Back in May, Linda Lane Magallón tackled the subject of dream characters in
part one of her four part series. Are dream characters real people? Do they
have a will, or a consciousness of their own? Are they all the same, or
could some be lifeless projections? Join Linda as she takes us on a journey
through her own thoughts and intriguing dreams. You may not look at your
dream characters in quite the same way again!
Dream Characters and Reality Checks
Part Two: Validation and Practicality
(c) 2005 Linda Lane Magallón
Water is quickly filling the glass stall in which I am standing. Higher and
higher the water level rises as I stretch desperately to keep my head above.
As it reaches my neck, I begin gasping for air.
Suddenly, a black woman clothed in a black shirt and pants appears next to
the shower door. She puts her shoulder to the thick white bathroom wall and
gives a mighty shove, breaking a huge, jagged hole. Through the hole is an
upper story view of a city plaza. The woman swings open the shower door,
grabs me by the arm, and slings me across her shoulder. She leaps through
the hole into the air. Looking down from her back, I can see we're far above
street level. "You're flying, we're flying!" I exclaim in amazement.
This is the beginning of my breakthrough dream, my first lucid dream. It
started as a nightmare, as usual. Up to this point, I'd remembered only
nightmares and anxiety dreams; it never occurred to me that a dream could be
any different. To have it suddenly change because a dream character rescued
me, then took me flying through the sky? Talk about astounding.
The resolution of nightmares: this was the first practical reason to pay
special attention to my dream character, Willie. Soon after the first dream
of her, I had a second.
I am on the rear porch of an old-fashioned frame "farm" house. In the
distance are hills and barnlike buildings. Willette and a dark male stranger
come up to the porch with a wooden pushcart. She asks me for refuse, like
what she has on her cart: lettuce leaves, vegetable peelings, etc. I give
her my leftovers.
When I woke up it seemed that Willie had been asking me for my fears, guilts
and problems. I spent the rest of the early morning hours "giving away" all
my anxieties. I felt grateful that someone else was willing to shoulder my
burdens. My dream theme was very like Sigmund Freud's theory of "day
residue" which posits that dreams are the product of troubling daytime
events that haven't been resolved prior to sleep. Garbage in, garbage out.
It's now quite common among the lucid dreamers to suggest that you become
lucid in order to resolve your nightmares. I certainly have taken advantage
of that advice, with good results. But such a solution only works if you
become aware as you dream. What if you are so deeply entranced by sleep that
lucidity is light years away? The deep unconscious is where most of my
slumber takes place. Was it my good fortune to have an in-dream companion to
haul away the refuse of non-lucid dreams? It would have been nice to lay
back and let Willie take care of me.
But that's not what the dream was about, although I didn't realize it until
years later. I now believe it was implying that I clean up my act before I
go to sleep: to set aside day residue and make the way clear for the
production of positive dreams, uplifting dreams, lucid dreams. In other
words, to put after-the-dream work out of business in favor of
before-the-dream work. Isn't it wiser to stop a problem before it starts?
And suppose you don't have a problem to process? Do you stop dreaming?
The Play Back Game
Besides "day residue," the psychoanalytical field has also contributed an
idea called "Doctrinal Compliance." This is the observation that whatever
dream context you take to heart, well, that's the sort of dreams your
sleeping mind will produce. Freudians will dream Freudian dreams; Jungians
will dream Jungian dreams; Sethians, Buddhists and hip-hop artists will
dream dreams that reflect their outer and inner environment. None of these
dreams are "proof" of any particular dream theory; they are just your psyche
playing in whatever sandbox of the mind you happen to occupy during the day.
Initially, I had doctrinal dreams that were knee-jerk reactions to whatever
book I happened to be reading. But as time went on, I realized that, instead
of complying with other people's dream ideas, my dreaming psyche was
commenting on them, describing true emotional reaction, not slavish
devotion. I call this the "play back game."
Consider the Jungian idea that a black woman is an African divinity like
Oya, a black madonna like Sophia or a dark version of Persephone/Innana who
traveled to the underground. Put the images together and they spell "earth
goddess." Oh, really? I never knew an earth goddess who could thumb her nose
at Icarus and take to the sky.
Or consider the time I asked for a dream about that archetype the Jungians
call the "animus." Although the animus is defined as the unconscious male
element in a female's psyche, I didn't get any males at all. I dreamt of
four dancing females.
