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.

So, if we really examine ourselves, we have a really wonderful ability to express as a huge range of different types, as shown in our dreams, the master/mistress of drama and expression.

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

Example: Then I slowly became aware of a deeper sense of the discomfort. It was a feeling of being stuck in one place and not being able to move. It wasn’t anything to do with moving physically but was as an awareness. It felt awful and I tried to move but couldn’t. The only way of describing it was as if we are all made out of the same stuff – as an example concrete – and as such we filled all space. So the little space I filled could not move because all around was filled by others. I felt really stuck and wondered what I could do, but there seemed no way out of it. Yet I could not believe this was really how things were.

Most of this was spontaneous thoughts and movement through the experience, so that was how I was led to thinking about my cousin Sid again, and his situation of being constantly linked with his mother even after he died. Then I realised that I was linked with Rita in a similar way, and in feeling that I realised that I could move in at least two positions – me and Rita – because of the loving connection I felt.

Then came a flood of realisation, every person I had loved or experienced was another position I could be in; and then I knew all the animals I had loved and even people I had a casual relationship with. But there was even more because in dreams and sessions I had become or encountered amazing things, people, creatures, the alien beings and others. I knew then that I was FREE to go anywhere and be almost anything, because their life pattern was now part of me. Then with a rush of wonder, I realised that the more people and creatures I loved or had experience of, the bigger I became.

 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?

See Being the Person or Thing –  The Conjuring TrickWorking with associationsReleasing Your Inner Genius


-Cookie 2014-09-12 6:36:46

Before 2 days ago I had this nightmare about my favorite teacher getting killed in school by I girl I seen before in school she is Chinese and mean.. Very mean so she came in my dream, what does it mean I’m really scared :0 please tell me, oh and when I went to school my friend told me the exact same nightmare I had. And my class had a nightmare about her getting her leg broken and omg yesterday I went for 1 second dream and my teacher said help me in a whisper

-juliet 2014-07-13 14:08:05

In a crowd woman asked me where is my horse seemed i owned a show horse

-Aimee 2014-02-27 14:22:55

I heard once that when you dream of someone from your past, it means they are thinking about you. Is there any credence to this statement?

-Diana 2013-03-07 22:58:23

I had this dream last night , where i saw my crush.. we were king of hanging out and i dont know how ut i had a small ball in my ahnd i cant remember what exactly happened but i found my hand in his hand , and then when i tried to get my hand of his hand he just grabbed it tighter and dint let go
what does that mean.. if someone could answer

-Dannie 2012-12-17 10:29:21

While doing a spiritual fast two years ago I was fasting for career direction and whether or not I should get involved in a church project that deep down I wanted to avoid. So the dream: my husband and I were on a beach but we were on a platform that was about the height of a lifeguard chair and we were both looking at a computer screen I was doing graphic design something I had been praying over whether or not to pursue then I looked out at the ocean and it was beautiful then this dark character walks by staring at us but my husband doesn’t see him the person was tall I took it to represent my pastor and that I shouldn’t work on the project. Fast forward 2 years later we moved to a new city and I’m doing graphic design part time and I think I’ve met the real person or figure from that dream. We have a strong pull from each other and share a lot of common things I find myself being drawn in and I can’t help but to wonder if that dream was a warning because in the dream the man was a tall dark figure watching and my neighbor is tall and lives across the street. I just thought of the dream and I’m not sure if this was a warning. Any guidance would be appreciated. Other details I haven’t had the best or strongest relationship with my husband or relationship is more like that of siblings strong love and bond but not an in love type of situation.

-Michelle 2012-09-14 0:42:32

I guess I don’t often remember my dreams, but today while napping I had a dream I remembered and it was very enjoyable. So much so that the good feelings from the dream carried over into my awakened state and stayed with me for some time. Sort of a dream hangover I guess, but in a good way. I would really appreciate help deciphering this one! The guy who appeared in this dream was someone I knew throughout middle school and two years into high school. I liked him very much, we dated very briefly but were always close as friends . He was rather shy and I always felt I was chasing a lost cause. To this day ( we are now in our late 30s) I often think of him and believe we are soul  mates and were meant to be together. I have married and have loved others but never the way I’ve loved HIM. I feel we have a connection that is deeper than I’ve ever felt with anyone else. We live very far away from each other and haven’t had contact since we were probably 19 or 20. In my dream is also my best friend from that time in my life, who I still keep in touch with. Parts of the dream seem choppy or out of  sequence. And I am physically the way I am now in my dream although he is younger looking, the way he was in high school . My best friend and I are in a crowded social situation in the dream, perhaps a reunion of sorts? We have traveled to the east coast for this occasion, whatever it is. Through the crowd I see him and excitedly tell my best friend. We then go to find him and once again I catch a glimpse but then he disappears and I am very depressed because I am certain he saw me also. My best friend and I go outside and are talking for awhile when out of blue he appears. We smile at each other and I give him a huge hug. I ask how’s he’s been and tell him I miss him very much and he tells me the same. Next we are all headed back to a hotel. My best friend goes to our room alone and him and I go to his to catch up and enjoy each others company. I remember asking him about his life and if he has any children . He tells me 3 for sure, but possibly 5. I am shocked about the possible 2 he may not have knew about. He tells me he was never married and is glad to have found me again. I then remember taking a shower in his hotel room and he walks into the bathroom while I am doing so . I am suddenly bashful and out of nowhere my best friend brings me a towel and I’m very greatful. I return to my hotel room to find that my best friend has gone home. I then go back to his room where we talk and flirt but I’m getting upset he won’t try to do any thing sexual with me. We kiss and touch but it never goes any further .  I know I wanted it to and I think he did too but for some reason it never does. Still, I am elated to just be near him again. That is all I can remember. It felt so real that when I woke up I grabbed my cellphone and was going to text a food friend of mine to tell her I took a plane to Virginia and was with HIM! What does this all mean?! 

