.  I dreaded the notion of my spirit wandering off, and knew only one way to fight it: recite some repetitive verse to drown out the torment, usually "99 Bottles of Beer," until I fell asleep.

In college I came to cultivate the phase between sleeping and waking for the far more fascinating sights it could offer.  Then, while researching a paper one day, I came across a title that hit me like a thunderclap:
LUCID DREAMS by Celia Green.  Now suddenly I put names to my night world: "sleep paralysis," "hypnagogic  hallucinations," "false  awakenings," "lucid  dreams."  Once demystified by reading about other peoples' similar experiences, my own experiences came to offer more of wonder than of fear.  Still, sleep paralysis remained unpleasant.  But now I knew an alternative to blocking it or waiting to wake up.   If I offered no resistance, imagery of a duplicate bedroom would resolve, and I could simply lie still or thrash about to hasten the process, then wander around in a replica of my house and town.  I could in effect use the out-of-body sensation as a prelude to a lucid dream.

I recognize two main types of  false awakenings.  First, the partial arousal with no sensory input, accompanied by full or partial immobilization; second, a seemingly normal waking into a dream setting after a period spent asleep.  In the latter case I will seem to wake up, most commonly in my own bed but sometimes in other rooms in my house, then will notice certain odd discrepancies as to the furnishings, my clothing, electrical lights not functioning, etc.  Even this state used to worry me, because I feared I had slipped into a parallel dimension and become stuck, perhaps with a risk of sleepwalking, and I would beg the other characters to wake me up.  Later I found all I had to do was get up and walk around, because the false awakening quite simply sets us up for a vivid lucid dream set in a mental version of our home.

I have also cycled through serial pseudo awakenings, in one case as part of a plot line  about a man whose dreams represented his lives in multiple realities.  In another such sequence I found myself at one stop in a black-and-white world with kind gray people who offered to help send me back, then later with a black-bearded wizard who tried to restrain me, saying, "Somehow you've found out the secret of shifting planes and I'm gonna find out how you did it."  Usually, though, the setting reconstructs my own bedroom, but even then, if I lazily lie there long enough, people or animals will appear.   Perhaps many supposed bedside sightings of ghosts have occurred to those convinced they lay awake, when actually falsely awake.
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in The Dream Explorer in 1991.
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