Four of women go up on a stage and stand in a row. The two Caucasian women
step out in front (I'm one of them). Two Black women (Willie and one other),
line up directly behind them. All four of us are wearing tap shoes, straw
hats and canes. In unison, we begin tap dancing to a tune. As I wake, I
recognize it. The name of the song is..."Me and My Shadow." I start
The shadow is supposed to be the unacceptable or unknown aspects of the
personality. In dreams the shadow appears as someone evil, immature,
troubled, conflicted, deformed, insane, sick or otherwise handicapped. It's
a person of the same sex, similar but inferior to the dreamer. Did this fit
Willie? In my first dream, she had felt superior. But as her dreams
continued to multiply, I discovered she wasn't always. A couple of times, I
had to go rescue her. And sometimes we flew, together, to rescue other
people. I also dreamt that she and I were comparing balance sheets, trying
to see that they came out equal. So, not inferior, not superior. An
egalitarian and reciprocal relationship. Where's the archetype for that?
Exploration of Altered States
I doubt I would have spent so much time practicing shifts into altered
states, if I weren't so curious about Willie. Not only did I teach myself to
go lucid in the depths of slumber, I learned to hold onto consciousness on
the way into and out of sleep. In doing so, I came to understand that, while
consciousness is a spectrum, there are discrete states, each with unique
properties. There were definite shifts between waking and sleeping. I had no
electronic equipment to gauge the changes. But I had Willie.
Take hypnogogia, for instance. While watching pictures flash on my inner
screen, I'd sometimes get quick glimpses of her. I'd ask a question and see
her move, pick up an object, gesture or grin. If I pictured her in the
waking state, then moved into sleep, her image would suddenly disappear and
I'd know that I had entered dreaming. Conversely, if I imagined another
person who suddenly switched to Willie, I knew I had fallen asleep.
Chimeras and Creativity
Nightsun golden glowing nickel
Neither malleable nor fickle
Winter wonder, fix'ed mark
Centered in the piercing dark
Of questing capsulated heart
Shaped at sunset, amber sight
Ebony encircled light
Depending on which version of Willie's existence I might consider to be
true, I was motivated to continue the search for her essence by the promise
of riches at the end of the rainbow. I might find knowledge about myself, or
perhaps the secrets of the universe. Most of these promises would turn out
to be chimeras, but a few proved worth their salt. As I've stated,
resolution of nightmares, commentary on new ideas and illumination of
altered states were true benefits from Willie dreams.
But since I was doing reality checks, I had to admit that all was not
equally worthwhile. Some dreams seemed very random and pointless, such as
when Willie handed me a rat and a vegetable or when she pointed to a
computer screen and asked, "Where is number seven?" Often she didn't even
get that close to me. I'd see her at a distance: seated, standing, in
silhouette or walking away. She acted like a spy and had a "scary closet."
Once, a man even came to warn me about her. Willie was not a good guide to
health of body, mind or spirit. I had several Willie dreams involving money
that never came true. In fact, I received no verifiable information about
physical reality from her.
But there was one bright star in the waking state. Because of her, I
experienced a Renaissance in creativity. Even though I'd received an English
award in high school, I hadn't done any writing in decades. Recording dreams
was my first step back. Automatic writing, poetry and newsletter articles
soon followed. I'd never had any coursework in drawing human anatomy, but
that didn't stop me from trying to sketch Willie. My musical talent was
minimal, but after I dreamt that I was playing piano, I managed to capture
the tune and record it using musical notation. "Play something simple,"
Willie had told me in that dream. So I did.
Early on, I realized that Willie was going to be a sociable dream character,
which meant I became more social, too. There were some interesting
synchronicities along the way. For instance, when I read Rick Stack's book,
Out-of-Body Adventures, I was flabbergasted to discover that one of his
dreams, about a singing performance with a huge audience, was so similar to
one of my Willie dreams, it was creepy.
My interest in psi lead me to facilitate mutual dreaming projects and dream
telepathy experiments with other people. During several, Willie
guest-starred in my dreams. At first, I said nothing about her, just wrote
down "Willie" as casually as if I were mentioning the name of a character
based on a waking state counterpart. I was hoping that someone would pick up
on her telepathically.
When this didn't happen, I decided to tell my dreamworkers group about her.
