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    Thread: The Algebra of Relationships

    1. #1
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      The Algebra of Relationships

      This topic is about the way that you relate to dream characters, and perhaps scenes and objects as well. Sorry, it's not about romance (but you don't want my advice on that anyway ;). I place it in Dream Control because it mainly concerns archetypes. It can be a lesson on creating characters, or interpreting them, or introspecting into yourself.

      Algebra

      In mathematics, algebra is about describing relationships. There are two essential elements: symbols and balance. Typically, you have an equation with some variables. For example: a + b = c. The variables are unknowns. The equality symbol declares that the two sides must be balanced. Algebra is a tool with many uses. If there is only one unknown, then you can "solve for the unknown" (e.g. x + 2 = 3). If there are many unknowns, then they describe a fixed relationship (e.g. y = 2x + 1). In that latter example, you can't solve for x or y separately, but you can plot the relationship as a line. Things get even more interesting when you have multiple equations or balances besides equality, but let's focus on the fundamentals.

      If you take away nothing else, let it be this: Algebra is a tool and tools do not exist for their own sake but as a component of the process of understanding. Understanding is propelled by asking questions.

      Translation

      For dream characters, the symbols are archetypes and the balance is relationships. This isn't about math anymore, but there will still be some numbers. A relationship has two parties: you and them. That relationship can be either positive or negative. It can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. If there is asymmetry, then we can identify the two halves separately. And finally, we must remember that this is not math or logic. So we must consider that our seemingly strict relationships are actually ambiguous or non-existant. To borrow from logic, this system is "fuzzy."

      Classification

      I identify 8 classes. Because there is cosmic irony and because of my last point about always doubting that your system is perfect, there are probably more or less than 8. Nonetheless, I enumerate them:

      Symmetrical, positive
      Archetype: Friend
      Alternates: Partner, Comrade, Mate

      Symmetrical, negative
      Archetype: Rival
      Alternates: Foil, Nemesis, Doppelgänger

      Asymmetrical, positive
      Archetype A: Teacher
      Archetype B: Student
      Alternates: Guardian-Ward, Mentor-Protégé

      Asymmetrical, negative
      Archetype A: Master
      Archetype B: Slave
      Alternates: Manipulator-Puppet, Elite-Outcast

      Combination/Ambiguous
      Archetype: "It's Complicated"
      Comments: A relationship may be complex. It may be a combination of others, possibly in unequal proportion. It may also vary through time or context.

      Neither/Nor
      Archetype: Stranger
      Comments: A relationship is not fixed. It is discovered as details are revealed. Perhaps previously unknown elements are discovered even later.

      Application

      So that's kinda neat. It's a system for classifying characters. But how to use it? The first thing to note is that reality (even dream reality) is not so neat. Consider, for example: how would you classify a brother? Is your brother a friend or a rival? Maybe he's much younger or older than you, so you are on either side of a guardian-ward relationship. Consider a mother-daughter relationship. You might assume it is asymmetrical, either positive or negative. But over time, maybe it evolves into a symmetrical friendship or something else.

      Thus, I suggest this system is not so much about classification but experimentation. Look at your actual relationships with dream characters and see if you have mis-classified them because you rely too much on past beliefs and not enough on current context. As I hinted above, this is a process and it starts with asking questions.

      Questions to Explore

      Do you have recurring characters inspired by real people? Have you perhaps mis-classified your mother, father, sister, brother because you put them in the wrong bucket? Do you see your real-life teacher as an archetypal teacher as as slavedriver?

      Does a rival need to be entirely negative? If they are a foil, maybe you have more in common.

      Does a relationship depend on context? Is your boss at work different from your boss at a cocktail bar after work?

      Does a dream guide have to be the teacher in a teacher-student pair? Could it be a friend? Or always a stranger?

      When you meet a stranger, do you immediately classify them? Do you see every stranger as a potential rival? What does that reveal about you?

      Take the point of view of the character. Would they classify your relationship the same way? You might seem them as teacher-student, but their attitude is master-slave. Remember that dream characters are you. So what does that incongruity reveal about you?

      What is your relationship with your dreamlife? Are you the master and dreams your slave? Or is it your teacher and you the student? Could you be friends?

      If you reframe your understanding of an existing relationship, what might change? Might it "solve for the unknown?" Might you grow or learn from it?
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      I am sure about illusion. I am not so sure about reality.

    2. #2
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      Do you have recurring characters inspired by real people? Have you perhaps mis-classified your mother, father, sister, brother because you put them in the wrong bucket? Do you see your real-life teacher as an archetypal teacher as as slave-driver?

