By Alexandra Enns © 2016
My practical approach towards dream figures is grounded in the work of the distinctive researcher and lucid dreaming pioneer, Paul Tholey. In my opinion, his recommended and easily memorized suggestions for a meaningful communication with dream characters enable the dreamer to gain a straightforward and a profound understanding of the current state of his nature.
To maximize the efficiency of Paul Tholey‘s questions referring to starting a conversation with a dream figure, I combined them with the self-integration technique, introduced by Stephen LaBerge. As part of his instructions, the dreamer is advised to look deliberately for emotionally challenging situations in the course of a lucid dream.
For this reason, in the first half of this article I explore the endeavor to attain self-knowledge in a friendly or neutral dream environment, while subsequently, I present various dream segments from both my past and recent recordings to illustrate the results of my communication with seemingly hostile dream figures in dark, deterrent areas. In parallel with my accounts, I draw conclusions on my experiences and state the lessons I obtained from them.
While carrying out dream work, you never know whom you are going to meet after having fallen asleep. In most cases, openness towards dream characters seems to promote their readiness for discussions. The following excerpt depicts one of my most mysterious encounters, symbolically connected with a foreign consciousness:
Lucid, I jump through the opening of a spiral staircase to take a shorter route out of the building where I have just met my parents. I am astonished at the fact that I glide slowly towards the floor instead of falling like a stone. When I reach the ground, I discover a very handsome, young blonde woman standing thoughtfully in the hallway. Remembering one of Paul Tholey‘s questions, I slowly approach her and ask:
“Why are you here?“
I am genuinely amazed by her answer:
“I am here to make sure Father does not forget anything.“
It is hard to grasp what she means. That is why I just speak out the confusing idea that is about to go spontaneously through my mind:
“So you are my mother‘s brain?”
She gives me a radiant, coquettish smile, taking me by surprise…
By questioning dream figures, I discovered that they often represent my typical character traits through the appearance of family members or friends if I avoid taking them for granted which the dream scene described below brings to the surface:
After having recognized a false awakening in my bedroom, I stand up and make my way to the kitchen to switch on the light. When I turn around, I notice my little sister standing nearby. The presence of a dream figure reminds me of the possibility to ask one of the most famous Paul Tholey‘s questions:
“Who are you?”
My sister seems to glow like an angel when she replies:
“I am your kindness”…
Over time, I realized that dream figures might also reveal my absolute values, ideals or moral concepts from waking life. As an illustration of this subject, consider this brief small talk with my mother in one of my lucid dreams:
I am going for a little walk with my mother in a park, overfilled with greenery. While I am talking about the proper performance of the palm check, my mother claims in a rather casual manner:
“I have just counted six fingers on my right hand.”
At once, her remark triggers lucidity which I confirm by looking at my palms. Our being together makes me curious to pose the question I have always wanted to ask her:
“Which part of my personality do you represent?”
“The good one,” is her concise answer.
I awake happy with the realization that this dream figure reflected motherhood, an image held in high esteem since I can remember.
Speaking from my experience, I mostly encounter benevolent dream characters in my lucid dreams. Still, I have also met surprisingly malicious ones in the sinister looking dream sectors, as one of these exceptional cases demonstrates:
“Threat in the Light”
Suddenly, I get a sneaking suspicion there is something wrong with my surroundings – an overcrowded airport.
Consequently, I quickly retire to an empty corner of the departure lounge to do a discreet reality check. As I feel overwhelmed by the bunch of dream figures around me, I head for the next door that catches my eye. The twilight outside delights me because I do not have to look for a dark place anymore to carry out my self knowledge experiments. With Paul Tholey‘s questions in mind, I can make out a distant shade, moving swiftly.
I catch up with the figure and get the fright of my life: The apparently male character is wearing a black mask like a bank robber!
I swallow hard, but ask him nevertheless:
“Don‘t you see that?”, he barks at me in a harsh voice.
“This is going to be tough,” I think. Surreptitiously, I get the impression that this man does not belong to my inner life at all, like a foreign particle, get lost in the gloom. Still, I do not want to give up and think about my next step. Mentally, I go through Paul Tholey‘s recommended questions while facing dream figures giving cause for anxiety. “What do you want from me?” is definitely out of place since I talked to this guy first. Finally, I recall something and come out with this sentence:
“What are you doing here?”
Suddenly, the whole environment gets lit as if through the hands of a magician. My blood runs cold when I spot a dozen men, looking totally the same as the criminal I have just encountered. A few seconds later they pull out their guns and start shooting at each other!
“A clear answer,” I deduce in a state of panic.
Sometimes you better stop digging!
With these thoughts, I yell for my guardian angel who instantly appears to get me out of this lucid nightmare …
Some dream figures let us have a glimpse at a hellish other side –conciliatory approach impossible, I remark in my dream journal, awake in my bed.
I have also found that the dream may show an ironic or humorous background when I overcome my fears and get in touch with characters apparently belonging to a disturbing content.
In comparison, consider a further dream account being similar to the previous one, but containing an opposite outcome:
“An Unnecessary (?) Question”
After having performed a WILD, I dash out of my house. While exploring my environment, a black spot attracts my attention which grows into a dark scene as I enter it. At last, walking through an empty street, I notice a group of eerily strolling youngsters.
Having cheered me up that the dream usually rewards brave deeds, I choose the most creepy young man to ask him this appropriate Paul-Tholey-question:
“Why am I here?”
He stares at me disapprovingly. Then he explains:
“Because you like movies.”
In disbelief, I slowly remember having seen a dimly lit movie theater at the very beginning of this street…
Upon waking up, I gain increased self-confidence and have a hearty laugh: I have once again met a dream figure that proved to be harmless after all…
What’s also interesting to note is that mindful listening in the long term seems to be the most valuable quality developed as far as getting insightful answers is concerned. Let us take a look at an example of unexpected wisdom in the following lucid dream excerpt:
“More than a Playground”
On re-entering the dream, I climb out of the window. I land on a dim playground with several children.
Having spoken with an utterly dull dream figure during my previous dream re-entry, I decide to ask these kids one of the most intriguing Paul-Tholey-questions:
“Who am I?”
Directly after having shouted into the darkness, I receive this reticent, surprising, and ambivalent response from a young, inconspicuous boy:
“You are the key.”
Upon waking, I know I have just had an educational dream…
From my point of view, it is significant to emphasize that the simplicity and simultaneous effectiveness of Paul Tholey‘s questions remain particularly well suited both for aspiring novices and proficient lucid dreamers with the goal of attaining psychological wholeness through a deeper knowledge of their selves. This quest becomes especially important if the dreamer strives for individuation, a never-ending, exciting process, primarily supported by crucial questions or enriching answers from lucid dream figures.
Paul Tholey and Kaleb Utecht, (1987), Schöpferisch träumen. Wie Sie im Schlaf das Leben meistern: Der Klartraum als Lebenshilfe, Falken-Verlag, Niedernhausen/Ts.
Stephen LaBerge Ph.D., (2009), Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life, Sounds True.