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  #1  
Old Nov 27, '12, 3:20 pm
silicasandra silicasandra is offline
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Default Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

Over Thanksgiving weekend, probably thanks to all the rich foods (and being pregnant), I had some very bizarre dreams in which I said and did some really sinful things (grave matter). I tend to be a vivid dreamer anyway, and when I woke up it took me a while to realize that I had been dreaming and that I hadn't actually done or said any of these.

Ordinarily, I would just shrug them off, but what stuck with me was that as part of the dreams, I would think to myself, "This is sinful and I should stop," but then I would ignore it and continue on. I am not sure if that thought was just part of the dream or if my brain was trying to wake me up to avoid continuing. One night, I woke up partially and the dream continued and although I tried at several points to consciously stop thinking about the dream, I was unsuccessful until I fully awoke.

I am not scrupulous and I don't think I fulfilled the conditions for mortal sin even though the matter was grave, because 1) I didn't actually commit the acts and 2) my ability to consent to the sinful thoughts was at least somewhat mitigated by the fact that I was not conscious. Still, I am bothered by the vividness of what I experienced in the dreams and I am wondering to what degree a person could be considered culpable for the content of their dreams, and if there are steps that should be taken to avoid such topics being the subjects for dreams. Some of the sins I "committed" while dreaming were sins from my past (over two years ago - all confessed), and some were ones I had never done before.

I'm curious about what others think about this. For one thing, I know it's probably not a good idea for me to load up on junk food just because it's the holidays!
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  #2  
Old Nov 27, '12, 3:33 pm
jimmy jimmy is online now
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

Come on now Casandra. You don't need us for this one. You know it was a dream, and you didn't have control over the thoughts that came into your mind or whether you did them. Dreams just happen.
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Old Nov 27, '12, 3:37 pm
ringil ringil is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

There is no culpability for someone who is not conscious.
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  #4  
Old Nov 27, '12, 3:39 pm
silicasandra silicasandra is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmy View Post
Come on now Casandra. You don't need us for this one. You know it was a dream, and you didn't have control over the thoughts that came into your mind or whether you did them. Dreams just happen.
If I didn't think I needed you guys I wouldn't have asked. As I said, I'm not scrupulous. I didn't take these dreams to confession even though I found them very, very disturbing, to say the least. It's just that I told myself during the dreams that I was doing something sinful, and did not wake up/stop, the dreams were so vivid that I was confused for a long time about whether or not they actually happened (we're talking hours, not minutes), and the occasion when I was half-awake and not sure how much control I really had over what I was thinking.

Also, I think that the fact that there was a behavior that very well could be linked to the dreams - eating rich food. Pregnancy is what it is and has a list a mile long of "side effects," but I can control whether or not to eat rich foods in great quantities. If I know that the possibility exists that these dreams would recur under these or other circumstances, do I have any moral responsibility to avoid those circumstances?

Last edited by silicasandra; Nov 27, '12 at 3:50 pm. Reason: more detail
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  #5  
Old Nov 27, '12, 3:56 pm
MaryT777 MaryT777 is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

I have never read of a link between rich foods and sinful dreams. I myself had many nightmares while pregnant unfortuantley that scared me to death. Perhaps the hormonal state.

It appears it's been noted you are not culpable for any actiions in dreams period.
Sweet dreams from now on
and Peace,

Mary.
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  #6  
Old Nov 27, '12, 3:59 pm
jimmy jimmy is online now
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

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Originally Posted by silicasandra View Post
OK, I accept that. The dreams happened; I didn't take them to confession even though I found them very, very disturbing, to say the least.

But, at the same time, do we have any sort of responsibility to avoid thoughts and behaviors that may lead to these kinds of dreams?
How are you going to avoid the thoughts? There are studies that have been done that show how successful people are in avoiding specific thoughts. The white bear study, done at Harvard University, is one example. People were asked to not think about a white bear. The result was that everyone thought about a white bear and they couldn't keep it out of their minds.

Regarding behaviors, if there is nothing wrong with the behavior, and they are only related to the past experiences tangentially or by some kind of association I don't see why you would have to avoid them. Simply because they might bring back a memory of the past doesn't mean you should avoid it, even if that memory is of you sinning. It isn't a sin to remember the sins you committed. And that is partially what dreams are; they are a mix of memory with other thoughts. As was mentioned, dreams aren't sinful.
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Old Nov 27, '12, 4:00 pm
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Windmill Windmill is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

The human mind is very random during sleep, and it is still not fully understood what goes on. One thing we do know is that it is done without the consent of the dreamer. It is totally random. Period. As we are coming in and out of sleep, out consent and knowledge are severely impaired, and so things done in this state are not perfect human actions.

