How can I dream the actions of other people?

Q. Could you help me with something please? I half-understand the concept that we are dreaming this life and what happens to us within it. However, I do not understand how I dream the actions of other people. They are responsible for their own actions, thoughts, etc., not me. For instance, if someone hits me, that came from him; I didn’t make him do it. I’d very much appreciate some clarification on this.

A. You’ve hit on an obvious rub, in that the Course definitely says both things. It views the bodies we see around us as being controlled by Sons of God, who have their own freedom of choice. And it talks about those bodies as “dream figures” that seem to be acting independently but are actually acting out our own thoughts, which we have projected onto them: “You do not realize that you are making them act out for you, for if you did the guilt would not be theirs, and the illusion of satisfaction would be gone.” (T 18.II.5:6).

How can both be true? They seem completely incompatible. Yet I don’t think they actually are. Imagine, for instance, that you are the producer and director of a play. You hire an actor to play a certain part and then give this actor the script with his lines in it.

He agrees that, in order to be in your play, he needs to play the part as written. He still can employ his freedom, of course, in how he plays the part, in the shadings of intonation, expression, and emotion he brings to the part. As we all know, two different actors can play the same part entirely differently. And his freedom can go even further. He may ad-lib some lines. He may even suggest taking the character in a different direction than the script calls for. You as the director may go along with this, modifying the play to accommodate this new direction. Or you may put your foot down and insist he sticks to the script. If he persists, you will then be forced to send him on to his next job. Maybe he’ll play the role he wants to on stage somewhere, but it won’t be in your production.

I think that is how it works with the people in our lives. On some unconscious level, an agreement has been made, a contract has been drawn up. They agree to act out certain thoughts that we have disowned. One disowned thought is the belief that we should be punished for the things we have done wrong. Therefore, many of the figures in our dream act out that thought. We then hire other figures to protect us from the first ones, from our “sins” coming home to roost. Plainly put, we hire protectors to carry out our judgment against the attackers in our lives. Yet this judgment is an act of self-betrayal. This is why our protectors usually end up betraying us—because we hired them to act out our disowned thoughts of self-betrayal.

The actors—the Sons of God behind those bodies—have freedom in how they play this role, and they may even try to take the role in a far healthier and holier direction than we had planned. And we hopefully will consent to this new direction. But either way, both of those seemingly incompatible elements you mentioned in your question are true. They have free choice and they are playing a part we have asked them to play. And surely that latter fact can help us forgive them.

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