We’ve all be there, dreaming about someone in our lives. Reliving the drama and sometimes, the good moments. Sometimes the dream is odd, like yelling at one another while standing next to the cast of One Tree Hill. Maybe you’ve even dreamed about not being able to speak to a loved one or them not hearing you. How annoying, ruining perfectly good sleep like that!
Whether you are dreaming about an ex, family member, a friend, or even random strangers, it’s normal to seek understanding of these dreams. So grab a pen and paper, literally and figuratively, while we learn all about how to interpret dreams.
First Steps In Understanding Dreams Of Someone You Know
If you’re here, it’s because you are wondering what it means when you wake up from that confusing and/or traumatizing dream with someone close to you. Or maybe that random guy that creeped you out at the gas station.
Studies completed by Wei Zhang and Benyu Guo, shared on the NCBI website, discovered that “sleep could allow personal/affective insight.” This personal insight is found in dream content with the relationship between individuals and emotions within the dream. Identifying the relationships occurring with others in your dream is one key part to understanding their significance. Even a relationship with an unknown person in your dream can hold significance.
How you feel waking up can tell you a lot about your dream. Our dreams can appear to be erratic and strange while also emotionally intense. The same study showed that this intensity of emotions, or features within the dream, “reflect an attempt, on the part of the brain, to identify and evaluate novel” emotional associations within the cerebral cortex of the brain.
According to Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht, “Every symbol or person or action in a dream or nightmare should be taken in context; it is mirroring something that is occurring in your personal or professional life, your health, etc. Many dreams are metaphorical, farcical, or even absurd simply to get your attention.”
In other words, if you dream of jumping off skyscrapers, it does not necessarily mean you actually want to jump headfirst off of these buildings. It may mean you are anxious or excited to prepare for a big event in your life.
There is always the wonder of connection between daily life and dreams. Have you ever seen a person one day and dreamt about them that night? Studies tell us this is not uncommon. According to Freud, who believed in what he called “the self-organization theory,” which posits the idea that, “…dreams are not independently functional but rather a co-product of the sleeping brain, reflecting the dreamer’s physiological and psychological activities such as memory consolidation, emotion regulation, and reception of external stimuli.”
High emotions in your day-to-day life or important events can transfer to your dreams, creating intense sleep time experiences e.g., experiencing a traumatic car wreck can lead to dreaming about the exact event or similar events. Waking life experiences can manifest in a multitude of ways, even if they’re good ones.
Recording Dreams Can Help In The Process
Katie Ziskind, a therapist at Wisdom Within Counseling, says that, “A lot of times, our dreams have meaning, but we forget them too quickly after waking up. Keep a journal by your bedside to record your dreams right after you have them while they are still fresh in your mind, before you begin going about your morning. Keeping a dream journal can be a great way to learn more about yourself and learn to nurture yourself.”
Now is the time to go buy a fresh journal, a nice pen, and make some space on your nightstand. Even if you only remember snippets, writing it down is a perfect first step to understanding what your brain is going through.
Now, let’s talk about the three levels of dream interpreting: explicit, subjective, and spiritual.
Explicit Dream Interpretation
Explicit Interpretation is being objective about the images in dreams and applying the meaning in a literal sense to life. When you’re writing down your dreams and attempting to understand them, make sure to act as if you’re reading someone else’s dreams. Objectivity is important in any facet of our lives, but it’s even more important when trying to understand a dream.
For example, if your school is the setting for your dream then the interpretation may be to examine your feelings or memories about that place. The real place is taken and interpreted with possible meanings of symbols in mind.
Subjective Dream Interpretation
One of the most famous psychology forefathers is Carl Jung. He believed that interpreting one’s dreams on a subjective level will help you understand how your brain is processing your emotions and experiences. He believed that every part of you, whether it be mind, body, or spirit, worked together to sort things out. As a result, Jung believed that dreams were your entire being processing the events of the day and how you felt about them.
