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Social anxiety? Here’s the latest (unhelpful) suggestion

Do you find parties easy? Well done you. But if you are lock-yourself-in-the-loo-forgotten-how-to-have-a-conversation-who-even-am-I type then you should know about the new theory being mooted to cure social anxiety. Something called lucid dreaming. Ah you think, this is like when I am being *interviewed* on Desert Islands Discs: “I am glad you asked that question Kirsty.” Or the practice having a fight with someone in the shower: “I am not even going to dignify that absurd assertion with a response.” But it is not that. Lucid dreaming is controlling your dreams as they happen. This is not an alternative fact.

According to The Science of Us, “50 percent of people have experienced lucidity in a dream at least once. Mostly this stays at knowing you are in a dream.” Every now and then this is a good thing. Tom Hardy might be there. Hi Tom. “Oh, if you insist…” But then you wake up. If you are skilled at lucid dreaming you can summon certain people (!) into your dreams. If you are really good, says Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist who studies dreaming and teaches at Harvard Medical School, you can say “Oh, I don’t want to be in this scene — I’ll just make this dissolve and I’ll dream about something else.” You can create your own augmented parallel universe.

So if you become a lucid dream ninja, the theory is that you can practise situations you feel nervous about – say an old school reunion (why did I say yes?), big presentation (I did want this promotion, didn’t I?), a date (I am being myself, myself, myself) – in your dreams. And then they will be less scary and more manageable in real life.

If we could even sleep then maybe lucid dreaming might be a possibility. But given that our current sleep app is running us at about 33 minutes of REM sleep, it’s unlikely. And also isn’t this actively giving ourselves nightmares? Like deliberately thinking about standing naked in a crowd giving a speech. Panic. But maybe you are brave. Or maybe – at this stage – you are willing to try anything. So good luck everyone. Sweet dreams.

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