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?
Some nights I dream quite vividly and can remember them throughout the next day, but other dreams I don't remember. I think dreams is an outlet of what is going on in your life.ReplyDelete
Have a good day.
I recently had a dream with Jet Li, which I have spoken about on my blog. I often wander if the people we see in our dreams are real, and do we appear in others dreams. I always appear to be myself and watch the dream as though it's a real event unfolding in front of me :)ReplyDelete
Well...I choked on my croissant when I saw your reference to my comment. Thanks. My dreams? I'm never a player, always the observer. I used to have horrific nightmares, but my counselor told me I can control them by telling myself NOT to have them. It worked. We can also tell ourselves to dream about something specific, like healing an old emotional wound. The sub-conscience then will do it, even if you don't understand the dream or even remember it. I'm loooong out of counseling now, but if I could ask one more question about dreams, it would be: what does gross, overflowing toilets mean? Seriously! I can't figure these out and need to flush those disgusting ones away.ReplyDelete
In my dreams I seem to morph from my current state to a younger state to a masculine state.... I never SEE myself. Often I recognize the dream as part of, or a continuation of, a dream I've had before. Occasionally I have tweaked the dream while within it if I didn't like the way things were going.ReplyDelete
Very interesting. I never really experienced shifts the way you did, although, studying and doing research, I've always been familiar with the notion that, when we dream, we are the main character, the antagonist, the extras, the setting, and the scenery. This is what Jung taught me. It wouldn't be correct to take it as a rule of thumb, though. Unfortunately, dreams can only be understood if taken singularly on a case-by-case basis.ReplyDelete
Yes, for some of my dreams I'm sure that I was represented by more than one character.
I don't like to control my dreams. That would mean creating a degree of influence and interfering with the role of the unconscious in the dream, which is not what I want to do. I just let them be.
The degree of focus I always maintain on my dreams, though, allows me to almost always remember the minutest details of each dream, getting to discover new details hour after hour during the same day.
Very interesting post.
ARLEE BOIDMAN ~ReplyDelete
>> . . . Do you actually see yourself or know for certain that it is a portrayal of you in your dreams?
Yes, I have often seen myself in my dreams. In fact, I have seen myself in two different ways: sometimes watching myself interact with other characters or objects in the dream, as if I’m hovering above or just outside my body and watching me act in the dream but KNOWING that I AM the person I’m watching; and other times I’m in the dream but viewing it through my eyes, much like real life, where we can’t see our own faces but could look down and see our body, torso, legs, feet, etc.
And it seems that sometimes I experience myself in both of those ways but at different points in the same dream. It would perhaps be a valuable study that might provide some interesting insight if I were to write out my dreams and chronicle what’s going on when I’m outside my body and what’s going on when I’m inside my body.
Comparing those dream experiences after a sufficient period of time might reveal a pattern I haven’t yet noticed. Like, do I leave my body when there’s a violent scene? Or do I leave my body when someone is expressing love and affection for me? Or when I’m distraught? Are there certain circumstances I prefer to view from “outside” or from “inside” in the course of my dreams?
>> . . . Have you experienced the character shift phenomena?
No, I don’t think so. Not if what you mean is a character shift from one dream actor to a different dream actor occurring at some point in a single dream.
>> . . . I often wonder if the people we see in our dreams are real, and do we appear in others dreams.
Anna Smith’s comment reminded me of something that happened a number of years ago:
One day I was feeling very fired up spiritually and I happened to make a remark to my Ma as I was passing by her.
A short time later a good friend of mine, living in another state, had a dream in which he and I appeared and the scenario was a description of what I had said to my Ma earlier when we were alone in the house.
The whole thing absolutely blew me away because it had a deep spiritual and Biblical connotation. It was as if his mind had somehow tapped into my mind and fully dramatized the one-sentence remark I had made to my Ma.
To him, the dream didn’t seem to make any sense at all and yet it was such a powerful experience that he called long distance to tell me about it. When I heard what he’d dreamed, I immediately connected it with my previous statement.
I should tell you the whole story someday. It was so astounding to me that I recorded all the details of it in the Dream Journal that I used to keep, even though it was a friend’s dream and not my own.
‘Loyal American Underground’
Yvonne -- I think the evaluation of life theory is generally the most accepted as to what dreams are.ReplyDelete
Anna -- I know some people have told me they've had dreams about me. I think it would be interesting if I remembered being in those dreams--as though we dreamed at the same time.
Em -- I've tried to tell myself what to dream but it's never seemed to work. The toilet dream probably relates to something in your life that is out of control. You probably need to collect all of the dream details and relate them to details of what you have been experiencing lately in your life and what you are apprehensive about.
