Dream figures are just figments of the imagination, right? So it doesn’t matter how we treat them, and what they say is of no real interest. But is this really the case?
It’s not that simple. Any experienced lucid dreamer will be able to tell you of a few (and usually many, many more) encounters with a dream figure which took them by surprise for any of the following reasons:
- The dream figure acts as if they have their own mind and thought processes independent of the lucid dreamer.
- When the dreamer (swamped in assumptions about the dream world) tells the dream figure: ‘I’m dreaming you – you don’t really exist!’ the dream figure responds along the lines of: ‘How do you know I’m not dreaming you?’
- The dream figure refuses to cooperate with the lucid dreamer’s attempts at dream control.
- Surprising or disturbing information about forthcoming waking life events is passed from the dream figure to the lucid dreamer, and this subsequently turns out to be true.
- A deeply insightful remark is made by the dream figure, and this helps the lucid dreamer to better understand and cope with a life situation.
- The dream figure takes on the role of mentor, saying that s/he is there to teach the lucid dreamer something, and proceeds to do so, leaving the lucid dreamer feeling that she has received a valuable gift or lesson.
There are different types of dream figures, and for sure not all of them seem particularly conscious. In fact, some seem decidedly puppet-like, where you get the sense that the dream figure is simply saying whatever you (the lucid dreamer) expect them to say. But the more conscious, alert, aware ones are well worth engaging with!
In one lucid dream I sought out the artist in my novel, Taos, and found him sitting on his own, sketching. We had a brief conversation, during which I realised that he resented me for the difficult situation in which I had placed Alida. When I reassured him that she would be fine, he replied, “What makes you so sure? You might be the author, but you’re not God.”
– Clare Johnson, doctoral thesis p.54: ‘The Role of Lucid Dreaming in the Creative Writing Process’ (16/01/05)
Taos was right – I’m not God. And nor are lucid dreamers ‘gods’ who rule the dream world. It’s worth being open to what dream figures have to say for themselves – it can be revealing and helpful both on the psycho-spiritual level and on the creative level. For me, Taos’ unexpected resentment of me in this lucid dream helped me to create a new plot development in my novel, as it made me see how strong his feelings for Alida already were.
Lucid dreamers will decide for themselves how they want to interact with their dream figures, and often this will depend on their views and assumptions about dreams. People who view dream figures as psychological projections – part of themselves – seem more likely to engage respectfully with dream figures and utilise lucidity to resolve any hostilities within the dream itself.
Engaging with Lucid Dream Figures
- It’s usually easy to tell which dream figures are particularly worth talking to, because they tend to give off a sense of conscious presence, as people do in the waking state. Their gaze is sharp and intelligent. These are the ones to approach.
- It can be revealing to ask dream figures questions about your life, or even the nature of reality. Pick your question before you go to sleep so you don’t waste precious lucid moments humming and ha-ing about what on earth to ask. Answers may be cryptic but try to remember them as they may make more sense when you wake up.
- If a dream figure is hostile, ask them why, or what they want. You could try looking them in the eye as kindly as you can and saying, ‘If there’s something I need to know, please just come out and say it.’
- Ask dream figures for help and see what happens.
- Suggest that you could become friends – maybe give them a hug. This can be both healing and empowering.
- Instead of dismissing a dream figure as a figment of your imagination, why not try approaching them as you would approach a waking life person, just to see how they react? This could go either way – they might indeed turn out to be a sort of animated jelly, or they may surprise you with their insight and knowledge.