Dreams as “Redo”s
After significant life events, especially “level-up”s, I’ve noticed I experience a surge of recurring dreams for a few nights. These are dreams I’ve been having for years and which are kind of amalgams of all the major themes in my life. They are usually set in locations from my childhood, e.g. the local park, my primary school or my childhood home, and are populated by avatars representing aspects of how I view the world and my relationships with people. So fears are represented by specific characters and situations, how I feel about women will be represented by a female avatar I interact with, and so forth. A dream of this nature will typically be a journey, involving walking a single path through many situations, and interacting with primary avatars along the way.
The interesting thing about this is that the avatars often “swap out” with their current versions. So a primary school situation consisting of a girl I liked back then will have her “swapped out” for my current female avatar (usually someone I’ve been interacting with more recently). In this way, the dream is combining all elements of my sexual history with women, from foundational experiences right up to today, and including settings, emotions and the women themselves, into a single gestalt representation with which I interact.
The same thing happens with fears: an old bully for example might be swapped out with someone else who’s bothered me recently. But the situations are usually very similar. The unconscious mind seems to store the hugely complex set of interactions and emotions that make up one’s lifetime into a simple story. A single narrative.
If you could gain access to this story file via lucid dreaming, I dread to think of what you could do to your own personality. You might be able to make superhuman improvements to your confidence by changing your relationships with the avatars. But by the same sword-strike you could also lose all grounding in reality and sense of appropriateness in your behaviours. For example, if you slew the bully archetype in the dream, would that result in simply more confidence when encountering his counterpart in real life — or would you behave dismissively, obnoxiously or even sadistically to him? If you edited the dream story to the extent that it bore little resemblance to real life, that could possibly be a recipe for cognitive dissonance, or at worst psychosis and derealization. I have never edited the dream story, and would be rather worried about trying, unless I had some expert guidance. If I were to try, I would probably start by purposely feeling compassion for each of the avatars. This seems the safest route, as it is essentially what many Buddhists do during compassion meditations.
Back to organic “level-ups”, and their effects on the dream narrative. If I kick some ass socially in real life, then in the dream I’ll relate to the avatars, old and new, in the new confident way, and they will respond accordingly. It’s like it’s “sealing in” the change. If I stand up to a bully in real life, I’ll stand up to my avatar representing all bullies in the recurring dream, and win. If I pull a really hot girl in real life, I’ll behave with a lot more confidence towards my female avatar in the dream. In fact I had a bizarre one recently whereby I far exceeded my ordinary standards and consequently my old female avatar in the dream (represented by a real-life girl I had thought about quite a lot up until that point) suddenly looked ugly as hell, and I dominated her easily. I am sure in the next iteration she will be swapped out for a much hotter girl to represent the new standard.
So I think of these types of dreams as “redo”s. It is how the unconscious mind updates its model of reality, particularly interpersonal relationships, in light of new experience. The dream is a single narrative describing all of life — relationships reduced down to single-character archetypes, with which the new “you” interacts in order to update the master story and thus your sense of self. This fosters interesting thought regarding karma. Karma is strongly associated with repeating cycles, and the nature of your actions today causing corresponding events in the future. Viewed through this lens of personal narrative, it means that all our interactions in life are repeats of our archetypal character-situations. Your interactions with your boss, for example, might be a repeat of those with your bully archetype. Then again, maybe he reminds you more of your father, and triggers that archetype, so you get a repeat of that relationship. Whichever archetype he most strongly resembles is the interaction “script” he triggers within you.
And there also seems the possibility for one person to trigger multiple scripts. For example, a girlfriend could ordinarily trigger your female mating avatar. But sometimes she could trigger your mother avatar. Which archetype within you she triggers, and when, and the nature of your relationship with those avatars, will be reflected in your relationship with your girlfriend. Through these archetypes, life will send you the same experiences again and again in different guises until they are faced with right action — usually courage, love, truth, or combinations of those things. When that happens, your experience going forward is changed accordingly. The relationships to your archetypes are changed in accordance with the new actions, and those changes are reflected in your real-life experiences (which your perceptions are constantly drawing on in order to make sense of the world). The narrative update in the dream is the process by which that change is effected. The flipside is that if you continue to approach the same situations with the same actions, the archetypes will not change, and the dream will recur with similar themes, as will real life. The dream is a condensed mirror reflection of real life. They project into each other. Unfortunate situations in real life may make the avatars in your dream hostile. Then their real-life projections will also be perceived as hostile. You must therefore work hard to do right action in your thoughts and dreams as well as in reality — especially following unfortunate incidents. To practise courage, love and honesty in one’s mind is to experience it as a reflection in real life. Reciprocally, to practise these things in real life also makes for a better mind.
The one thing I do not like about the “dream update” idea is that it can be interpreted as the brain being more like a computer — and dreams, as wondrous as they are when experienced, as nothing more than an “update program” which writes the new data back into the master record. Anything which brings us back to determinism gives me an uneasy feeling. Yet, perhaps by knowing we can change the story, our freewill is returned. Thus, determinism and freewill are inseparably intertwined to form the gestalt we call conscious experience.