Delores -- I also experience the morphing of the character as well as the dream story. Maybe the mind is playing tricks and trying to organize our images into something that is more coherent, but that dream memory thing is something that always intrigues me.
Jay -- I definitely agree that dreams don't play by any hard set rules and can only be studied in a case by case basis, which makes dream interpretation books essentially non-functional other than for entertainment or generalized theorizing.
I'm thinking that those who say they can't remember their dreams might do better to focus on particular aspects or details and allowing the mind to make the connections like you are describing. Once we stop thinking about the dream it is usually lost, but if we focus and begin piecing the dream puzzle together then we can capture the memory and retain it.
StMc -- I had entered a lengthy comment and then my internet went off and I lost it. Bummer. I'll try to recreate what I'd said.ReplyDelete
Yes, I have often seen myself in my dreams...
But are you absolutely sure it was a dream representation of you or were you identifying with a dream character in much the same way a movie viewer would put themselves in the place of the star or another character?
... . It would perhaps be a valuable study that might provide some interesting insight ...
This would be great. Of course to do it scientifically it would probably be best to monitor your vital signs as you dream to see what changes occur. But self-observations and analysis with help of an ongoing dream journal could be very helpful if one had the time and patience to do this. If you do it let us know the results--guest post on this site perhaps?
...I should tell you the whole story someday.
Tell the story here! (guest post?) This is something interesting that I've thought of myself when I've had vivid dreams about someone I know. I've been tempted to call that person to see if they had also had dreams or had been thinking of me. The concept of simultaneous thoughts sounds like an interesting topic.
Very interesting thoughts raised here.
>> . . . But are you absolutely sure it was a dream representation of you or were you identifying with a dream character...
No, DEFINITELY me, not just an identification with a dream character.
I don't mean to imply that ALL of my dreams include me as a character (whether inside or outside myself in the dream). I have had plenty of dreams where I just seemed to be an observer watching other people and watching stories develop but in which I played no active part.
But I have definitely had a good number of dreams where I knew myself to be a character in the dream as much as I know I'm this character sitting on this chair and typing these words on a computer screen.
>> . . . If you do it let us know the results
If I did it, I would. But, really, as much as I think it's a good idea and that it would probably be a rather intriguing study, I just don't have the time (and probably not the patience either) to follow through on it. Heck, I don't even keep a dream journal anymore, so recording all those sorts of dreams and spending time comparing and analyzing them seems out of the question.
>> . . . Tell the story here! (guest post?) ... The concept of simultaneous thoughts sounds like an interesting topic.
Yes, it IS an interesting topic. You and I seem to have the same sort of curiosity about dreams, because many years ago, long before you had mentioned it on this blog, I had pondered the mystery and been highly intrigued by the fact that in some of my dreams I and some other characters sometimes seem to have an understood history of past events - things we KNOW occurred prior to the dream, but never really occurred in real life.
That dreams and dreamers can have an (imaginary) pseudo-past or "pre-dream history" is just such a wild, mind-boggling, and entertaining idea to me. I LOVE THAT, but I don't know why.
Guest post? Tell it here? Yeah, I could do that. It would be pretty simple, really, all I'd have to do is retype what I typed in my Dream Journal years ago. And surprise of surprises, I actually know exactly where that old Dream Journal is.
Only one thing though...
The incident leading to my friend's dream of me, and the details of his dream are all very religious/spiritual in nature. It all has to do with my search for spiritual truth and I have even attempted to correlate his dream to one or more passages from The Bible.
Are you sure you want me spewing a big dream story about religion and The Bible on your blog?
It's all rather personal, but that doesn't really bother me, I'm just wondering if it's appropriate for your blog and your audience. It could maybe alienate some readers. Not that it denigrates any other spiritual viewpoints, but it rather enthusiastically endorses mine.
Well, think about it a little and let me know. (Or, I suppose I could even type it up and Email it, and you could decide whether or not you want to post the thing after you've had a chance to read it.)
'Loyal American Underground'
Part 1 Of 2:ReplyDelete
ARLEE BOID ~
Early this morning I had a dream that perfectly illustrates my claim above that the principal character in SOME of my dreams is "DEFINITELY me, not just an identification with a dream character."
I dreamed that I was attempting to get "home" but obstacles kept forcing me to go further and further West when I knew my house to be East. For instance, I'd run into street excavations, ravines, detour after detour. Once I had to go through some guy's weird, sloped garage to get over to the next street and I slipped down his steep driveway, falling a great distance.
The journey was almost all UPHILL, and I was wearing these long "clown shoes" and a large and heavy, fully loaded black backpack. Throughout this dream I was inhabiting the body; seeing out of its eyes as I do in real life (i.e., I could look down and see my legs walking and the clown shoes forcing me to lift my legs higher than usual and place my feet carefully in front of me so that the front ends of the shoes would not fold under my feet and cause me to trip).