      I have seen quite a bit of my family in my dreams as recurring characters. My friends are still my friends, and my family is still my family, although they take a backseat to Dream Guides and such and aren't usually nearly as important. I do know that my dad in dreams started off as very annoying, antagonistic and overwhelming. (I don't know why, but he would always be a hindrance when I became lucid, scolding me as if it were a bad thing to do, and getting irritated when I became lucid in anxiety dreams.) This was always on the internal logic that dream dad wanted me to stay nonlucid in anxiety dreams so that I could use them as practice. * But over time, it seems as though my dream-dad has begrudgingly given up his quest to stop me from becoming lucid.

      *But I don't need any more practice for what I might do if it's 7:82 and I'm late for my 6th grade math class, not wearing any pants and there's an exam that counts for 90% of our grade today.


      Does a rival need to be entirely negative? If they are a foil, maybe you have more in common.

      I remember I used to have a dream-rival named Jonathan. He was somewhat based off of a bully from my first grade class who aged up alongside me. I don't remember what actually conspired to make him leave. He stopped harassing me for awhile, then showed up and announced that he was renouncing his villainous ways and disappeared. I thought he was gone forever, but I think he re-appeared a couple of times, and while he was still mischievous, he never caused any trouble with me.

      Does a relationship depend on context? Is your boss at work different from your boss at a cocktail bar after work?

      I haven't seen my relationships with DCs change all that much based on the dreams.

      Does a dream guide have to be the teacher in a teacher-student pair? Could it be a friend? Or always a stranger?

      This is where things get interesting in my case. When I first met my dream guide, she sort of played the role of a much more superior, mature, teacher character. Even though she was obviously set up as a romantic interest from the very start, the way the dreams were arranged, she was always the superior, more skilled, more intuitive, mature character just waiting for me to make a cute mistake, and always playing these stupid head games with me. (This was mostly before I DJed on DV) Now from the very start, I never really played along to this role, but you had better believe this still frustrated me to no end. Being pushed to be the inferior, googly eyed lover, and idiot of the pair was enough to make me want to start attempting violence toward my own dream guide. (Twas dark times...)

      So then dreams did a complete 180. Then Manei acted more of a servant type character (You can actually see this in my early DJs), always listening to me, telling me anything I wanted to know and following my instructions to a T. While this was slightly better from my point of view, having someone who always does whatever you tell them is much better than a Mary Sue superior who just wants you to look dumb. But that came with some very unfortunate implications, and it didn't really seem right that I was dreaming of what was essentially a slave girl by my side.

      Eventually we evened out as equals. If she's superior, I'm frustrated. If she's inferior, I feel guilty. Even though there is some disconnect in how we view our relationships, where I view us more as platonic partners, battle buddies and close friends exploring dreams, she still seems to think this is Highschool Swimsuit Romance season 3, so inevitably our relationship tends to land somewhere in between those two points. It's awkward and frankly very weird, but the important thing is that we're both relatively happy. (Granted we've run into a disagreement now, and this is where the whole equal partnership thing has its problems.)

      ...

      The other dream character I have, Marcus, (the one hardly anyone knows exists) is in all honesty much more successful at being the teacher in dreams. Even though he is the superior, he plays the superior/teacher/guiding role correctly in a way that won't make me want to torch him with firebending. I can actually respect him as a teacher because unlike early Manei times, he doesn't seem to talk down to me like I'm just a dumb dreamer, and he doesn't manifest contrived ways to make me look like less than I actually am.

      When you meet a stranger, do you immediately classify them? Do you see every stranger as a potential rival? What does that reveal about you?

      Gosh I don't know. I guess my best judge of character is how the dream character looks. Now I know in waking life you 'should not judge a book by its cover'. But in dreams (I had this explained to me once by Marcus) that the way a dream character looks in body and clothing is a representation of what they really are. He said that a dream body is a way of expressing yourself, almost as superficial as clothing. So generally you can expect that characters that look like your waking life friends will usually act like your waking life friends. Characters that look like bullies will be bullies, etc. Characters that look like that horrible witch-of-a teacher from the sixth grade, are going to act like it and then some.

      Granted, there are exceptions to this rule , but generally the appearance of a DC is a pretty good judge of what they will be like.

      This sort of logic does at least offer an explanation for one thing. In dreams, I've always been signified by hetrochroima, pretty much regardless of what form I take. (Right eye blue, Left eye brown). Since hetrochromia is very rare in waking life (and in media too) it could be a signifier that this body is very important (the dreamer). Granted, Hetrochromia is also usually a sign of some sort of medical problem.

      Take the point of view of the character. Would they classify your relationship the same way? You might seem them as teacher-student, but their attitude is master-slave. Remember that dream characters are you. So what does that incongruity reveal about you?