-constance 2012-08-26 10:45:54

months ago i had a fight with an older woman than me( i am 16 she is almost 54)…actually she got angry with my mother about something…actually i was with them when they quarreled and i was rude and offensive,i felt bad but i understand my mistake the other day….now she says only hellow to my mother and she also told her that she won’t talk to me when she will see me because she want me to take a lesson for my behavior…she kept her promise….but for months now i see dreams with her like we became friends again and stuff like this…in the dream she is trying to approach me and in the end she hugs me…the dreams are so real and i feel like it happens in my real life and i feel happy,but when i wake up i understant thet it was just a dream…..a week ago i promised not to think about her again but my subconsious thinks about her everyday…because i feel bad about what i did and because i used to admire her and love her company

-Janice 2012-07-24 1:51:06

I had a dream a couple nights ago where some people showed up where I was and I remember the names of two of them Vicki and Maria. Vicki is a former classmate from over 30 years ago. I used to work with Maria about 17 years ago. I looked Vicki up and she now lives in the same area as me. Why would she show up in my dream? We weren’t friends and we were barely acquaintances.

-Keren 2012-01-28 9:26:24

Dear Tony,
I am here again to share another dream.
There is a character that has been appearing in my dreams for nearly 20 years. He is a real person I knew in University. After reading your explanation on characters I have decided to call him “Mr. Perfect.” He appears when I have heartache related to my relationships with men. His appearances often tell me exactly what is going on. He not only tells me the truth but predicts the truth as well. I never know when he will show up in my dreams but when he does, I know I can trust him. Although I am still in contact (superficially) with Mr. Perfect (the real person) I think he represents a male guardian angel who consoles me when I am confused.
I’ve always wondered why this man, whom I had a crush on 20 years ago but with whom I would never have a relationship with, has had so many recurring roles in my dreams. Thank you again for your guidance.
Many blessings… Keren

-meni1969ably 2011-08-24 9:04:43

Hi sorry for bothering you again , months ago i told you that i see all the time my teacher in my dreams….well i still see her and she follows me in my dreams in every place i go,i mean that when i dream that i am in a hospital she appears there or in a hotel she appears there to .Yesterday i saw that she was hurt and i became sad when i looked at her foot which was with bandages.The point is that the scool have been closed for over 3 months 🙁 When i am awake i can barely remember her face but in my dreams i see her too clear even the details…….whats going on?????????

    -Tony Crisp 2011-09-19 9:51:36

    Meni – It’s good to see you here again, so it is no bother.

    She obviously represents a really important thing that needs to be met and sorted out. Obviously it has to do with you, and her hurt foot suggest you are not finding it easy to get about in your life at the moment.

    But you can find out for yourself by using the feature here – but particularly the section titled Being the Person of Thing –

    Take time with it and see what you discover.


-Elmyra 2011-06-18 20:02:16

I rarely remember my dreams, but I remember this dream easily. I dreamed of a dead (male) relative maybe a uncle or cousin, that passed possibly before i was born, or when I was small child, however I didnt know him “like that”. We were talking, something like a old man to young woman. It was like he was giving advice or something. I was not scared, I remember giving responses like yes sir or I know. The whole dream was mostly him smiling and talking. After waking up i was a little nervous simply because i knew i had just had a conversation with a dead man in my dream like it was nothing! I could’nt find any answers related to this type of dream. can you help?

    -Tony Crisp 2011-06-27 10:50:43

    Elmyra – This definite sounds like a fairly direct communication dream with a dead relative.

    Why were you nervous about the dead? Is it because you have absorbed information that holds fear in it?

    Being dead is like losing the body and remaining conscious, but without all the limitations that the body imposed on us. So instead of being imprisoned in one place and one time you have the freedom of moving beyond time and space – and that gives you a lot of options about what you know or can gain insight into.

    I would like to hear what he communicated to you, and was it helpful?

    Maybe you could benefit from reading this book


-elli 2011-05-26 18:19:17

thank you a lot… i hope to stop feeling like that!!!