At no time do I clearly recall observing my body from the outside, and yet I knew the large backpack I wore behind me to be black, so either I did hover outside momentarily and don't recall it, or it's just one of those "somehow knowing" things we have in dreams.
My journey was very frustrating and slow going. Then at one point I went to duck under a metal pole that may have been part of a street closure device, and not ducking low enough, the pole knocked the backpack off of me. I immediately noticed how much lighter I felt and quicker I could walk; not as quick as normal (due to the clown shoes) but a great improvement. So I didn't even stop and return to retrieve the backpack and whatever may have been in it.
Eventually I ran across my Brother (who looked just like he does in real life) and we went into a bar owned by someone he supposedly knew and we each ordered a glass of beer and talked about some stuffs. I was later appalled to learn my one glass of beer cost $14.00. (What’s the significance of 14?)
Leaving the bar and trying again to get home, I came across some young woman I knew (but not in real life) and who I liked in a platonic way. She supported herself through prostitution. She walked and talked with me for awhile and I tried to convince her to leave that sort of lifestyle because The Bible condemns it, and The Bible can be proven to be supernaturally inspired (as indeed it can be). But I was unable to change her mind.
I came across a variety of other situations, some of them kind of dark and dangerous, before running across Burt Reynolds. He was in a kind of teasing, smart-assed mood, and we spoke a little bit. I told him I’d seen all his movies and he doubted me, “ALL of my movies?” I corrected myself, “Well, I didn’t really mean ALL of them, but a number of them. I never saw ‘Smokey And The Bandit’, but I saw ‘Deliverance’, ‘Silent Movie’, ‘The End’, and ‘The Longest Yard’.” Then I told him that I loved ‘The Longest Yard’, that I’d seen it countless times and it’s my favorite of his movies.
Then the journey continued and I awoke.
Part 2 Of 2:ReplyDelete
There are a few symbols in here that I have an idea about regarding their origins (e.g., the clown shoes; and a few days ago, I did briefly think about ‘Deliverance’ – a movie I don’t really care for). But overall I think this is probably one of those seemingly crazy dreams that are in actuality delivering a “spiritual” message, as we discussed the other day via Email.
The “Home” I’m trying to get back to is probably the spiritual Home with God my Father. But in order to get there I must first travel “uphill” and overcome frustrating Earthly obstacles (“roadblocks”, etc.), carry my cross (heavy black backpack) at least some of the way, and I must attempt to help my wayward Brothers and Sisters (the prostitute), while learning my way “Home”. [All this ties in with an Email conversation I have been having with FarAwayEyes, who sometimes comments here on your dream blog.]
But my main point is that this dream PROVES that it is me, myself, and I who is sometimes featured in my dreams, and not just a case of me “identifying” with one of the dream characters. Note that my “dream Brother” looked just like my real Brother and I knew him to be related to me in that way; my familiarity with The Bible and the fact that it can be shown to be supernatural in origin; and the factual information that I related to Burt Reynolds (every statement made was correct in my “real life” – I never saw ‘Smokey And The Bandit’, but have seen all the others I named, and ‘The Longest Yard’, which I’ve seen countless times and own on DVD, is indeed my favorite).
Have I convinced you that it is really ME who sometimes stars in my own dreams? Ha!
‘Loyal American Underground’
Great recounting of the dream. You captured details very well and the interpretation seems very plausible.ReplyDelete
I do believe that in all probability those images of ourselves that we see in our dreams are subconscious representations of ourselves, though not our physical selves, though the dream symbol selves are connected with our physical bodies so that we may actually experience certain sensations.
My suggestion is the possibility that we are in a certain sense tricking ourselves. That our subconscious mind may have written or may be improvising the dream script and the actors are ethereal, psychic stand-ins that we interpret and accept as being us. We are convinced we are experiencing whatever is happening and as we witness the story there is a transference of our waking self into this actor in the mind.
Just as in all probability neither your brother or Burt Reynolds was in actually not in the dream mental image actors stood in for them and through willing suspension of disbelief you accepted them as the real people. Not to say that you think they were the real people, but in the dream you accepted them as such.
Just one possible theory that I've considered.
This is a very fascinating dream with the similar peculiar imagery I have also experienced. Good job.
I've been both participant and viewer in my dreams, with the latter probably more prevalent.ReplyDelete
Will you guys please share whatever it is you have been smoking. I definitely want some. Are you kidding me? As if I already didn't sleep very well.ReplyDelete
Do I understand you Arlee, to be saying that when I dream and it's me in the dream, me walking and talking and doing whatever just like I'm walking and talking around my house right now, (well, like I'm actually sitting here at my desk typing right now) it's not really me, but some actor I have superimposed my character on? Or the times when I'm viewing my dream (maybe outside of my body) like I'm watching a movie of myself (who looks like me, sounds like me, has my mannerisms and does ONLY those things that I WOULD do), it's not really me I'm watching but some 'dream actor' that I again have superimposed myself onto?
