When we encounter the shadow in a lucid dream, we are given an even bigger gift because we illuminate the shadow with full conscious awareness and have an opportunity to work with it directly in that dream—as long as we don’t allow fear to get the better of us, which isn’t always easy!

The Shadow of Pretending to Be Someone We’re Not

Jan’s account below shows that when we manage to turn things around while lucid in a shadow dream, this can result in an epiphany of sorts.

In my dream I’m in a large crowd of people and acting rather bizarrely, but no one is really paying much attention to me.

Then I become lucid and I’m standing outside of the crowd watching myself acting in a way I think is inappropriate and very embarrassing in front of all these people. I scream out loud to myself, “Stop it! Don’t you care how others are looking at you and what they’re thinking about you acting so crazy?”

Myself in the crowd yells back to me, “No, I don’t care at all anymore what people think. I’m going to be me and I just don’t care. I’m just so tired.”

I then woke up and sat up in bed and felt this rush of lightness and ease wash over me.

Jan explains:

“I actually could feel what it would be like if I was no longer overly concerned about how I portrayed my image to other people. It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Something inside of me had shifted. It was an epiphany of sorts. I have spent my entire life concerned about how I appear to others, worrying whether I was going to be accepted or liked. I have been a chameleon, changing my appearance to whatever would fit in with my current surroundings, never really feeling like myself.

I realised that I had been taking myself much too seriously, that other people had their own stuff to think about, that I could be myself and still be part of the crowd. I am now sixty-six years old. This has been many years of work and introspection.

I was raised by an alcoholic mother who was never there, and if she was, she was always yelling at me about how stupid and crazy I was. Having had my career in law enforcement as a deputy sheriff, I never let my insecurities show, always putting on a tough persona. I’ve spent my life looking for the “real” Jan, and who would have thought I would discover this courageous part of myself in my dream; but now for some reason I feel like I can do this!”

The split between the shadow aspect of Jan and the rest of her is clearly represented by two Jans having a shouting match: the censorious one and the defiantly free one. Jan managed to change the dream story: instead of feeling ashamed and acquiescing to the part of her that wanted to inhibit her self-expression, she did whatever she liked for once! This is so beautiful and courageous, because Jan managed to liberate herself from damaging beliefs about “acting crazy” that were rooted in her mother’s verbal abuse, and the effects in her life were immediately felt.

The Shadow as a Portal to the Lucid Light

So many times in my life, when I’ve needed it, the Lucid Light has reached into my dreams and waking consciousness to gift me with loving energy, beautiful visions, and profound insights. I’ve experienced immersive Lucid Light from yoga nidra states of deep relaxation where I’ve been recharged from exhausted to energised simply by floating in the light. The Lucid Light can astonish us by appearing from unexpected sources.

Maomi, an experienced lucid dreamer, wrote to me from Hawaii to share a lucid dream with a wholly unexpected ending:

Near the end of my lucid dream I saw a shadowy figure. I was afraid to look on the face. And because I have been in the practice of facing those fears in dreams, I chose to go up to the figure and look upon their face.

The creature was human-like with dark, long, mangled hair. The posture was crouched, hunched up in a corner of the room where there was hardly any light to see. They had their face against the wall. It took everything I had to walk up to this being. As I approached, the figure turned around and faced me. The ragged exterior of the person didn’t match what I saw.

When I looked at the face, it was pure, brilliant, bright light and its beauty was so humbling and overwhelming. I woke up thinking, “What the F*** was that about!” I couldn’t get the whole sequence out of my mind. Was that part of my psyche? Was that something outside of myself? Where do I go when I lucid dream? Lucid dreaming feels so powerful and between worlds, like a place yet not a place.

This is such a beautiful example of the luminous shadow. When we courageously face the darkness in whatever form it takes, we are sometimes gifted with the truth in the form of blazing light. When Maomi shared this powerful lucid dream, it made me think of a quote commonly attributed to the fourteenth-century Persian Sufi poet Hafez Shirazi: “I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing light of your own being!”

We are all made of this brilliant light. It’s a wonder to behold and sometimes shocking to us. From my own encounters with this light, my feeling is that this is the light of the soul, the essence of all that we are.


Exclusive excerpt from The Art of Transforming Nightmares by Clare R. Johnson, PhD. © 2021 by Clare R. Johnson, PhD. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.  Learn more about Clare’s work at her website: www.DeepLucidDreaming.com

This article was released in issue from

March 2021

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