dream... (Photo credit: Norma Desmond)
In my previous post we discussed the topic of celebrity appearances in dreams as well as recurring characters and other guest appearances. Who are these people and why are they entering our dream space?
In this current post I want to look at the role that we the dreamers play in our dreams. Do we play ourselves, others, or both?
On my previous post Leigh at Em-musing commented: A psychologist once told me all characters in dreams are really us and that we put faces and personas on them to deal with our own issues.
Stephen T McCarthy from Ferret-Faced Facist Friends countered: I think that's often true, but I also believe that sometimes the characters stand for concepts or situations or things that somehow apply to us, but do not necessarily represent US as individuals.
There is probably truth in both of these viewpoints since dreams can portray a diversity of ideas. However, it also may possible that the dream actors are not us at all but something akin to characters in a movie that we are watching as our subconscious mind improvises the script.
Sometimes I feel disassociated from my dream as though I am witnessing the events rather than participating in them. In a sense, in these cases I seem to be at a vantage point observing a far away view which occasionally I may even manipulate as though I am the scriptwriter. This is probably why a story inspiration will often come from my dreams. My mind has been "writing" as I sleep and dream.
Other times I am involved in all or most of the dream action. In these cases I will often be aware of a scene set-up either through an actual narration or back story presented in a dream memory--things I somehow know through memories which I don't necessarily relate to anything in waking life.
An example of this type of situation comes from a dream I had when I was in high school:
I am watching the story of a benevolent young outlaw known as "The Kid". The time is probably the 1880s and the place is an unspecific locale in the West. "The Kid" is a hero of the common people because of his good actions, but he is apparently wanted by the law authorities. I hear some of the story narrated, but other parts I know perhaps from earlier in the film that I don't recall seeing in the dream. I see "The Kid" riding across the terrain on horseback. His face is covered by white cloth or gauze because he has face cancer. I don't recall what happens in the ongoing story, but at various times I become either "The Kid", one of his gang, a boy who is a character in the story, a town person, or a viewer in the audience. Perhaps I am all of these but only capable of comprehension from one point of view.
This tends to prove the theory that Leigh mentioned. The story in its entirety may somehow represent me and whatever my real life situation was at the time of the dream. Perhaps this is me presented as a story. On the other hand, perhaps I am placing myself in the relevant roles as they occur in the story much like a writer might identify with whichever character he is writing about at any one particular time.
In other dreams I may become whichever character is in the most favorable position. It becomes almost a case that I don't like the idea of being a particular character and decide I want to be someone else. In these dreams the story line will also change to the extent that there is no actual story continuity, but more like a collection of images and disassociated vignettes where characters and settings will appear and disappear. These dreams seem related to stream-of-consciousness thinking where incongruous ideas blend together into an olio of imagery.
When I think I see myself in my dreams it is not the actual physical representation of me. Those people are physically different than what I look like but I accept them as me. The dream eyes through which I see my dreams seem to be mine and yet they don't always feel like my vision. The confusion of dream states makes everything questionable and sometimes appear to have multiple layers of meaning.
I am not sure how to interpret the dream character that I typically accept as me. Nor do I know why it might appear that I might be multiple characters in a dream. I don't even really know for sure that I am in my dreams at all. It's very possible, as I have mentioned above, that my dreams are stories and my mind is merely the author of those stories. Perhaps my mind is identifying with these mysterious dream characters.
Do you actually see yourself or know for certain that it is a portrayal of you in your dreams? Have you experienced the character shift phenomena? Do you control your dreams or just watch them happen?