Can two or more people (even complete strangers) share dream elements? Can two or more people agree to dream together and intentionally interact? Dreamers casually talk about these episodes. A significant body of anecdotal reports exists as well. Still, scientific investigations in this area are rare.
About two decades ago, I had my first dream of a stranger, which I met later, for the first time, in the waking state, a few weeks after the dream. She was a young woman close to my age. While I recalled information about her from the dream, she did not recall dreaming me. This episode was one-directional, although many people report dual-directional experiences.
The term ‘shared dreaming’ usually refers to two or more people sharing similar elements in the dreams. ‘Mutual dreaming’ involves two or more people interacting or meeting together in a dream. I see it as more intentional. Both shared dreaming and mutual dreaming can involve highly detailed recollections or vague memories.
Once a month, I lead a dream course in California. One time, as the participants departed, a man approached me and asked if I had ever heard of two people having the same dream. I said, “yes,” and told him that this phenomenon has been reported by many people. He then told me about a recent experience he had with a friend. He said they seemed to share the same dream space and awoke to recall very similar events and scenes. After listening to his story, I asked if he or his friend had written down the episodes before speaking to each other – they hadn’t. I suggested dream journaling upon awakening. Not only would this document the dream for future reference, but it would also say a lot if both dreamers produce similar written episodes before interactional influences have an effect. We parted ways, both excited that this might occur again soon.
While I was aware of the varieties of anomalous dream occurrences much earlier, it wasn’t until about 2004 that I attended courses and participated with a group that taught lucid dreaming and out-of-body techniques. During that period, the group would meet about once a month at night to practice mutual and shared dreaming – a special occasion. One of the group facilitators would place a secret object in the next room and the attendees were invited to dream with each other, interact, and if they chose, discover the object unknown to the group. This was a fun challenge and my first time working with a group to enhance our conscious dream skills. I was unsuccessful, but those more seasoned participants were quite successful, at times, and made accurate claims regarding the target object. During those years I came to understand that mutual and shared dreaming is possible.
Neuroscientist Patrick McNamara, PhD asks Can Two People Have The Same Dream? (See June 19, 2016 article in Psychology Today by that name). McNamara states that the best-documented cases involve shared dreams between therapists and their clients, followed by those people in close relationships. Think emotional closeness! While McNamara notes that the dreamers don’t agree on every dream detail, I understand that to be consistent with reports from waking state occurrences. For example, two friends walking together side-by-side down the same street would likely not report the exact same details of the experience. Psychological theories of memory, sensation and perception explain this. As McNamara’s article concludes, he writes, “In short, we [the scientific community] have no good explanations for shared dreams. Perhaps that is why science has not yet investigated these events. Science has no place to put them within its current worldview—but this is all the more reason to investigate them. Paradigm-challenging phenomena are the most important data for science because they force revolutionary changes.” I can think of no bigger clash than that of the current scientific paradigm and the transpersonal or spiritual perspectives.
Western science aside, consider non-materialistic views and those traditional, nature-based, indigenous, non-western, or even mystical views. Can consciousness leave the physical body and return at will? If the soul travels as one’s body slumbers, bumping into friends or family members who share the same ‘dimensional space’ may be possible. While such a notion is a given among certain groups, it may not sit comfortably with particular religious groups or even extreme secularists. Mutual and shared dreaming rides dangerously close to historical accusations (Salem witch trails; the Inquisition) of individuals making a pact with the devil. Whatever we believe, it is unlikely that the next person that crosses our path will hold the same assumption or harness the same belief. The bottom line, however, is that it may be difficult to deny the power and mystery of mutual dreaming once one (or more) experiences such.