Classic Catholic moral theology lists evil things done in a state of semi-wakefulness as either no sin at all or venially sinful depending on the degree of consent and knowledge. They cannot be mortally sinful because of lack of full knowledge or full consent. That being the case, your obligation to avoid things that would predictably lead you to these types of dreams would not be any more sinful than the sinfulness of the dreams, themselves. IOW, your obligation to avoid these rich foods is light at best because eating in and of itself is morally neutral and the dreams are not sinful, or at worst, mildly venial sinful if you consent to the pleasure or evil of the sinful thought in semi-wakefullness.

This would be different if, say, you were a teenage boy who was struggling with impure dreams. He should be avoiding those types of visual images in his waking hours anyway because they are near occasions of sin in and of themselves.

Bottom line: drop it and concern yourself with more concrete things in your striving for sainthood.
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  #8  
Old Nov 27, '12, 4:12 pm
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Elizium23 Elizium23 is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

It is a form of demonic attack. I believe that the enemy takes advantage of our helplessness in dreams, if he cannot subvert our thoughts while we are awake and alert, and our conscience succumbs to consent to things that we ordinarily would never agree to do. Don't worry, you are winning the war. Don't let the enemy win battles where you begin to doubt yourself or your resolve in the face of adversity. Cultivate devotions to St. Michael the Archangel and the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are surely our best help in these battles of conscience.
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  #9  
Old Nov 27, '12, 4:14 pm
jimmy jimmy is online now
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

Quote:
Originally Posted by silicasandra View Post
If I didn't think I needed you guys I wouldn't have asked. As I said, I'm not scrupulous. I didn't take these dreams to confession even though I found them very, very disturbing, to say the least. It's just that I told myself during the dreams that I was doing something sinful, and did not wake up/stop, the dreams were so vivid that I was confused for a long time about whether or not they actually happened (we're talking hours, not minutes), and the occasion when I was half-awake and not sure how much control I really had over what I was thinking.

Also, I think that the fact that there was a behavior that very well could be linked to the dreams - eating rich food. Pregnancy is what it is and has a list a mile long of "side effects," but I can control whether or not to eat rich foods in great quantities. If I know that the possibility exists that these dreams would recur under these or other circumstances, do I have any moral responsibility to avoid those circumstances?
It is nice to be needed.

Is there any temptation to go out and reenact the dreams? If not I don't see any reason to worry too much about them. They might have been extremely vivid, but that doesn't make them real.

The rich foods may or may not lead to dreams, but they probably won't lead to this specific dream every time. Dreams are pretty random, and are generally not determined by something we did. Our daily activities might come into our dreams as much as they are in our memory and on our minds, but that can't be avoided. A specific behavior isn't going to lead us to dream about something unless it makes us consciously think about it. So I see no reason to avoid rich foods. They might make you dream, but not about this specific subject.
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Old Nov 27, '12, 4:16 pm
jimmy jimmy is online now
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

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Originally Posted by Elizium23 View Post
It is a form of demonic attack. I believe that the enemy takes advantage of our helplessness in dreams, if he cannot subvert our thoughts while we are awake and alert, and our conscience succumbs to consent to things that we ordinarily would never agree to do. Don't worry, you are winning the war. Don't let the enemy win battles where you begin to doubt yourself or your resolve in the face of adversity. Cultivate devotions to St. Michael the Archangel and the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are surely our best help in these battles of conscience.
Or it is just the random thoughts of a sleeping brain. There is no reason to assume the devil is the cause.
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Old Nov 27, '12, 5:46 pm
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JRKH JRKH is online now
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

So many good answers so far...You are definitely not culpable for these matters.

That said...I think that it is admirable that you are concerned about this matter and wonder what you can do to lessen the likelihood of it recurring.
One suggestion I would make is that you purchase a inexpensive plastic rosary, have it blessed and keep it with you in bed. Start praying the rosary (or Divine Chaplet) and just let yourself fall asleep...Don't worry that you don't finish or even get very far...(I rarely make it past the first decade......

