Dream Characters | They’re All You
Think of your dream as a movie projector, the screen as your mind’s eye, and the film as pictures of your inner world. Everything you see on the screen is a projection from within you, especially the characters, except in rare cases. In dreams, parts of you personify, and while they can take form as objects and settings, they usually take form as dream characters. They’re all you.
Or the character represents part of you: a personality trait, thought, emotion, feeling, perception, attitude, behavior pattern, belief — or a whole mess of thoughts, emotions, etc (see below: “Groups of Characters”).
Think of it this way. You dream you walk into a room full of people who talk and interact. You listen in and hear conversations, and you can tell these people know each other by the way they talk. Now think of it as your head talking with heart, your mind with your body, your body with its many organs and systems. Do you hear the guy talking about feeling ill after drinking too much last night? That’s your liver after you drink too much. The lady wearing the hat that doesn’t fit talks about walking in the rain without shoes and it’s because you set off to do something before you were ready (left without shoes), and the thing you set out to do doesn’t “fit you.” See the lady in the corner avoiding everyone? That’s shyness personified, or your powers of observation, or a skill or ability you don’t use. See the person talking and no one is listening? That’s an inner voice everyone ignores, including you.
They’re all you because they’re all products of your imagination — in fact, your dreams and imagination share the same brain cells for their processing. Some things in your dreams can originate from outside of you, in my opinion (it’s not a view accepted by conventional science), but one way or another it all has to be received and turned into dream imagery.
A dream can sum up something in one image, but is more likely to use groups of characters to represent related groupings. For example, turbulent thoughts about something that happened at school can be symbolized as a group of students fighting or causing trouble. But if the dream focuses on a particular student, it’s more likely to connect symbolically with something singular, such as feelings about a particular event or person. It’s a general tendency to note about dream storytelling.
Groups of Characters
A dream can sum up something in one image, but is more likely to use groups of characters to represent related groupings. For example, a group of students fighting or raising a fuss can symbolize turbulent thoughts about something that happened at school. But if the dream focuses on a particular student, it’s more likely to connect symbolically with something singular, such as feelings about a particular person. It’s a general tendency to note about dream storytelling.
Groups of characters can symbolize ideas like “in general,” “group effort,” and “group opinion.” Our lives are shaped by our roles in society and interactions with groups. Dreams use groups of characters to tell stories about how you interact with specific groups such as family members, classmates, and co-workers, and interact socially and with society.
A group of co-workers can symbolize something about work such as how you feel about it in general. Groups of co-workers can symbolize combinations of personal traits you use on the job, such as the co-workers of the ego: drive, discipline, creativity, social skills, time-management, organization, etc. The co-workers of the intellect: rationality, intuition, skill, factual perceptions. The co-workers of the spirit: honesty, restraint, dedication, love.
Groups of dream characters can be used to show you how you act and react among groups of people, or where your place is among the masses or within a particular group such as a social circle. For example, if a dream wants to address the subject of your place in society, it can show you among thousands of people in a stadium and they all play one role: to represent society.
Groups of dream characters have many possible symbolic uses and connections with the individual dreamer. Different dynamics come into play with a singular character. For example, a specific co-worker in a dream can refer to your work relationship with that person, something you have in common such as work situation or position, something you see about yourself in the person, or how you resonate or not.
For example, a woman has recurring dreams about striking up an office romance with a co-worker. She’s bothered by the implications — she doesn’t get involved with people at work. But the romance in the dreams is an exaggerated depiction of her feelings about working well with her co-worker. They have chemistry. There doesn’t have to be anything romantic about it. Romance is a symbolic way of capturing the dynamics of the situation. It’s metaphorical.
When you dream about groups like families or classmates you are likely to see people you know from those groups if you are dreaming about something that involves them. But what about when you dream about your so-called family but they don’t look like your family? In the dream though, you accept them as family. Or the friends who are completely fictional? These characters represent related subjects or ideas, such as your “family” being your close circle of friends, or your “friends” being the combination of traits that make you a friendly person or that you use in your friendships.
The rule of thumb is, if the dream populates the story with groups of people you know, you look that direction, at your outer life events and circumstances with them, for the source. Fictional characters are more likely to be part of your inner life. Specific people are more like to connect symbolically with specific subjects, and people in general are more likely to connect with general subjects.
Dreams can use a storytelling tactic where some members fill in for the entire group. I’ve interpreted dreams where one member of a family represents all of them (usually the youngest, oldest, or most identifiable member.) I interpreted one where every single cousin from among a large group of them watch the dreamer dry hump one of her cousins. It symbolizes her feeling that her cousins know every intimate detail of her life and blab about it.
Take the example of the dream a man has about driving high-speed while rounding a sharp turn. He looks over and sees a group of contractors he manages at work driving alongside him in a truck and reaching through his window to grab his steering wheel. He battles to hold the dangerous turn while fending off the workers, which he manages. The dream symbolizes a situation where the contractors he manages are constantly trying to dictate to him how to do things and he has to fend them off while keeping control of a fast-moving project. The dream picks out a small group of them to symbolize them all.
You Are a Character in the Story, too.
This is another important lesson to absorb. You are a character in the story of the dream. You have a role. You act that role and follow a script, sometimes through part of the dream until you react and the story continues like a Choose Your Own Adventure, and sometimes the role is scripted beginning to end and you follow it subconsciously. Sometimes the role’s a portrayal — it’s based on you and your life — and sometimes it’s a characterization, completely imaginary. Understanding the role you play is important for understanding the dream.
