Characters or People in Dreams
Harry Bosma, who produces the best selling Alchera dream interpretation software, says of the characters in your dreams:
“There must have been some dreams that made you wonder why a known person appeared in them. This is especially puzzling if you haven’t seen that person for years. I experience this all the time. Everyone I ever met in my life keeps showing up in my dreams. I can’t blame day residue for it. If somebody appears in my dream, there has to be a special reason for it.
“I’ve been entering characters in my symbol book for a long time. Let me introduce you to a few. There’s Peter, one of my strongest helpers. He showed up riding on a horse in my ‘Cracking The Ice’ dream. Riding the horse he managed to crack the ice on a small lake, something I was unable to do on my own. I had to think for a while before I understood exactly why he appeared in my dream. Peter went to the same elementary school as I. One thing I eventually remembered about him was his inventiveness. This led me to realise that I use the appearance of Peter in a dream as a clue to consider whether I need to think of a more ingenious approach to an issue I am confronting.
There’s Frits, whose role I only recently got to understand. I could never see any pattern in the dreams he appeared in. Frits is a high school acquaintance, somebody who was often around, even though we weren’t really friends. I never fully understood it at the time. But it recently hit me that he was especially around when I was rebelling against the boredom of high school. He was having fun whenever I broke the rules, or did something else exciting. With that insight, looking back at the dreams, there is a pattern. Whenever my behaviour in a dream is more active than usual, he is around. He is the part of me that is having fun, because I’m not aware that I’m having fun myself.”
Inner Characters: An important thing to remember to understand your dream characters/people is that usually we are not dreaming about that actual person but a living image of them formed by your memories, impressions, events lived with them and even your intuitions about them. Such memories are living parts of us and influence us inwardly, so we put them in our dreams.
Apart from defining how you see one of your dream characters, and what relationship you have had to them in the past, as Harry suggests, it helps to simply consider how you feel about them, what of their characteristics are most important or noticeable to you? But occasionally it isn’t what you see in their character, but what you feel about them that is important. For instance a person who has frequently appeared in my dreams is a woman called Ann. I felt a lot of sexual attraction to Ann – although she may have felt nothing for me – and she appears in my dreams whenever loving feelings or closeness are being dealt with.
A man I used to work for, Leo, has appeared in dreams where a problem regarding outer activity was concerned. So Leo represents for me ways of dealing with difficulties I face in the world. He is the confidence and courage I have innately to meet things constructively.
But many characters in dreams are not people you have ever met or known, not even characters from films, plays or books. So you can’t look back on them and ask yourself what you observed or felt about them. In such cases it is most helpful to imagine yourself as that character and describe who you are, exactly as you are and how you act in the dream – as the dream character. As an example of this, one character in a dream, an old man, was dying. He was nobody I knew. When I imagined myself as him and described what I felt, and what was happening to me as him, it was clear he represented the experience I was facing at the time. I was letting my old life, a phase of my life, my old self, die. This was difficult but it was happening, and the dream helped me clarify what I was facing. See Being the Person or Thing
One of the most helpful ways to find the qualities of a dream character is to give them a name. For instance you might basically feel that a man you have seen or know slightly seems a practical outwardly capable person. So you could give him the name of Mr. Practical. Mr Practical therefore is your ability in dealing with everyday life, or outward activities. There could also be Mr Sexy, Miss How Do I Look, and so on. Naming characters gets easier if you stand in their role imaginatively as described above.
But remember that a word in a sentence changes meaning, even subtly, as it is placed in a different context. The word light, for instance, can be used by saying, “I switched on the light.” Or we can say, “I felt very light-hearted.” Or even, “There was no light.”
Each of these brings about a different sense of surroundings or events. Similarly, the context of a character in your dream may change what you have defined of his or her qualities. So you must look to the context to get the final understanding as to what you dream character indicates in that particular dream. See Context/Theme
A person who appeared in many of my dreams was a woman named Su. My relationship with Su was one in which I had been trying to learn to love her without being possessive or grasping. So in my dreams she always depicted my attempts to love in that way, or my attempts to learn a fuller love.
In one dream Su is shown paddling an inflatable dingy to a local town, where I am going to meet her. But there were difficulties about this. At the time of the dream I was dealing with a lot of people in very direct relationships, and Su in this dream shows that I still haven’t ‘met’ or integrated the ability to love without grasping or wanting to posses. The difficulty in the dream suggests that I find it difficult to express this more open love.
In a later dream, experienced just after I had led a weekend activity, I dreamt Su was visiting or with us. But she didn’t look like Su at all, being dark, indecisive and a weaker personality. I was talking with her, or just with her, when I realised that Mike (a close friend) was upstairs with my wife. He had arrived back from America. I wanted him to meet Su. I wanted to hug him, but I also wanted Su to see me do this. So although I hug him with love, there was also something of the purposely done thing about it.
