Third Person Dreams: Take A Good Look At Yourself

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I think I have a pretty accurate, unbiased view of myself on the whole. Maybe that’s because I always watch myself in full, third-person glory in my dreams. 

I played a lot of video games as a kid, despite being raised in a fairly strict, homeschooling environment. My parents came to the conclusion early on that computers and the digital world was the future, and that us kids in the family might ultimately be better equipped to interact in that environment with early immersion. Looking back, their theory seems to have panned out: all three of us kids have careers in the digital realm based on an inherent understanding of how to best leverage the systems that make up its infrastructure. 

But back to video games, I loved them. From side scrollers to more immersive RPGs to sports games – I would give just about anything a fair shake. Except for first person shooters. I hated being forced into the first person perspective – it felt so unnatural and foreign to me. 

I remember a friend arguing with me about how much better first person POV games were, “because it’s just like dreaming.” 


That’s when I first discovered that most people dream in first person – something I have never done. 

The Difference Between First & Third Person Perspectives

Some of you may be feeling like I did when I first discovered that people dream differently than I do, so let’s break down the differences:

  • First Person: You see the world like you’re seeing the world right now. Your eyeballs are the lens you see through, with maybe some ancillary top-down view of your hands, feet, etc. Think of it this way: you’re telling the story from your personal perspective. 
  • Third Person: You see yourself the way someone else might see you. You see your own face, maybe the back of your head, whatever – but the lens is no longer your eyeballs, but some other point (fixed or not) around you. You may or may not be the main character, but you’re seeing yourself navigate through the story. 
  • Bonus – Second Person: This one’s weird – it’s kind of like 3rd person, but it’s more likely that the view is locked onto you as you’re being told a story you’re not really a part of. What a boring way to dream. 

Personally, my 3rd person view tends to be almost like that of a surveillance camera at the top corner of a room. I do see my face pretty regularly in dreams, but it’s not usually at eye-level. It’s more like, well,  a video game’s 3rd person view:


The Benefits of Dreaming In Third Person

Maybe I’m biased, but I think 3rd person is great. As a fan of cinema, it’s watching a movie every night where I’m very much a part of the action. 

As discussed previously, I often die in my dreams. But since I’m not the required point of view, I can just go on dreaming with the rest of the cast. I don’t know if this works or not in first person dreams, but I imagine it’s pretty disruptive if you, as the sole view point, die. 

Honestly, I also think getting to see yourself die, or deal with some other horrible fact of life (or something terrible that isn’t possible in real life, for that matter) can be a benefit as well. I’m always shocked when I hear people say things like “I never thought it could happen to me…” With some of the things I’ve seen happen to me in my dreams, I know exactly what it looks like, and I’m more or less ready for the fall out if/when it does. 

I think another potential benefit is just getting comfortable with stepping outside of yourself and recognizing that the world doesn’t revolve all around you. When you see yourself standing around while the world is humming along without you, it’s much easier to spot your impact on the story line, and adjust accordingly. I think practicing this in your sleep can also help you translate the strategy into the real world: think about how you’re impacting the storyline your life coincides with, and adjust as necessary to shape the narrative. 

The Risks of Dreaming In Third Person

As mentioned above, you might have to watch yourself dealing with some really weird, horrible, terrifying situations. You may also have to come to grips with what you might look like from behind. 
But maybe the biggest issue: being miscast as a sociopath by those who don’t dream in the third person.