THIS would be the part where I want the stuff you're smoking.
I'm having a hard time with that, because I see myself in my dreams (whether from inside my own head or outside my body) just as I am. Try as might to improve on my appearance and maybe even my character, it's always just plain ole me.
I find in my dreams that I only do things that I would normally do - no superhuman feats of bravery or extraordinary acts of intelligence, but also nothing really terrible like murder either. Although, once in a dream I killed someone to protect my child. I'm pretty sure I would do that in 'real life' also, if the need arose.
Incidentally, I'm always in my dreams. I cannot ever remember having a dream about other people that I was not present in. I'm also always ME.
More than once I've had a dream involving someone else that I know well and when I spoke with them about it they had the same dream at approximately the same time. Funny, that didn't seem extraordinary to me. After that first time, I check with them every time I have a dream that they appear in. Probably 85 - 90% of the time we are experiencing the same dream. Also, interesting, it didn't occur to me to check with other people I dream about and see if they experience the same dream.
Apparently, I have a powerful connection to this person. THAT does not surprise me. I believe strongly in 'powerful connections'. I have met people that I immediately feel connected to and feel some type of past bond with. (I can see STMc's wheels turning and churning with reincarnation as I type - maybe, I'm not sure.) I would have to get into my spiritual beliefs to try and explain that one and this certainly isn't the place nor am I really ready to do that. Sorry, Arlee more ambiguity. (That stinkin' California post is gonna haunt me, isn't it?)
OK,I've gone on long enough that you probably want what you think I've been smoking.
Interesting if not a mind blowing topic.
I'll be interested to see Stephen's 'Guest Post'. Apparently, this is an older dream, so I need not fear that it will be another one starring me as maybe his grandmother or pet puppy, this time.
I guess I'd like to have whatever it is you think I'm smoking or whatever you're smoking.ReplyDelete
You have touched upon my point. When you say, "when I dream and it's me in the dream, me walking and talking and doing whatever", I'm suggesting that it's not really you because the real you is sleeping in bed. The images that you are "seeing" are just mental movies created by your mind. The memory you carry from that dream may include you, but only because you projected your true self into this imaginary character and convinced yourself that it was you.
Of course, an alternate theory might be that the dream is a portal into another dimension and what you are seeing is your other dimensional self much like you would see another you reflected in a mirror.
And I'm sure there are many other explanations that we could come up with. If you are in the dream than who is that in your bed while you dream?
I'm interested in the simultaneous dream experiences shared by you and another. This is really freaky and something I've wondered about in my own dream life, but I can't ever recall having that experience. Maybe we need a guest post from you as well.
"I'm suggesting that is not really you because the real you is asleep in bed.'ReplyDelete
Believe it or not, that actually cleared up my confusion as to exactly what you have been talking about. I, of course, did not think of it that way - mental movies -a good way to put it.
I do find it interesting that you think the simultaneous dream experience is 'freaky' and yet the theory of dreams being a portal to another dimension rather ordinary. Of course, if in fact there is a portal to ANYWHERE, wouldn't it be possible that more than one of us would end up at the same place in the same time. Just a thought. I'm certainly not a proponent of that 'portal theory'. I think of it more as having a strong earthly connection to the other person and their mind.
Still an interesting and potentially mind blowing topic.
I once dreamed that my son, who is 28 years old, was about six again,but I knew him as he is now, and I was trying to explain to him that even though he seemed little, he was actually a grown man with little kids of his own...Interesting question,"If you are in the dream than who is that in your bed while you dream?"ReplyDelete
I think that's the same as saying, "If I am thinking thoughts of what to do for lunch and visualizing myself with a fried spam sandwich,(yuk)....then who is that typing at my computer?!"
I don't think dreams mean anything, but like I said in my other comment, I think they can be reflections of stresses we are experiencing, and some of them sure are weird and interesting..I love how dreams don't often explain themselves..things just are how they are and we accept that reality..I haven't had any flying dreams that I remember, but I used to regularly dream that if I jumped up, I just kept going and going..higher and farther until I came to a soft landing and jumped again...I could travel all over my dream world with these crazy assed huge jumps..in the dream I never asked why I could do that, I just accepted that I could...
Great topic Lee!
When my brother and I were kids we used to have simultaneous dreams...we both had a recurring dream that we were alone in a parked car that would suddenly start moving into traffic...we didn't know how to stop it or what to do..there were little differences in these dreams, but for the most part it was like we were dreaming the same dream...we didn't find out that we'd done this until we were both grown..it was really weird..