Many approaches to dream interpretation suggest that all characters in a dream be viewed as reflecting different aspects of the self. From this perspective we are afforded the opportunity to own and reconcile with our shadow selves, rather than simply struggling with them as we encounter them unconsciously projected onto the characters we meet in waking life.
For instance, if a dream character consistently terrorizes our dream self and we entertain the possibility that this terrorist is actually a part of our self, we might discover that this character is desperately trying to tell us something, in a very dramatic way attacking an attitude that dominates the waking self. Perhaps it might be an attitude that is too constrictive and is actually undermining our psychic health. Though of course we must stand up to any terrorist, in this case the standing up involves being brave and honest regarding our conscious attitudes and behaviors, which might be undermining the complete flowering of our personality.
Working with a dream character within the self in this way is very empowering. When we can take ownership of all parts of ourself we are positioned to move forward in an integrated way, with all our parts! When we disown parts of ourself and ascribe them to the faults in others, we are stymied in our movement toward wholeness, as we don’t have all our necessary parts to move forward with.
In waking life—which I view as actually simply another, more solid, dream world—we are afforded a similar opportunity. If we look to family and other acquaintances or colleagues as actual aspects of ourself, we might equally discover qualities or dynamics in them that operate in the shadow of our own inner psyche, which become projected, mirrored and reflected in all the characters of our waking life. Waking life then offers an inroad into seeing and owning tendencies within the self and their current state of integration or dissociation.
For example, if I am being held back by some characters where I work, and I view them as aspects of myself, I am freed to question just why I’m being challenged. What is it that I must “wake up to?” Why does this situation keep repeating itself? What is it that I am not seeing? What aspect of myself am I not taking full ownership of and responsibility for?
Of course, as with my earlier example with the terrorist in the dream, it’s not about allowing ourselves to be trammeled. We must stand up for ourselves. However, standing up for ourselves inwardly means taking ownership of the predicament we find ourselves in outwardly. Just as we seek to solve the mysteries that come to guide us in the dark of night, so are we offered the opportunity to solve the mysteries that approach us in the light of day in a similar manner. What am I not seeing in myself? What am I avoiding in myself? When we seek to interpret our outer life as if it were a dream, the waking dramas then become just as meaningful and guiding as our sleeping dramas.
Ultimately, we might view ourselves as holograms, and as holograms we contain everything, all the time. And, ultimately, everything is interconnected, part of the same interactive whole. Hence, all our dreams, sleeping and waking, represent our individual position vis a vis everything. And we are both a part of, and EVERYTHING too!
Embracing every part of the living dream as part of the self is indeed a path to enlightenment, albeit a challenging one! Life: It’s just all one big dream!