What Dream Characters Symbolize
The spectrum of what dream characters symbolize is as broad as an ocean. Be sure to read the chapter on dream symbolism to get the gist of how it works. For now, here’s a quick rundown. These interpretations are understood in the context of an overall dream and the person’s life and are only summaries.
- Dream Character: Walrus in a cage in the dreamer’s garage. The walrus satirically represents her mother, who’s a “load to deal with,” especially when she visits the dreamer’s home. The dreamer would like to keep her under control and at a distance, symbolized respectively by the cage and the garage. The walrus is a satirical representation of the dreamer’s mother.
- The Grim Reaper: Tied to an experience of toying with death, a message that’s amplified.
- Man with gun shoots dreamer in the head and kills him. The man symbolizes the dreamer’s deep desire to change himself. He’s stuck and needs a dramatic jolt.
- Charon the Ferryman: Symbolizes the idea of moving on from the past.
- Mom dies multiple ways: The relationship between the dreamer and her mom is changing.
- Hitting father in dream: The character represents the dreamer’s father, basically, and is used in the dream to help her work through issues from their past. The character in the story is “bad dad,” and while based on the actual person, it’s still a portrayal.
- Donald Trump: The link takes you to a post that gives a few examples. In one dream, Trump is a projection of the combative side of the dreamer’s uncle (a big Trump fan). In another dream, Trump represents hatred of Mexicans. Be sure to read about the dream where Trump is a young woman’s new gynecologist. In that dream, Trump symbolizes Big Business and heartlessness.
- Adele: The dreamer volunteers to become Adele’s new stylist. Adele represents a side of the dreamer that wants to be seen but fears being judged. By assuming the role of Adele’s stylist, the dreamer is saying to herself that she can be comfortable in the spotlight by showing her personal style.
- A cute grey kitten: Represents the dreamer’s unborn son. The dream convinces her to keep the baby rather than abort the pregnancy.
- Animals and creatures: They symbolize personal qualities, traits, instincts, and much more.
- Dad dies and sister is in a pageant: The dream characters and what happens to them in the dream personify the dreamer’s observations.
- Finding your soulmate: This person dreams about her soulmate then meets him in waking life.
Notice the variety of ways characters are used as symbolism in the story. It’s why understanding dream characters is vitally important for understanding dreams.
Dream Characters | Notice How They Act
Some characters have no choice, no real intelligence. They never veer off script. But some are distinctly intelligent and able to think and react on the fly. You say or ask something unexpected and the dream character either responds like a robot (“does not compute — can’t think for myself”), or like it’s intelligent — even clever, wise, erudite, funny. Dream characters can know more about you than you do, a sure sign of something deeper at work. Noting these differences between characters is essential to understanding their symbolism. Characters with distinct intelligence are more likely to represent an aspect of yourself personified, a part of the psyche, the complete you, the Self archetype or another archetype, or something like that.
Anima and animus are two such characters:
Shadow is another autonomous part of the psyche brought to life in dreams:
These parts of you are able to draw upon the intelligence of the whole and even tap our collective knowledge and wisdom (the “collective unconscious”) and other dimensions of reality. They’re autonomous and have their own viewpoints, opinions, and knowledge.
Archetypes, by definition, originate from outside of ordinary space and time. It’s a little-known part of the theory originated by Dr. Carl Jung in consultation with Wolfgang Pauli, a Nobel Prize physicist. When these characters take form in your dreams, they show outside forces working through you that draw upon timeless wisdom and knowledge, and they appear in dreams as distinctly intelligent and aware.
On the other hand, characters that act programmed are more likely to represent something such as a function of the body that’s way outside conscious control: digestion, circulation, organ function. They can represent autonomous functions of the mind such as vision and hearing. Or they can represent a subject, idea, pattern, wish, and so on.
Dreams can use characters just to fill a scene and create atmosphere like movie extras, less important in the scheme of things. They don’t veer off-script and can’t answer pointed questions very well.
Dreams create virtual realities to help you better understand yourself and your life, answer questions and work through issues. Some dream characters are invented simply to populate the environment. They’re part of a simulation. These characters have no real autonomy and act programmed when observed closely. Remember, though, that the virtual reality of dreams can also include dream characters that are distinctly intelligence and able to react on the fly.
Characters can symbolize something intangible such as authority or ambition. In which case, the character is a physical representation of something deeper. It’s like a costume. For example, principals and police officers are authority figures and can be used to represent authority. A celebrity can symbolize ambition — becoming a celebrity often begins with the ambition. Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, can symbolize intelligence — he’s well-known for his intelligence. Donald Trump can symbolize bluster.
Even if a dream only refers to a character or type of character, analyze it as part of the story. ”Everyone hide, the police are coming!” If that’s part of a dream, the symbolism of a police officer comes into play.
Other Techniques for Dream Interpretation and Story Analysis
Everything in dreams, including dream characters, is understood in context.
Connect the dots between the details of a dream. You can find out what characters symbolize by how they connect in the story with other story elements and narrative components.
Reflect on your life and zero in on recent events in your life — outer and inner life — if the people who appear as characters in your dreams are part of them. It’s a clue that the dream is processing a memory associated with the event.
Watch out for wordplays and other storytelling devices.
And be sure to note when comparisons and contrasts are made. See the second link below for more on that subject.
Analyse Dream Character Based on Roles
Use the first link below.
Here’s an especially good time to know when a dream character is “real” or not: