Electric Dreams

An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange
Lucy Gillis, Editor

Dream Characters and Reality Checks
Part Two: Validation and Practicality

Linda Lane Magallón

(Electric Dreams)  (Article Index)  (Search for Topic)  (View Article Options)

Magallón, Linda Lane (2005 October). Dream Characters and Reality Checks. Part Two:
Validation and Practicality. (An Excerpt From The Lucid Dream Exchange, Lucy Gillis, Editor.)
Electric Dreams 12(10).

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.

Nightmare Resolution

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 laughing.

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
("Nickelsun," 12/14/83)

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.

Communal Willie

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 following dream:

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 was?"

"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."

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 you are?"

She replies, "Oh, about ten percent."


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 dream state.

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 sensations.

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 mist.

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 looking for.

Next in the series - Create Your Own Character: Incubation and Fantasy
(This next part will be available in LDE 36, due out in September.)

The Lucid Dream Exchange is a quarterly newsletter featuring lucid dreams and lucid dream related articles and interviews. To subscribe to The Lucid Dream Exchange send a blank email to: TheLucidDreamExchange-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

You can also check us out at www.dreaminglucid.com