This summer, Guerilla Science will hold lessons in lucid dreaming at Citadel festival in London, Secret Garden Party festival in Cambridgeshire, and The Book Club London for Halloween Fright Night. Get to know Josie Malinowski, the scientist hosting these sessions, in this exclusive Q&A.

Who are you and what do you study?

I’m Josie Malinowski and I’m an oneirologist, which means I study the science of dreaming. I’m a dream fanatic; there’s nothing about dreams that doesn’t fascinate me. I’m interested in what we dream, how we dream, why we dream, and what possibilities dreaming opens up to us. In my recent research, I’ve been studying whether dreams help us to process our emotional experiences, how doing dreamwork can help us find insights into our own lives, whether dreams are metaphorical for our waking lives, and how suppressing our waking thoughts affects our dreams.

Dreams are fascinating. What was that moment in your life that made you pursue your area of research?

I’ve always been interested in dreams. As a kid I had a dream dictionary (though I later found out that they are completely useless – there’s no universal code for dream symbols). As a young adult I began to journal my dreams, and I now have many years’ worth of dreams written in scattered notebooks. My real fascination with dreams started, though, when I joined a Surrealist group in London in 2006. We would share dreams, use cut up dreams to create poetry, and generally obsess over dreams. Through these obsessions, I decided I wanted to spend my life immersed in dreams, so I quit my day job, went back to university to study psychology, and it all fell into place from there.

What is the strangest thing you’ve learned from your research?

It’s hard to pick just one thing, dreams are strange by nature. Even the most mundane dream is strange, in its own way. Perhaps one of the most exciting things I’ve learnt to date is that lucid dreaming can be taught. Some people are able to lucid dream naturally, while others have to put in a bit of effort. I took a lucid dreaming course and then applied the techniques I learned, and I was lucid dreaming within a month or so. Some of my lucid dreams have been indescribably profound; others have been indescribably fun. Many more strange things can happen in lucid dreams that I’ve yet to experience. We also know that dreams, including lucid dreams, actually affect your physical body – they are “real” in the sense that as we experience them, we are really living and embodying them. That’s why oneirologists don’t think of “real life” as the opposite of dreaming – dreaming is real life. It’s just a different kind of living. 

This summer, we’re excited to bring Lessons in Lucid Dreaming to our UK festival programmes and London audiences. What are you looking forward to the most in these events?

I can’t wait to show people how to “wake up” in their dreams. Once you’ve learnt to go lucid, the possibilities are literally boundless. I’m very excited about helping to open this door to people who may never have been through it before.

Finally, give us one taster tip for how we might control our dreams?

My favourite technique for lucid dreaming combines two methods: Wake Back to Bed (WBTB), and Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) – this combined technique is also the method that has the most scientific backing for its effectiveness. Anyone can learn these techniques by doing an internet search for them and following the very simple instructions.