PSYCHOLOGY OF CYBERSPACE:
CYBERSPACE AS DREAM WORLD

by John Suler, Ph.D.

To Part IV

Dreams About Palace

Because we have been exploring the parallels between cyberspace and dreams, it makes sense to focus on dreams ABOUT cyberspace. Here I'd like to describe some dreams that users have had about the Palace. Generally speaking, you know something has activated your unconscious mind when you dream about it. For some people, the Palace may have an even higher potential to stir the unconscious because it mimics many of the qualities of dream life. As a dream-like state of consciousness, it may draw to the surface a variety of unconscious thoughts and feelings. The issues that surface may reflect the personal concerns of the user or archetypic themes that apply to us all. Dreams about Palace may even highlight phenomenological insights into the very meaning of "dream" versus "reality."

This portion of this article is best read in hypertext. The title of each dream is linked to my general comments on the dream. Links within the description of each dream lead to more specific comments about particular elements in the dreams. After reading these comments, use your browser's "back" button to return to your previous place in the article.

Because I did not talk in-depth with these people about their dreams, and in some cases do not know these dreamers very well at all, my comments on their dreams should be taken with a grain of salt. The ultimate expert on any dreamer is the dreamer him or herself. Dream 1: Empowerment and Individuality

"My dreams on the Palace have puzzled me. I am not confined but free-floating. I have not floated since I was a child. I am always in the cloud room , though I never hang out there. I am the problem solver in my Palace-dreams, everyone coming to me like I'm a Guru or something. And I go back and forth from wearing my props to being me (my head only). To tell you the truth I think these dreams are connected to my awareness of my improved self-esteem. This is trippy stuff so let me go hog wild here. I think I am floating because that is what the Palace format dictates, but more importantly I am not afraid to enjoy my belief in myself. I need no shelters to protect me, no walls to confine me, I am not afraid I'll do something stupid. I believe I am always in the cloud room because when making a 'new' room you start with the cloud room until you change the background. I feel my dream cloud room represents the 'new' me feeling I have since I started associating with the Palace. And I am there because others enjoy me. They need my help and I know I can sooth their fears. It's funny the problems they bring to me and how open they are for my solutions. They always think I am smart and right, so I totally assume this must have to do with my new found esteem. One interesting point here, I only have my Palace dreams when in reality I am solving some political situation on the Palace."

Comments on Dream 1 (Empowerment and Individuality):

At various points in this article I've referred to how the Palace can satisfy conscious and unconscious needs for power, admiration, and omniscience. Dream 1 clearly illustrates this. This feeling of power comes from several sources: the ability to control the environment much more easily than our real-world; the mastery of technical and social knowledge about Palace that one can share with newbies; and the ability to creatively explore and express one's online identity (for example, through the use of avatars). This last point is especially important. Like dreams, the Palace is a zone where people can identify components of their personality that are not fully expressed in real life. I've heard several people say that they are more "themselves" online than they are offline. Like Chuang Tzu, are we more real in the "real" world, or in the dreamworld of cyberspace?

Switching Between Real and Imaginary Self - A number of people have described their dreams as containing this switching back and forth between an image of the real self and one's avatars, almost as if the distinction between the "real" and "imaginary" self becomes unclear, or even arbitrary.

The Cloud Room - In eastern philosophy as well as western psychological studies of creativity, mystics and artists talk about a state of formlessness that is the source of the creative process - a kind of "fertile void" from which forms emerge. In myth it often is symbolized as "sky" or "heaven." This element of the dream seems to be referring to this archetypic source of creativity - and the potential of Palace to stimulate it.

Dream 2: Belonging and Being Understood

John Suler, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Rider University and a practicing clinical psychologist. He has published on psychotherapy, mental imagery, and eastern philosophy. He currently maintains several web sites.

 

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