One of the things that seems to concern you is that in your dream you recognize it as a dream and even want to stop...but can't...In all likelihood this is no more than an inability to prevent the dream state from continuing. This occurs because unlike in the conscious state, there is no "gate" between thought and action. The thought instantly becomes action...

Such dreams (if they occur regulalry) might point to a lingering "affection" for the sin. Your desire, even in the dream, to not commit the sin is an indication that you desire to overcome this "affection".

All in all, it does not sound like anything to really be concerned about. Just keep Loving our Lord, pray often, ask for His help, grace, and courage - and keep moving forward in love.

Peace
james
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  #12  
Old Nov 27, '12, 6:03 pm
cornbread_r2 cornbread_r2 is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

Lucid dreamers apparently take an active, conscious role in their dreams.
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Old Nov 27, '12, 8:50 pm
ringil ringil is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

Research has shown that blue cheese can cause intense dreams.

Just an interesting factoid.
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  #14  
Old Nov 28, '12, 8:54 am
Matt Collins Matt Collins is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

It is not possible to sin when you are sleeping. You just can't do it. To sin you must make a conscious choice. By definition, you can't make a conscious choice when you're asleep, even if during the dream it feels like you're awake and able to control your actions.

What causes some people grief is that they feel that they are responsible for causing the dream due to actions or thoughts they had while awake. I suppose if you spend your day contemplating murder, it is possible that when you go to sleep that night you might dream that you murder someone. In that case, though, the "murder" you dreamed you committed is not the sin. Rather, your sin was contemplating murder during the day.

So, if you spend your day looking at porn, and then that night you dream you commit adultery, you do not commit the sin of adultery, but you do commit the sin of looking at porn, and that's what you should confess, not adultery.

One poster referred to lucid dreamers. The only place I've ever heard of lucid dreamers is on this forum. I have never met anyone who claims to have "lucid dreams." I doubt their existence. However, even if it is true, we cannot know with certainty that the dreamer is actually able to control the dream. And the only sins we must confess are those mortal sins we are CERTAIN we have committed. If there is honest doubt that we were in COMPLETE control of our will, then we do not have to confess the sin and Our Lord will treat it as if it were a venial sin. This principle was defined in the Council of Trent. It applies to everyone, and is often used to help the scrupulous.

The link provided about lucid dreams is to an article on lucid dreams on Wikipedia. It has this to say about them (emphasis mine):

Quote:
In a lucid dream, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream or be able to manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment.
May be able to exert some degree of control... So even if I'm wrong about the existence of lucid dreams (and I certainly could be), it sure doesn't sound like full consent of the will to me.
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Old Nov 28, '12, 10:21 am
ringil ringil is offline
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Default Re: Culpability for Sinful Thoughts/Actions in Dreams

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Originally Posted by Matt Collins View Post
It is not possible to sin when you are sleeping. You just can't do it. To sin you must make a conscious choice. By definition, you can't make a conscious choice when you're asleep, even if during the dream it feels like you're awake and able to control your actions.

What causes some people grief is that they feel that they are responsible for causing the dream due to actions or thoughts they had while awake. I suppose if you spend your day contemplating murder, it is possible that when you go to sleep that night you might dream that you murder someone. In that case, though, the "murder" you dreamed you committed is not the sin. Rather, your sin was contemplating murder during the day.

So, if you spend your day looking at porn, and then that night you dream you commit adultery, you do not commit the sin of adultery, but you do commit the sin of looking at porn, and that's what you should confess, not adultery.

One poster referred to lucid dreamers. The only place I've ever heard of lucid dreamers is on this forum. I have never met anyone who claims to have "lucid dreams." I doubt their existence. However, even if it is true, we cannot know with certainty that the dreamer is actually able to control the dream. And the only sins we must confess are those mortal sins we are CERTAIN we have committed. If there is honest doubt that we were in COMPLETE control of our will, then we do not have to confess the sin and Our Lord will treat it as if it were a venial sin. This principle was defined in the Council of Trent. It applies to everyone, and is often used to help the scrupulous.

The link provided about lucid dreams is to an article on lucid dreams on Wikipedia. It has this to say about them (emphasis mine):



May be able to exert some degree of control... So even if I'm wrong about the existence of lucid dreams (and I certainly could be), it sure doesn't sound like full consent of the will to me.

I agree with you completely. The Church has been crystal clear on the matter.

Why do folks look for sin where there is none?
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