    -Tony Crisp 2011-06-04 8:35:31

    Elli – Try to find ways you can feel more independent and choosing what you want to do. Or get a pillow and call it mom and beat the hell out of it.


-elli 2011-05-17 16:55:57

hi, i don’t know in which page to go and ask you why my mother makes me fell angry when she talks,when she laugh even when she is breathing(she makes me sick) but in fact my mother is a very good person and she loves me…. i dont know whats going on!

    -Tony Crisp 2011-05-26 11:51:24

    Eli – This almost certainly is a way we use to push us away from our mother. Not that you wish it consciously, but that it is a method we use when we want to be independent. The thing is that for most of your life you have been dependent on her, and so you are in conflict – you want to leave but at the same time you want your own life. But you cannot see a way of doing it, so you have feelings that you is unbearable and these make you want to be away form her.

    If it isn’t that, then you are harbouring feelings from childhood that it would be good to own up to.


-meni1969ably 2011-05-03 20:50:32

why in my dream i always see my teacher(woman)? i am a girl there is no situation to be in love with her or something like that :p but i see her like my mother…does it make any sense?

    -Tony Crisp 2011-05-12 12:53:04

    Meni – Yes it makes perfect sense. We have a secret often hidden life, made up of figures that represent things we need or of what supports us. When we are young we are so vulnerable it is almost certain we get hurt or feel misunderstood. So it seems as if the teacher represent feelings in you that give you support – as you mother should have.

    Probably you want someone to be strong for you. That doesn’t mean you are in love with her, just that you feel she has qualities you feel are good. A male friend of mine, who had a weak father and a neurotic mother, copied a male teacher so much because he was so much more a man, that he even copied his handwriting. So it is quite a frequent thing.


      -meni1969ably 2011-05-13 20:00:41

      thank you very much you really helped me :). but now i am leaving junior high school and i am going to high school and i will not see her again….right now i am so unhappy but i will forget it some day!(i hope)

        -Tony Crisp 2011-05-20 8:00:27

        Thank you for saying so Meni. Different environment help us learn and change. So I wish you well.


-Elisabeth 2011-05-02 17:03:56

Thanks for this great article. My question in a nutshell is: why are people from my very distant past popping up in dreams in which I’m dealing with the angst re: a failed relationship and my wanting reconciliation.

2 nights ago I dreamt that Jimmy brought Jacob and Benjamin back to me. We were in an unfamiliar room(ie, not his house nor mine)…..I was so deeply touched and happy to be reunited with them. He then morphed into this doctor I knew as a young nurse almost 30 years ago. Upon giving my thanks to Jimmy, Bob Shelly, replacing Jimmy said: “yeah, you are my hero.” And the dream ended.

I woke up feeling like it was a wish-fulfillment dream and not a prognosticator of what was to come.

Bob was someone that everyone loved…a funny, smart, deeply caring person. He also indeed, did have much respect for me as a nurse. He told me more than once…Bob was married and I definitely had a girlie crush on him and I believe he did for me too but it was so, so innocent. More like we enjoyed each other’s company, sense of humor and I too very much respected him as a pediatrician. We worked well together as a team. Because he was several years older, I recognized it as a “I’d love to marry someone like him someday” kind of crush. Was wiser in my younger days!!!!

We’ve not been in contact in over 20 years.

This is the 2nd dream that someone from my very past has shown up in a dream re: Jimmy. The last one was about 10 days ago. He and I were on the phone and I could feel his deep resistance to reconciliation. He abruptly disappeared and then a young woman from my Boston days appeared. In a tone in which it was evident that she felt badly for me, she confirmed that indeed Jimmy did not want reconciliation. I woke up feeling so awful because I knew this was TRUE. It verified what my heart has known and or feared.

I don’t even remember her name right now. She was at least 10 years younger than I, with very blond hair and attended Harvard’s Divinity school. I knew her through the artists collective we both belonged. We had a warm but not a close relationship.

I thought it was weird that she would be the messenger of this bad news but until this most recent dream with Bob Shelly, didn’t put too much thought since the message seemed clear.

    -Tony Crisp 2011-05-11 9:45:56

    I thought I has already answered this, but having searched could not find any signs of doing so. So here it is.

    Elisabeth – I feel I want to change the wording in which you describe your first dream. Maybe not ‘wish fulfilment’ but a satisfaction provider dream.

    I believe that dreams arise from our deepest needs, and one of your deep needs was to be a mother for those two boys. As that was cut off, so what can you do with it? So to even up your inner needs you had this dream. Also, if you can believe that dreams happen in another dimension that often is not limited by time and space, then you could go on giving love and care to the boys. Obviously that is not the same as being physically present, but it can be a great aid, not an imaginary escape.

    Then the end of the dream about Bob seems to be along the same lines. It is very healing and sustaining, but only if you let the feelings it showed you live on within you to replace the hurt feelings. See and

    As for the woman and what she says, it is impossible for me to know your associations with her. See . But it seems as if it is something about honesty. And as you say you felt the truth of what was said. Interesting that the healing dream came first. And that message is clear.


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