Jung also believed in what he called “individuation” where dreams helped develop your own personality. This does not mean you need to assume grocery shopping down an endless aisle directly reflects your personality. Rather, it’s more like how you approach your overflowing cart or how you react to not being able to find that can of tomato soup.
This dream analysis approach help us understand the developments of our emotional energies, whether they’re working within us consciously or subconsciously. Through these symbols we alter energies to create new pathways in the mind.
Spiritual Dream Interpretation
The final type of dream analysis techniques is spiritual dream interpretation. Psychology Today explains that when, “these characters or themes appear in your dream, they connect you to the instinctual energies shared by all humankind.” This is often the time when people search to the internet for answers about their personalized dreams. Keep in mind though that interpretations, on any level, starts on a very personal level. Your dream about elephants could mean something entirely different to someone else, even if it was the exact same dream. To truly understand we need to look at how these generalized symbols relate to our personal lives.
What Does It Mean To Dream About An Ex?
Having a dream about your ex is completely normal. Strong emotions like shame or anger can sometimes make the dreams stressful. Robert Pagano, co-founder with Sleepline.com, says that, “In some cases, dreaming of an ex may be a way for your mind and body to revisit the past and work out the emotions attached to the breakup. This may happen because going over what happened in your head is sometimes more helpful than trying new activities or participating in therapy sessions.”
Our dreams can inspire processing that our wakeful mind is incapable of doing. So the next time you dream about your ex (because it will most likely happen again), don’t wake up disgusted. Try to look at the associations or feelings with that dream and understand what may be left unresolved for you personally.
What Does It Mean To Dream About A Coworker
Dreams about exes, having arguments with friends, or being angry with your family can feel horrible, but have you ever dreamt about fighting with a co-worker or being punished by your boss for missing a big deadline? Dreams about work can often leave people feeling panicked or worried.
Each time these dreams happen it can reveal feelings of being overwhelmed and deep in the trenches of work, stressed, or unhappy with a boss. Does this mean you hate your boss or need to change jobs? When we look at conflict with anyone in our dreams, we are really looking at potential conflict with ourselves. Feelings in dreams can represent how we feel about ourselves.
Stina Garbis, a professional psychic, explains that, “the quality of the dream, happy, sad, scary, can be how you feel about yourself and these ideas or beliefs. The subconscious is trying to unpack how it feels, and will give you images that relate to your feelings, or your deep understanding of yourself. When you analyze a dream, you should stumble upon what is profoundly going on in your complicated life.”
Dreaming about a co-worker or your boss in a negative setting may not mean you need to quit your job, but it could ask you to reflect on why you feel this negative emotion. What is it about the workplace environment that is evoking this negative feeling in you? Was there a specific interaction in the workplace that was unsettling or bothersome to you? Once the “why” of the feeling has been contemplated, then it is easier to see how that feeling fits into your current work life.
Why Do You Dream About Family, Friends, Or Even Strangers?
If the dream has conflict, it’s easy to assume it’s directly related to whoever is the star of the dream. Maybe it’s a family member, a friend, or even a random person. Sometimes, though, trying to make sense of the dream in direct relation to this person isn’t always the best route.
However, this “random” person that appears in your dream may represent more than you think. They can represent different archetypes in your life. Bethany Loveday, a Certified Dream Therapist, explains this theory perfectly. “…dreaming about your grandmother, regardless of your relationship with her, might be representing the archetype of the Old Wise Woman rather than herself.”
That can be a hard pill to swallow when you view the other person as creating problems in the relationship or in your life. It is reasonable that these same representations would happen in our dreams as well. The comparison in our dreams may be easier for us to accept and reflect on than in our daily lives as it is happening.
No matter what the dream is, there are a multitude of approaches to be taken when taking a closer look at our dreams. Searching for answers online of how to approach interpreting these dreams can be helpful. We should not solely rely on what someone else wrote about their dream though and expect it to perfectly connect to our own experiences. Dreams offer an opportunity for self-reflection in situations or relationship that we had not considered before. Dreams are an opportunity to learn about ourselves and our relationship with the world.
So buy that journal, get a pen you love, and dig a bit deeper tomorrow morning!