Here Su is actually with me, in my house, so this is an entirely different context than with the previous dream. This shows a fuller integration with unconditional love. But the part at the end where I hope Su will see me ‘loving’ Mike points out that I am still moved by desires for acclaim and public attention.
So to summarise, consider each character and discover what qualities, faults, weaknesses or strength they depict for you. Give them a name, as this helps you remember their quality. But look to the context of the dream to find the detailed and changing expression of what the character depicts. See Autonomous Complex; Sub Personalities
Couple: Depending on the context of the couple in the dream, they can represent the dreamers parents and the family situation and environment at the age of the couple portrayed; if the dreamer has been married, can depict the dreamer’s marriage situation at the age of the couple; hopes for a relationship; possible outcomes of a relationship; friendship; partnership; some sort of relationship.
Dead people: The influence those people still have in your life – i.e. you are still influenced by them, or your relationship with them, even though they are dead. Feelings about death. Many people are often unaware of the massive experience they take in during a relationship and how it interacts with them when we love someone. In other words the memories and experience we gather unconsciously change us and are not lost. It is part of you and is symbolised in dreams as a person or event. So this needs to be recognised in understanding Dreams about Dead People and also Dreaming about a person I have left
Group of people: A group of people, as in Ivor’s dream below, can depict how one meets the pressure of social norms; public opinion. See: crowd.
Large crowds: Enormous involvement of self in an issue; ones relationship or feelings about the social environment one lives in; in groups we have a feeling of being looked at or on view – how we relate to that may be depicted by what we are doing in the dream group. See: party; roles.
People from our past: Considering that the major part of our learning and experience occur in relationship to other people, such learning and experience can be represented by characters from the past. For instance a first boyfriend in a dream would depict all the emotions and struggles we met in that relationship, and what we learned from it or took away from it in terms of fears. Therefore dreaming often of people we knew in the past would suggest the past experiences or lessons are very active at the moment, or we are reviewing those areas of our life. A woman who had emigrated to Britain from a very different cultural background frequently dreamt, even twenty years afterwards, of people she knew in her native country. This shows her still very much in contact with her own cultural values and experiences.
Because you have taken in millions of bit of memory, lessons learnt, life experiences along with all the feelings or problems met by loving and living with someone and they are what makes you the person you are. The memories and experience we gather unconsciously change us and are not lost. It is part of you and is symbolised in dreams as a person or event.
Several people in a dream suggest: Not feeling lonely; involvement of many aspects of oneself in what is being dreamt about; social ability.
As social relationship is one of the most important factors outside of personal survival – and survival depends upon it – such dreams help us to clarify our individual contact with society. Human beings have an unconscious but highly developed sense of the psychological social environment. Ivor’s dream shows something we are all involved in – how we are relating to humans collectively. Are we in conflict with group behaviour and direction; do we conform, but perhaps have conflict with our individual drives; do we find a way between the opposites? Much of our response is laid down in childhood and remains unconscious unless we review it.
Example: ‘Walking alone through a small town. I was heading for a place that a group of people, in a street parallel to mine, were also heading for. A person from the group tried to persuade me that the RIGHT way to get to the place was along the street the group was walking. I knew the street did not matter, only the general direction. The person was quite disturbed by my independence. It made him or her feel uncertain to have their leader apparently questioned. I felt uncertain too for a moment.’ Ivor S.
In some dreams, a group of people represent what is meant by the word God. This may sound unlikely, but the unconscious, because it is highly capable of synthesis, often looks at humanity as a whole. Collectively humanity has vast creative and destructive powers that intimately affect us as individuals. Collectively it has performed miracles that looked at as an individual, appear impossible. How could a little human being build the great pyramid, or a space shuttle? The Bible echoes this concept in such phrases as ‘Whatever you do to the least of one of these, you do to me.’
Example: ‘I was outdoors with a group of people acting as leader. We were in the middle of a war situation with bullets playing around us. Maybe aeroplanes were also attacking. I was leading the group from cover to cover, avoiding the bullets. Paul W.
Despite feeling attacked, either by external events, or from inner conflicts, Paul is using leadership skills to deal with his own fears and tendencies. If a friend told us he had just had an argument with his wife and was going to leave her, we might sit down and counsel them by listening and helping them to sort out the hurt feelings from their long term wishes. We might point out they had felt this way before but it passed – in other words give feedback they had missed. In a similar way, our various emotions and drives often need this sort of skill employed by ourselves. This unifies us, leading to coping skills as in Paul’s dream.
Useful Questions and Hints:
If they are people I know do I understand what I associate with them?
Do I recognise what I feel about society?
What have my parents left in me?