What Are Shared Dreams and How Can You Have Them?

5 Min Read | By Nicholas Barber

Last Modified 14 February 2024   First Added 15 June 2022

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

What Are Shared Dreams and How Can You Have Them?

Shared dreaming sounds fantastical to western ears. Indeed mainstream science rejects shared dreaming as a genuine phenomenon. However, it is widely accepted in many cultures around the rest of the world. Various spiritual traditions and alternative researchers argue for its regular occurrence, particularly in small, close groups such as the aborigines of Australia and the monks of Tibet.

The concept of shared dreams hit the mainstream consciousness with the 2010 Hollywood blockbuster Inception, with its mind-bending plot about lucid dreamers, including Leonardo DiCaprio, linking up via futuristic technology and roaming around the unconscious mind of a single dreamer.

In this article we explore the subject and find out what the experts have to say about this fascinating phenomenon.

“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake – Aye, what then?”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Shared dreams definition

Shared dreaming is the idea that two or more people can share the same dream environment.

The degree to which the dream is shared can vary, from simply having common elements or events that happen in each person’s dream, to the entire dream being identical. The experience is known by different names including mutual dreams, dream meshing, and linking.

The first person to document telepathic dreaming in modern times was Sigmund Freud in his 1922 paper Dreams and Telepathy. Freud was highly suspicious of the idea, never having had a shared dream or encountering any evidence of mutual dreaming in his patients. He believed a connection between telepathy and dreams couldn’t be proven nor disproven.

On the other hand, his peer Carl Jung’s greatest and most controversial contribution to the field of psychology was his theory of collective (or transpersonal) unconscious. Jung raised the possibility of a shared mind that connects everyone and even connects all time from present to the origins of the human species and beyond. This opens the door for the possibility of shared dreaming.

What does it mean when you share a dream with someone?

Those who believe that shared dreams are genuine say it can happen spontaneously, or be planned.

They’re most common between people who are emotionally close such as couples, siblings, parent-child, or best friends. It’s also said that twins may be especially prone to shared dreams.

According to Bustle, if you and a friend share a dream, it’s indicative of an emotional closeness, “You two literally operate on the same wavelength and are essentially haunting one another’s subconscious. “You’re connected through more than just shared experiences and similar coping mechanisms. You’re spirit pals. Cherish it.”

How common are mutual dreams?

It’s impossible to give an accurate figure on just how many people have experienced mutual dreams; it’s a phenomenon that’s nearly impossible to predict or track. However, hundreds of people have described experiencing mutual dreams on the popular forum Reddit Dreams.

This is a space where people talk openly and anonymously about their dreams and some of these descriptions of shared dream would be astounding if true. They include:

Three members of a family sleeping in the same house on the night after a family member died all dreamed about that person coming to them and giving the same message.

Another case is a wife describing participating in her husband’s adventure-game dreams almost nightly. After waking up they compare notes of what happened while dreaming and it’s usually identical.

Perhaps the most incredible case was two close friends noticing many of their dreams featured each other. Suspecting they were mutual dreaming, they put it to the test by thinking of information to swap the next time they met each other in a dream.

Both thought of a phrase the other wouldn’t know. One chose a song lyric, the other a nonsense phrase. Later on, one of the dreamers saw the other and passed along the lyrics to an obscure song. The other sent the nonsense phrase via text message.

Even if these stories aren’t entirely true, you do have to credit their creators’ wild imaginations!

Experiments in mutual dreaming

Dr Stephan LaBerge of The Lucidity Institute believes mutual dreaming experiments in the lab can test the objective reality of shared dream worlds. In other words, group dreaming can be used to prove whether the dream world is a genuine alternate reality or not.

A 2017 study explored the idea that shared dreams come from a desire to enhanced emotional attachments in relationships. The main focus was on the relationship between two dreamers and the study found these dreams tended to occur when the subjects were feeling a sense of separation and lack of intimacy in their daily lives. The study reported that 96% of the mutual dreams experienced were between friends, relatives, or significant others.

Furthermore, physicist Tom Campbell, lucid dreamer Ian Wilson, and others claim that advanced dreamers can intend to fall asleep and “wake up” in a dream then go looking for each other in the dreamscape. Campbell claims to have done it while working with Robert Monroe, author of Journeys Out Of Body. Shared dreaming is said to usually happen spontaneously, especially among family members.

Meshing and meeting dreams

The most commonly reported type of mutual dream is known as a meshing dream – two people’s different dreams which share certain elements. For instance, you and your partner may both watch an episode of Love Island together and then both of you dream about being stranded together on an island.

Meshing refers to the basic level of shared dreams where some of the elements overlap, but not a whole dream. The dreams may share common characters, settings, or story lines, which both dreamers are likely to have had actual waking life experience of.

The other conception of a shared dream is that of a meeting dream. This is the true meaning of mutual dreaming, where two or more people meet up and communicate inside the dream world.

For more information about lucid dreaming, read our article here.

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