Everything we experience in life, either in the conscious or unconscious state, is interwoven and meant to teach us something about ourselves or where we’re headed.  Dreams are unique and powerful interpretations of our lives. Dreams can help us with what’s happening now, or what’s going to happen in our futures.  So it’s important to familiarize ourselves with this often, minimized field. The false awakening is an intriguing part of the dream.

So what does it mean to have a false awakening?  There are two types of false awakenings; one that’s down right scary and the other, well . . . not so much.  I’m going to talk about the scary type first.  By “scary” I don’t mean in a horror-movie-kind-of-way.  I mean that in how amazingly similar these awakenings can be to reality. It’s truly shocking the first time you experience it. So much so, it can be a bit scary.

A false awakening is a state of consciousness where you believe you have awakened from normal sleep and are fully conscious and awake, as in everyday life. However, you are actually asleep and dreaming that you are awake.  You are not sleep walking, but still in bed, dreaming that you are awake.  I’m not reciting this from a definition I found somewhere and hoping it’s true. I’m speaking from personal experience.  This can happen for anyone and can be induced with practice.  A false awakening morphs into a lucid dream as soon as you realize that you’re dreaming. If you can control any heights of  your own emotion upon realizing this, you can stay in the dream, awake, but at least now you’ll know it’s a dream.  You’ll move from “false awakening” to “lucid dreaming.”  Trust me, the “false awakening” part can be quite a shock.

false awakenings can be very real dreams

So someone is probably saying;

“Hey! What’s the difference between a false awakening and a lucid dream if you’re fully conscious in both?  Why does it “morph” if you’re already in the dream and awake?”

Confusing huh?  If I were to ask you right now, right where you sit, if you’re conscious, what would you say?  I’m guessing you’re pretty darn sure you’re awake while reading this blog so I’m going to guess you’d say “Of course I’m awake, I mean, I’m right here!”  What if I took it a step further and asked you if you remember getting up this morning?  What would you say then? You’d probably tell me “Of course I remember getting up, what’s wrong with you!”  That would be the “false awakening” part; where you awaken, what you believe to be from sleeping, but you’re actually awakening into the dream. Hence, a “false awakening.”

That’s how real a false awakening is.  You truly believe, as you do right now, that you’re awake and clearly remember getting up normally.  To make it a bit clearer; what if your friend walked in behind you, right now, who also happens to live half way across the world and he or she now looks 20 years younger than you remember them 5 years ago?  It would take you a second, you’d stammer a little, ask them a question or two, but it wouldn’t take long before your reason got the better of you and you’d realize that you were either losing your mind, or you were in a dream.  That’s a false awakening of the shocking type; where you awaken into a dream, but you stay there and you’re surroundings are just like they are in waking life. Virtually no difference except for the trigger that made you question everything; in this case, the person who walked in.

A false awakening is a dream that is a replica (if you may) of your daily waking life and you’re fully conscious in the dream, with all your capacities but, the difference is, you just don’t realize it’s a dream.  You really believe you’re awake and it never crosses your mind to think otherwise. Very bizarre.

false awakening dream

The difference in a lucid dream is that you realize you’re dreaming and accept what you see, no matter how bizarre or unfamiliar, because you know in fact, you’re not in the physical world. You entered the lucid dream either by becoming slowly aware in the dream itself, or, it was self-induced and you knew what you were attempting to do.  However, in a false awakening, you enter the dream by waking up into a dream, just like you do any other day.  You have no recollection of anything before you “woke up.”  So you “wake up” into a dream. Your surroundings are so close to what you’re familiar with, that you can’t tell the difference between what you’re experiencing in the dream and what is normal waking life.

To make things even harder for the dreamer, the surroundings not only look the same, but they feel the same too.  You can feel weight in dreams and pain to a lesser degree.  You can also feel cold from hot.  It’s truly an amazing experience that you’d never forget. This type of false awakening is much more rare than the false awakening I’m going to explain below.  Think of this next version as the “light beer” version.

