Lucid Dreams; Dream Characters and the Dream Ego- An Interview with Steffen C. E Schmidt

Lucid dreams are when the individual is aware of the fact that are dreaming and have complete control over their actions. In these dreams, there tend to be other dream characters that seem to have their own will. Are the dream character simple projections of the dreams ego or tare they their own separate entities with their own personality? This is what the article “Dream characters and the dream ego: An exploratory online study in lucid dreams.” by Steffen C. E Schmidt,Tadas Stumbrys, and Daniel Erlacher looked at.

1.Could you touch a bit on what the research is for our audience who may be learning about the topic for the first time?

Our research focuses on dream characters and their abilities. There are many different definitions of dream characters but in a nutshell, dream characters are characters –humans, animals or any interacting objects- we meet in our dreams that seem to have their own will. We wanted to find out what they are capable of, how we can interact with them and what influences their behavior.

2.What got you interested in the topic?

I am a passionate lucid dreamer and the dream characters in my dreams surprised me many different times so I decided to bring this topic in our working group when I was a scientific assistant. In my opinion dream characters are the most mysterious aspect of our dreams and to date we only know little about them.

3.After doing the research, do you think that the dream characters have their own personalities or are they projections of the dream ego?

The answer to this question heavily depends on the definition of “personalities”. If we talk about personalities meaning individual habits, personality traits, moods and things like that my answer is a yes. One step further we may ask if they got an own ego or own consciousness. They are definitely a product of our mental activity but since they act and behave unpredictable for the dream ego, I think the term “projections of the dream ego” is a bit too reductionist. In my dreams, I gave dream characters arithmetic tasks and in one case the answer I got from them differed from the one I (as the dream ego) calculated but turned out to be correct. In our study different lucid dreamers produced numbers with their fingers behind their back and dream characters guessed the number in nearly all cases correct without “seeing” them. That means we definitely share some mental activity with them or kind of project them but they can also have access to (or are formed of) mental resources which we as the dream ego cannot actively access.

4.In your paper you mention that the result of this research could be applied to help with nightmare therapy, how do you think it could be used?

One thing we learn from this study is that once we interact with dream characters in a friendly and open-minded way, they are mostly cooperative and in no case during the study they showed aggression in any form. At the time we did the study about dream characters’ arithmetic abilities I was chased by an alien in one of my dreams and got randomly lucid. I instantly remembered our study and since I was so interested in it at that time I turned and asked the alien to stop and help me. The alien suddenly changed into my father and we did some arithmetic tasks. Simply giving your dreams a cause or function like in our experiments may help.

We also confirmed that since we at least share some mental activity with our dream characters, the dream ego is capable of influencing them and changing their behavior. It is very important for people to know that they do not have to be the victim all the time. However this does not help with every form of nightmares and you need to be lucid but in nightmares with aggressive dream characters, it may help.

5.Where are studies at the moment and where do you anticipate findings going in the next year or so?

Unfortunately I have to earn my bread and butter in other scientific fields at the moment but I will definitely return to this topic in future. There is always interesting research ongoing and I recommend everyone who is interested in this topic to follow the journal Dreaming and IJODR.

6.What are some challenges or oppositions you have faced during the times of your research?

The main challenge was to gather the data. Frequent lucid dreamers are rare and since we needed a variety of different lucid dreamers we had to do a lot of promotion for the study. Another challenge was to publish the study in a prestigious journal like Dreaming. Our data consists only of dream reports which cannot be verified objectively. Additionally, because we needed difficult to perform experiments from lucid dreamers our number of observations is significant smaller than in other studies about dreams.

7.Do you have additional resources or further readings for those who want to learn more about the topic?

Unfortunately research about dream characters is rare but for those who are interested in the abilities of dream characters I recommend the paper “Steffen C. E Schmidts”

This research shows that the dream ego and dream characters do share some mental activity and it is possible to control these dream characters. More research would still need to be done on this topic so that we can better understand dream characters.

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