      I talked about this a lot in the previous couple of questions. Manei and I see each other as equals, each with our own strengths and weaknesses. This is essentially a state of balance. I had a series of dreams (hopefully more to come) where we preform an energy synchronization. Essentially a power that comes from us recognizing one another as equals. I am the dreamer, she is the dream. I control the dream and she reacts to my influence and we recognize a closed circuit of energy. We are equals because we are two parts of the same whole. Recognition of this state of balance is difficult to achieve. Particularly when Manei is always pushing the romantic element of the relationship, since in nearly all romantic relationships it is very rare that the man and the woman are actually on equal footing. In western culture, generally men are expected to be more dominant in relationship, propose marriage, ask girls on dates, etc while woman are more submissive.

      So this really starts to explore gender roles and societal norms, (Gender Roles and double standards of gender: something that makes my blood boil then become so hot that it ionizes into plasma. ) If we were to simply view ourselves as platonic partners as I would prefer, then recognizing each other as equals would be much easier. But ironically, that makes me the one who puts aside the romantic feelings and what have you in favor of practical benefits, a stereotypically 'male' thing to do.

      I guess I'd be lying if I said no part of me wanted anything to do with romance in a dream. (After all, In waking life I'm short, underweight, with the face of an orge, and if I get rejected by one more girl (or even have to ask one more out) I'm going to have a mental breakdown.) So if I were to be entirely honest with myself, perhaps its a manifestation of a repressed desire for someone to be with, in the form of a dream guide who pretty much throws herself at me. (This applies for the emotional sense, and some of the sexual sense. My sexuality is... uhm... still figuring that out.) I guess I really should start growing more of an appreciation for that and stop looking at it so one-sidedly...



      I don't really know how Marcus would classify our relationship, since he's a very complex character who I have much less contact with.

      What is your relationship with your dreamlife? Are you the master and dreams your slave? Or is it your teacher and you the student? Could you be friends?

      ^^^ Question 3, assuming Manei is the dream life.

      If you reframe your understanding of an existing relationship, what might change? Might it "solve for the unknown?" Might you grow or learn from it?

      Well I think I just did come to the realization that maybe the romance element is there for a reason, and I should accept that, and try to enjoy it, it does play a role in the symbolism of my dreams.

      But that still doesn't mean I want the timeline shift to where we have kids. I still can't figure out what reason that has for existing...
      Last edited by JadeGreen; 03-28-2016 at 10:33 AM.
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    3. #3
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      You write and relate very well. Thank you for sharing all that. Part of the inspiration for my thread was a flare up in my strained relationship with my sister, both in dreams and in waking like. Usually, we are at each other's throats. But recently I noticed how our relationship is contextual. If it's her and I alone, we're arguing. But if my mother is present, it's sister and mother arguing against each other and I am the referee. And if my father is present, my sister and I become allies against him. And while none of those scenarios is particularly enjoyable or helpful, it was a revelation just to see that the relationship can and does change. So far, "change" is just variation without progression. I would like to move that relationship toward a progression that leads somewhere more sane, but I'm just starting on that.

      So, that got me thinking about other dream characters, both real and fictional. I noticed another disconnect with archetypal characters. Take the tried-and-true example of Superman. Super is a "good guy" so we're supposed to like him. But I don't like him because I think he's a rather flat character. I know, in every movie they try to make him look flawed and conflicted. But it just doesn't play with me. Superman is a male bimbo. At best, he can be a foil to other, more interesting characters. I think that's a limitation of archetypes, or at least something to consider on an individual basis. An archetype is supposed to be static, universal thing. But an individual's feelings about those universal aspects -- your relationship to the character -- provides another dimension to the overall narrative. The relationship might support the archetype, or hinder it, or skew it in some other direction.

      Expanding the topic, that led me to thoughts about identity and duality. It's some deep Buddhist stuff that I won't try to describe in so few words. Basically, there's a dualistic mode of comprehension: objects exists in their own right and interact with each other to form relationships. And there's a non-dualistic mode: we can only directly perceive relationships, and only from those do we infer that there might be objects involved.

      Finally, I considered dream guides. My dream guide is an abstraction: The Theater of Dreams. It's a bit awkward to have a relationship with an abstraction. But it's the only one that works for me. It appears in more more concrete and personified ways. By analogy, it's quite like how people may understand divinity through parables, miracles, idols, prophets, and angels. But all those things are just temporary proxies between me and it. Since my dream guide isn't a thing or a character, I can't fit it into an archetype or compare it to a real person. I can only perceive it through experiences and ever-changing relationships.

      That all clicked for me. So I decided to set aside the characters as independent archetypal things (objects) and instead look at the relationships for archetypal classification. I have found this useful in the same way that the Buddhist exercise of non-dualistic comprehension is. Maybe I'll ramble about it more another time, but that was my inspiration and I think it might be a interesting approach to looking at character relationships that seem "stuck" or resistant to ordinary conflict-resolution.
      I am sure about illusion. I am not so sure about reality.

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