This lighter type of false awakening is much easier to deal with and causes no stress or shock.  It’s like finding a puppy outside your front door; it’s unexpected but just makes you go “Awwww.”  In this lighter version you don’t wake up in the dream but recall it as having gotten up and having done something in the middle of the night.  Here’s an example.

You wake up in the middle of the night, you turn the light on, get a drink of water and maybe you write yourself a note or, ironically, write down the dream you woke up from.  You recall later, after really waking up that, in the false awakening, you were very impressed with your own handwriting because it was exceptionally pretty, cursive writing.  You may even remember later that you turned on the light next to your bed but, in reality, there’s no light to turn on.  But then you recall the light from the lamp being so clean and spreading across your page so nicely.  You remember how well you could see.  Then, in the morning, when you do wake up, you notice that the writings on the tablet are non-legible scribbles that make no sense at all.  Yet in the dream, it was clear and clean.  This type of false awakening is one you discover later, not in the dream, but the next morning.  Also, you actually did get up and interacted with something such as the paper and pencil.  It can also happen without you having interacted with anything. Either way, you truly believe that you got up and did something in the night but in reality, you either didn’t get up all, or you got up but your interactions were embellished to a point that it was clear it didn’t happen it didn’t happen as you imagined. Such as in the case above where, although you did write something, it wasn’t legible in the morning as you saw it was in the dream. Also, the light that you saw wasn’t there, even though you were sitting up writing and used this imaginary light to write with.

dreaming elephant with a hiker by the beach

Here’s a personal example of mine that I found interesting.  I woke up once, sat up and put my feet on the floor next to the bed and noticed the dresser in front of me was made of pure gold.  It was rounded and beautifully made.  I knew I was awake but that dresser wasn’t changing.  I kept staring at it waiting for it to change to it’s real state of wood but it wasn’t doing anything.  So I moved closer to it, still no change.  So I put my nose right on the dresser and opened my eyes as wide as I could and it slowly turned into wood, it’s original state.  It was as if I had to shake off what I was seeing in my dream while being awake.  It can get very strange.

False awakenings have been of great interest for centuries.  Remember the guy named Rene Descartes? The French philosopher who lived back in 1600?  He said, “I think therefore I am” referencing his confirmation of his existence because for him to doubt he exists, he would have to be the doubter, therefore he exists.  He also pondered the  question “How can I know that I am not now dreaming?”  He was referencing the knowing of reality vs. dreams; why couldn’t we be dreaming since we dream of things in reality all the time?  There has always been this question floating around in philosophy and it often references false awakenings.

The question doesn’t concern lucid dreaming because you know it’s a dream.  But when you’re unsure if you’re dreaming or if you’re awake, who’s to say life’s not a dream?  The proposed verification came in the form of identifying how much pain you can feel in a dream.  It was concluded that you can feel pain but not to the degree you feel it while awake.  This is true from my own experience as well.  There is much more that can be said about philosophy and dreaming and if you’re interested there is a lot of literature on this subject alone.  This paragraph is a very poor representation of all the thought that’s gone behind this phenomenon but it’s just meant as an introduction.

So why is it important that we know what a false awakening is anyway?  I think the more we understand about the world around us, the more we appreciate life and what’s beyond it.  It would be similar to having played a lot of baseball; if you’ve played the game, you can appreciate the game you’re watching more than someone who never picked up a bat.  This goes for any sport, hobby or profession.  Appreciation makes our lives richer.  It’s an amazing world we’re a part of.  It’s an even more amazing world that we can’t see. At least not while we’re awake.

For a blog, I just thought I’d pass on some information in case you hadn’t heard of “false awakenings.”  So next time you’re not sure if you’re dreaming, just pinch yourself where it hurts.  If it doesn’t hurt like it should, you just might not be . . . here.  In the words of Aerosmith,  “Dream On.”

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