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Post Inception: dream manipulation the talk of the town

Leonardo DiCaprio - Dream manipulation techniques become increasingly popular Leonardo DiCaprio - Dream manipulation techniques become increasingly popular

They called Inception an existential heist film. Some made allegorical connections between the business of moviemaking and the geometry of dreams in Inception. Yet others claimed that the film existed in a dream from start to finish, debating whether a film in a dream made cinematic sense at all. Dream or not, Inception has drawn fresh attention to the possibilities of dream manipulation, dream mastery and lucid dreaming in real life.

Inception is not the first film to explore the power of dreams; earlier films on the same theme span different genres, like the sci-fi film Dreamscapes (1984) and Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961).

In Inception, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his team of dream architects, forgers and chemists try to plant an idea that will influence big decisions to be made by the heir of a monopolistic business empire. The characters exercise a frightening amount of control on their dream spaces, but we simultaneously see how a single individual’s dream space can be full of self-generated conflict.

Inception: Trapped in the dreamInception: Trapped in the dreamDirector Christopher Nolan wrote the script for Inception almost a decade ago, drawing on his own experience of lucid dreaming and dream mastery, which he began playing with as a teenager. In Asia, meditative techniques used to control dream spaces have been researched and perfected by exponents of traditional medicine and yoga for centuries.

Systems such as yoga nidra (yoga sleep) begin by teaching you to consciously engage in the act of sleep, isolating all external sounds, feelings and honing one’s awareness of body movement. Ultimately, an expert practitioner of yoga nidra can use the mind space in fascinating ways–to recognize the subconscious, and at a more mundane level, to ferret out stress-inducing traumatic points that show up in the form of physical disorders.

The psychologist Carl Jung proposed that people’s psyches were uncontained, fluid and that shared dreams between emotionally connected people were possible.

At the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences center in Albuquerque, Dr. Barry Krakow developed a technique called scripting or dream mastery, which is facilitated by self-suggestion while patients are awake as part of an imagery rehearsal therapy. Dream mastery is increasingly being used to treat people suffering from nightmares.

Meanwhile, Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School, has extensively researched dream incubation, where one induces dreams to resolve conflicts. Many dream researchers, including Barrett, are intrigued by the connection between war trauma and dreams.

The focus among dream professionals is fast shifting from the simple interpretation of dreams. The business of dreams is indeed getting wilder and more creative, and therapists are willing to look at considering dream manipulation and lucid dreaming as effective psychological techniques. Inception, that elaborately crafted dream, has managed to invade more than our dream space, it seems!

Ariadne (Ellen Page) is given her first lesson in lucid dreaming in Inception.

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Last modified on Thursday, 04 November 2010 19:52

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