Sunday, September 20, 2015
Dreaming yourself in a different body
Have you dreamed of being in the situation and seemingly the body of another person?
Maybe you looked in a mirror and saw a quite different face. Maybe, as you left the dream, you noticed you were wearing clothes of the opposite sex (and are not a cross-dresser). Maybe you weren't aware that you were not your regular self until you tried to figure out the who, what, when, where of what was going on in the dream.
Experiencing things with the perspective and senses of another person is a common experience for psychic dreamers, which frequently requires them to pause and ask: who am I in this dream? This kind of transference is especially common, by my observation, among women who are closely related, as mother-and-daughter, sisters, intimate friends, They wake with information that may be disturbing or delightful, and then have to check on whether the details are actually from another's person's life and imminent future.
In dreams, we enter parallel lives in which we are traveling roads abandoned or not taken on our current event tracks. We also enter the lives and apparently the bodies of characters who are quite different from our present selves. In this way, we learn about our family of personalities connected across time and place within the multidimensional self. We gain insight into past life dramas - whether they belong to an ancestor or a previous incarnation of our spirit - that are relevant to our present life choices.
Of course, dreams in which we inhabit different identities reveal different aspects of our personalities, including the ones Jung called the shadow and the anima or animus. Yet the experiences can also be transpersonal.
Such "body-hopping" experiences can also expand our humanity. They open the locks between different kinds of people and different levels of society. As a mere man, I am grateful for dream adventures in which I find myself in a woman's body. As a white man from a fairly privileged background, I am grateful for dream experiences that take me inside the life situations of people of different ethnicity in far less privileged circumstances. As an Anglo whose three countries of residence - Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States - have not been invaded or occupied in recent generations, I am grateful for dream episodes in which I am in the situation of a person seeking to survive under conditions of war and occupation.
I am smiling now as I remember one of my most entertaining, and increasingly relevant, nights of body-hopping dreams.
More than 20 years ago, I found myself, in a dream sequence that became lucid, in a series of unfamiliar bodies. In the first episode, I am in the body of a black basketball player. I enjoy the things he can do with his magnificent athletic body, and his very active sex life. Then, as an unpleasant scene involving racial bigotry is starting to develop, an inner voice warns, "Get out before you succumb to his rage."
I blink my eyes. In the next instant, I am in a very different body. It belongs to a prosperous middle-aged white guy in plaid pants who is playing golf with his buddies at a Midwestern country club, The scene makes me think of Dan Quayle. It is heaven to the golfer, hell to me. I scream inwardly, Get me out of here!
Now, in the climactic scene, I am in the body and situation of an eccentric, independent scholar of a certain age. He is free to purchase any book he likes and add it to his three-floor home library. He is weaving mental connections between different cultures and practices beyond what anyone has done before. He is highly respected by those who read him and attend his classes, but he remains very human, even humble.
I like his life. I don't like the pains he feels in his legs. What happened to his right knee? What is that occasional stabbing pain in his left heel?
Still, I'll take his life over the others, any day.
Twenty years later - seven years since I injured my right knee, a year since bursitis in my left heel was diagnosed - I recognize I am in the body of that eccentric scholar. It does not take higher math to count the three floors of the home library that is now mine. When you find yourself in another body in a dream, don't dismiss the chance that it is a body that you will some day occupy.
Photo: Locks by Wanda Burch