Dear Cynthia: I have these dreams in which I am another person. Last night I dreamed that a particular man was me--it's such a weird thing and I wonder if you have ever heard of this. It is as if I get into someone else's body in my dreams. My situation with this person is complicated. I no longer have contact although I love him very much. He is my brother and I have lost him to mental illness. I do not know where he is, but I do know that he is in excruciating pain. I feel it channeling through me in my dreams and I frequently wake up crying. I don't know what to do or how to help my dreams. Do you have any advice?
Dear T.D.: I have heard of this phenomenon, though in my experience it is rare. Typically when we dream of other people they appear in our dreams as a symbol of what they represent to us. A mate might symbolize partnership, a policeman authority. Sometimes when we are very connected to someone we will dream of the person and our relationship with him or her. In this case they do indeed represent themselves. To be "in the body" of your brother, you are seeing through his eyes, feeling his pain. In your dreams you seem to be seeing and feeling through the eyes and heart of your estranged brother.
In an empathetic state you might volunteer to take some of your brother's pain, to spare him, even for an hour, from some of the distress he is in. In truth, we each must bear our own burdens. Through life's challenges, we learn and grow and hopefully can help others along the way.
It is possible that your brother is thinking of you and trying to connect in some way. More likely, though, you think of him, wondering where and how he is, and these thoughts permeate your subconscious and your dreams. You may feel compelled to make an effort to locate him, or you may want to pray for or visualize his protection and safety. It would be helpful to communicate with a mental health professional who understands your brother's condition.
Cynthia Richmond's book "Dream Power: How to Use Your Night Dreams to Change Your Life" (Simon & Schuster) will be available in January and may be pre-ordered at Amazon.com. Fax your dreams to Cynthia Richmond at (213) 237-0732 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your hometown and a daytime phone number. "In Your Dreams" appears every Tuesday and should be read for entertainment purposes only.