In response, Melinda Nelson suggested, "Why don't we try to dream about
Willie?" The suggestion both surprised and delighted me. Since I wasn't
having much luck in contacting her in the lucid state, maybe somebody else
would. Purposely, I did not share any particulars about her appearance or
personality characteristics beyond her race and sex, but I did reveal her
full name: Willette Nicholson. That very night Melinda reported the
Before sleep, I repeat the induction phrase, "Willie Nicholson" over and
over, focusing my attention on hooking up to this being who has emerged with
such clarity in Linda's waking and dream states. As I internally feel a
bodily sensed "click" - a linkage, I drift off to sleep. Immediately the
face and upper torso of a young Black woman looms overhead, as if looking
down on me, the dreamer, a few feet over my sleeping body. She leans
forward, as if to peer into my space, smiling and waving. She is an
attractive, sophisticated woman in her mid to late 30's. She is slim, with a
worldly way about her, a sparkling smile, and a knowing glint in her eyes.
Her hair is pulled back with a kind of saucy topknot, perched on an angle on
the right side of her head. It juts out in a sophisticated version of a
"punk" style. Her energy is focused, and lighthearted. She obviously sees
me, gets a kick out of waving to me, and seems to want me to recognize and
receive the connection in a spirit of playfulness.
An accomplished artist, Melinda had soon sketched her vision. She entitled
it, like her dream, "Willie Nicholson Drops In" and presented it to me at
our next get-together. I was thrilled to receive such a precious gift. At
home, I photocopied two pictures I'd previously clipped from some magazines,
as the closest representation I could find of my idea of Willie, and sent
them to Melinda. She quickly wrote back:
"I nearly fell out of my seat when I saw the comparison of the drawing to
the photo clippings. Every time I look at them my jaw goes into automatic
"hang open". The similarity to both my dream and the drawing is eerie."
I picture Willie with an Afro hairstyle, so the topknot that Melinda drew
seemed totally out of sync. Eventually, two other folks would dream up
Willie with a ponytail. But the rest of her perception was right on. Clear,
straightforward, slender, intelligent, with just a hint of humor and
wise-ass sassiness. Yep, that's how I imagined Willie.
A few months later I attended an Austin Seth Conference. One night I had the
opportunity to do one-on-one dreamwork with some of the conference
attendees. A woman came and sat down with me. As she shared her dream, part
of me was listening to it and chuckling over the similarities with my own
career path and with the symbols in my current life. But another part of me
was trying hard not to stare at the woman. She was Black, and while she had
no topknot, her hair was brushed back and to one side, as in Melinda's
picture. It was her bright, wide-open, honest eyes that struck me so
forcibly. Her nametag read "Charlotte Nelson". The names whirled and echoed
through my head splitting and recombining in multiple permutations:
Willette, Charlotte...Linda, Melinda... Nicholson, Nelson...
Another dreamer was waiting her turn, so I decided to delay further
conversation with Charlotte. The next night would be a party that was the
conference finale, and I was planning to come in costume as Willie. Using a
photocopy of Melinda's drawing, I had created a hand-held mask. I could show
it to Charlotte then. Somehow or other, though, we just didn't connect with
each other during the party. The morning of the following day, I overheard
Charlotte say she was going to leave in an hour. "It's now or never, kiddo!"
I admonished myself.
"There's someone I'd like you to meet," I began. Charlotte responded by
suggesting we go upstairs to her room so she could finish packing. We
entered and rode the ascending elevator as I gave a brief synopsis of
Willie's story. When we reached her room, Charlotte put her key in the lock,
then paused and asked, "What did you say the name of your dream character
"Willette Nicholson," I replied.
Charlotte looked at me. Her face took on a funny smile. "You know," she said
slowly and distinctly, "when I was a girl, I used to have an imaginary
playmate named Nichole. And I think her last name was Wilson. Yes, that's
right, Nichole Wilson."
Finally, about a month later, I again made face-to-face contact with Willie,
in a lucid dream:
I am gazing down a narrow hall filled with women, who all seem to be
variations on a theme: Caucasian with dark hair. Being lucid, I decide to
take advantage of the situation. Gathering my energies with determination, I
let loose a bellow that penetrates to the depths of the corridor.
"WILLIE!!!" One of the women winces because she was directly in line with my
vocal blast. There is a distant response: "Coming..."
Suddenly she's there - Willie's there - her face directly in front of me,
looking me straight in the eye! The first words out of her mouth are: "Well,
it's been a long time since we've seen each other."
I stare in astonishment. I can't believe she's finally here! She continues
to talk rapidly as I watch her look one way and then the other. I note her
hairstyle is at first a frizzy medium-length bouffant with the bangs brushed
to one side but still sticking out above her forehead. Her Anglo-American
features metamorphose, becoming lighter except for her dark brown eyes. Her
hair changes to a smooth Caucasian light brown, but still in a mid-length
style. She reaches over to hug me. This is awkward because I am seated as if
in bed. We shift position slightly so my head is resting on her right
shoulder. As we squeeze each other, I ask in wonder, "Are you who I think
She replies, "Oh, about ten percent."
