Dreamwork as Spiritual Practice

Dream Companions

shadows 01Following up on the theme of dream figures that I’ve been exploring in the last two posts (“The True Nature of Dream Figures,” and “Dream Messengers, Guides, And Guardians”): Another type of dream figure that can play a significant role in our lives is the Companion.

I’d define a dream Companion as a character—generally a human being, but sometimes another creature—who shares the experience of the dream with the dream-ego (the “I” character). The Companion often appears in my dreams in the guise of my partner, Holly, who is my regular companion in waking life. Within the dream, the Companion may also take the shape of a casual acquaintance, a stranger, the dreamer’s dog or cat (or gerbil, parakeet, iguana, etc.) or someone from the dreamer’s past (such as a childhood best friend, or a former partner). And in the dream, the “companionship” may be friendship and camaraderie, a family-like bond, or romantic intimacy.

Who is it, in waking life, that you want to tell when something exciting or painful or frightening or joyful happens to you? Who is it that shares your experiences? That person, or those people, may appear in your dreams as the Companion. Or, if something new is arising in your life and becoming important to you, the Companion may take a form associated with that new thing—representing your relationship to that aspect of your life. For example, when I was learning a set of new skills that inspired and challenged me, I dreamed of a close friendship with a fellow student I barely knew, someone who seemed especially interested in the areas I was just discovering.

When the dream Companion takes the form of a lover—with “companionship” that includes sexual intimacy—there may be a particularly intense longing for connection with whatever this Companion represents. Often, for me, a dream lover (however inappropriate the person playing this role may seem) has some characteristic of an aspect of myself that I am opening up to at a new level. Sexual energy in a dream can be a metaphor for spiritual energy—the life force, expressed as the coming-together of apparently distinct beings to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, an energy that transcends our “separate” selves.

The Companion, whether as a dream lover or a dream friend, is not just a sidekick. The nature of this relationship represents a direct experience of not being alone. If there is a Companion in a dream, then the dream-ego gets to feel what it is to be “in touch” with another, to share experience. The dreamer who is having this dream gets an even larger perspective, if s/he recognizes that the Companion is an aspect of his/her whole being, representing the essential experience of interconnectedness we all carry within us and manifest in our relationships with others. The way that the character of the Companion is expressed in a dream may reflect what it is that the dreamer needs in order to feel connected, at the deepest level, to the source of life itself.

In many religious traditions, Companion dreams were seen as visits from the gods. A divine being would take human form, and interact with humans in their dreams or visions, in order to experience the physical realm and share the intensity of human love and pain with mortals. As I see it, having a Companion in a dream, or someone to share our experiences in waking life, allows us to get in touch with the truth that we are not alone. In fact, whatever it is that makes me truly myself is also that which makes you truly yourself—and when we connect with that essential shared experience, we are indeed in a relationship with something “divine” within and beyond us both.



  1. traviswernet

    Another great entry Kirsten!

    And, timely, as I have just had a Companion dream a few nights ago 😉

    In my dream, I am saying goodbye to my Male Companion, and several of the aspects you’ve highlighted here are present… I appreciate your thoughtful words, as they have shed light for me on my otherwise difficult to understand dream (unique blindness! Argh!)

    I especially resonate with the following:

    “A divine being would take human form, and interact with humans in their dreams or visions, in order to experience the physical realm and share the intensity of human love and pain with mortals”…

    In my dream, the Companion is setting me up with a new bike, but I am filled with sadness as we are saying goodbye, and, at least temporarily, parting ways. The post here underscores for me the way he and i are actually connected too – even at a distance.

    Wonderful stuff! May Thanks, Travis W

    • kirstenbackstrom

      Thank you, Travis! As always, your insights add depth and perspective to my thoughts. Your dream seems to express the poignancy of genuine connection, which always contains the paradoxical awareness of both the immortal (eternal) and the mortal (finite) nature of our relationships.

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