DREAMS ... about ex-friends or ex-lovers

  • So, what exactly is a dream?

    Experienced dream analyst and therapist, and author of seven books on dreaming, Jane Teresa Anderson explains: "Dreams are processing your experiences from the last 24 to 48 hours. This is why they generally have much more to do with now, than with the past."

    And just because someone from your past turns up in your dreams, doesn't mean it's not about what's going on for you in the present.

    Ms Anderson believes that ex-partner dreams can fall under three main categories:

    1. The symbolic dream
      "We need to look at dreams as symbolic, rather than literal," she advises. "This applies to all dreams. You shouldn't put too much emphasis on the detail, but rather, generally apply them to a time when the same sort of thing happened in your life. Looking at your situation, what is happening in your life right now that can be relatable to the time when you were with your ex?"

    For example, the worry that you didn't achieve all that you wanted to in your career last year (thanks, pandemic), may be sending you back to the last time in your life when you felt you weren't achieving as much out of life as you should have or hoped you would. That is, when you were with this ex who told you you'd never make it in your chosen profession.

    "It's a feeling of going backward," Ms Anderson confirms. "You came out of the relationship all cylinders firing, and this year, you hit what you are worried is a brick wall."

    She reassures us it's not about subconsciously wanting the ex back in your life, by further explaining that "dreams are a brain's way of processing one to two days of your experiences, comparing back to similar feelings in the past".

    So ultimately, for many of us having dreams about former friends or partners (abusive or not), or any other dream, they're a symbol of how we're currently feeling about ourselves.

    1. A dream indicating post-traumatic stress disorder
      "This sort of dream is … experienced by women who've been in abusive relationships, having repetitive dreams of the past," Ms Anderson says. If you suspect this is the kind of dream you are having, a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist can help you diagnose whether or not you do have PTSD and what you can do about it. Ms Anderson says a repetitive dream of this kind can feel like an obstacle to closure. This is where working with an experienced therapist can be beneficial. "The theme of the dream is like a stuck record, but work can be done to change what that record plays, or stop it altogether."

    2. When the ex dream is a happy one
      Ms Anderson explains that sometimes a former bad friend or partner is portrayed in a rosy light in the dream.
      "This is a sign of where you're forgiving yourself for whatever you perceive was your part in that relationship — even just simply being in it," Ms Anderson explains. "You've come to a point where you're ready to let go of the horrible memories. And it can also mean you're forgiving your ex, because you no longer see them in the same way."

    Dreams are not a sign you should reconnect

    Relationship psychotherapist Melissa Ferrari stresses the importance of looking at your current situation, before interpreting these sorts of dreams as a sign you should reconnect. "Ask what is happening in your life now? Are you re-partnered? Have you experienced a loss? Has there been a significant change in your life?" she says. "Such dreams are more about you and your current experiences, than about the ex."
    Ms Anderson also has a warning about these dreams. "They are not a future prediction. It's really important to understand, these dreams are not a message to go back to your ex."

    Dream therapist Martina Kocian agrees. "If ex dreams are recurring frequently, even years post-break up, it could be an indication of unresolved issues or repressed emotions that your dreams are helping to process and recontextualise, particularly if any trauma or abuse was present in the relationship," she explains.

    Can you stop the dreams?
    Ms Anderson believes doing work with an experienced therapist can help you create a new ending to your "record" that plays on repeat. "There are therapist-based activities you can do to help stop the dreams from happening. You may discover that your resilience has left some emotions unaddressed, even if you've felt you've completely moved on."

    One method of dream therapy Ms Kocian finds useful is helping her clients take the perspective of their dream partner. "One of my clients was having difficulty getting over a previous relationship when she experienced a dream in which she was having sex with her ex at a wedding. When we explored the dream from the perspective of her ex, she could feel his gaze and desire for other women at the wedding. Actually, experiencing the sensations of desire within the body of her ex, my client not only reignited her own sexual potency but also sensed his deep desire for other women. This epiphany allowed her to truly move on from the relationship."

    Finally, Ms Ferrari stresses that finding the right person to help you is integral to stopping recurring dreams about past relationships. "Exploring this with a psychotherapist who understands the trauma of childhood, attachments, and loss, is vital," she says. "The dreams won't just go away; you've got to do the work. But that can be a good thing."

    So there's hope for those of us who get anxious about falling asleep, for fear of seeing a person you never wanted to see again.

  • Thank You again.@TheCaptain for sharing a brilliant article. I wonder if I can use this to stop my nightmares in relationship to an ex support worker who ended up destroying y life with her bullying.

  • This ex support worker likely dented your self-esteem so stop believing what they said and your nightmares should stop. The dreams are telling you that you have not resolved whatever this worker made you feel about yourself. This person likely only feels better about themselves when they put other people down.

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