WILLIE THROUGHOUT THE LUCID FREQUENCIES OF DREAM
Besides regular dreams, I had a lot of Willie dreams on the borderlands of
sleep: hypnogogia and hypnopompia, mental and aural states of consciousness,
initial awakenings, plus astral projection and out-of-body experiences. I
never knew where she would show up.
A mental impression dream has no imagery to speak of. It's a case of
dreaming in the dark. I can become aware of cognitive process or have a
sense of what can't be translated into a visual picture. This was basically
a mental impression dream, although I did get a brief glimpse of Willie.
Willie moves from theory into practice, like transferring from one computer
file into another.
During the dark period before the dream scene appears, I can sometimes hear
voices. The statements are quickly spoken and just as rapidly forgotten,
unless I make a special effort to retrieve them. A couple of times, I
actually got a short conversation going between my voice and another's.
I ask, "Willie, are you aware of me?" and hear, "Linda, I am aware of you."
When spontaneous images do appear on the borderlands, their duration tends
to be quite brief.
Willie is furtively carrying a package or carton like Pandora's Box down a
dark hallway. When she becomes aware I am behind her, she rotates to look at
me. "Let's turn it all to good!" I think/say of her mixed bag of blessings.
She grins in agreement.
Several times, my consciousness moved from waking hypnogogia right into the
In hypnogogia, I remember the "Magic Journeys" movie I saw at Disneyworld. I
picture the scene of a boy flying over a ski slope. As I enter the dream, I
find myself flying with Willie on my left. Hand in hand we fly down, around,
and back the way we came. We are seen by the skiers below us who shout
exclamations into the air.
The term "initial awakening" was coined by dreamworker Linda Reneau. It's
the lucid equivalent of a false awakening. When I am aware this altered
state is not waking reality, I can go along with the story willingly. The
initial awakening state is the launching pad for the conscious out-of-body
experience in the dream state.
I become aware of movement at the tips of my fingers and that I am sleeping
on my front. It seems as though there is a moth under the covers at my left
fingertips. It also feels as if my arm is flung over Willie. If she's not
disturbed by the moth, neither will I be. I begin to have floating
Now I realize I am in the initial awakening state, so I try to push up out
of my body. As I do, I hear a slight bubbling sound, which increases
somewhat as I push. "You can do it kid," I admonish myself, "You can do it!"
Realizing that I'm not getting anywhere this way and fearful that I'll fully
wake, I decide to "back off" a bit. I stop pushing forward and seem to
change direction to the back right. I allow myself to reexperience the
floating sensation and let the picture cease. It seems as though I rise back
and to the right about 5-6 feet above my bed. I will to open my "astral"
eyes to see where I am. But - oops - I open my physical eyes and see the
fern pattern on my pillow.
I quickly close my eyes again and will myself back into the same conscious
feeling state. This time I succeed in rising, again to the right and back,
while viewing most of the trip. There is much color. I rise up, past the
sewing machine, over the aisle and dresser. I am aware of distortions in
the environment. For example, there are two windows on my right, instead of
one. As I arrive at the top of the room, I turn over on my back to look at
the ceiling. It's of acoustical spray and has a mid-beam, just as in
physical reality. The view starts spinning. I decide I don't like this angle
so I turn so that I am standing up in the air. I spread my arms and start
turning around. After two revolutions, I call out the name of a dreamworker
in an attempt to go where she is. The effort nearly wakes me. I let the view
Next, I am aware of looking at a Black woman with an Afro dressed in a
brilliant yellow sleeveless top and pants. I wonder, "Is this Willie?" and
we seem to move closer. As this happens, her features change: the nose
elongates, the cheekbones become flatter. Then I find myself looking at a
red-haired young man in an elevator with green rippled wallpaper. He
disappears and the background starts spinning like a pinwheel.
After I wake, my daughter Teresa comes into my bedroom and reports her
first out-of-body experience.
And, of course, there's the full-on lucid dream.
I call for Willie and walk into a room where a woman is seated at a table,
her back to me. As I round the table, she smiles, her eyes following me. But
when I address her, I get no response. Her hair is close-cropped and curly,
but her tan is very light. Her spacey attitude and appearance lead me to
conclude that this isn't Willie, or at least not the vibrant Willie that I'm
Next in the series - Create Your Own Character: Incubation and Fantasy
(This next part will be available in LDE 36, due out in September.)
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