Hear it First Hand.


Dr Clare Johnson

Interviewed by Dr Susannah Benson on Nov 15, 2015

Clare-Johnson,-PhDWhen did your interest in dreams begin?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t dream. My dreams are bound up with my earliest memories. I remember being three and sitting high up on my bedroom window ledge with my legs dangling over, gazing down into the garden where my father was mowing the lawn. I thought I could fly down to him, as I could fly in my dreams! This was no dream though, and when my father spotted me he rushed into the house to save me.  

Another memory from the same time is of nearly drowning in a pool, then understanding that I could either stay there and drown, or wake myself up. This was a dream – my first flash of lucidity – and I woke up when I rolled right out of bed. From the first, my dreams and my waking experiences seemed equally vivid, and I think this is probably the case for most children. What puzzled me though was the way that adults were so dismissive of dreams, despite them feeling so real.

I wondered: Why is what happens to me in my waking life of more interest to my parents than what happens to me in my dreams? This is a question I’m still exploring today as I edit a book on children’s dreams and nightmares with the aim of helping adults to empower children through dreamplay.

What led you to extend your interest into the public sphere?

At University, I suddenly began to have hundreds of lucid dreams, sleep paralysis experiences and OBEs. In 1995 I did an independent undergraduate project on lucid dreaming and this eventually led to me becoming the first person to do a PhD on lucid dreaming and the creative writing process. It also led to me writing two lucid dream-inspired novels, Breathing in Colour and I’m now writing a nonfiction book on lucid dreaming based on my (almost!) forty years of personal lucid dreaming experience and twenty years of academic lucid dream research. The more I explore dreaming, the more fascinating I find it. There is so much wisdom in dreams and working closely with my dreams – both lucid and non-lucid – has been a way of life for me for decades. 

Could you share a dream with us that was transformational for you? 

Monkey woman gives birth
It’s twilight. I am walking alone along a narrow path next to a jungle. Then, to my right, I see a half-monkey, half-woman. She’s lying on her back on the ground and she is giving birth. As soon as I see her, others cluster around her, ready to help. In the background I hear a male voice remarking, ‘It’s really big!’

I am willing everything to work out well. Just then, with astonishing ease, the monkey-woman’s baby is born. I see its huge, moon-like face. To my amazement, I see that it is smiling! 

This transitional dream came at a time when I was very focused on ‘birthing’ my PhD thesis. Doing a PhD can feel like steering a boat alone over a dark ocean; no matter how good your supervisors are, you are on your own and only you can make sure everything works out well. This dream showed me my own transformational process and it also showed me that all would be well. It told me: “Yes, what you are doing seems ‘really big’, but help is at hand and in the end the process will be astonishingly easy.”  

The dream also reminded me not to be too analytical, but to trust my instincts. It felt like a ‘big’ dream at the time. I still think about the monkey woman whenever I consciously birth something new in my life.

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