Your eyes open up—blurry visioned, watery, or both. You’re drizzled with sweat all over your body. Your pajama keeps sticking to your back, and a disorienting feeling of shock overflows your body.
You take the first breath—a deep, anxious one.
The whole place you woke up in feels unfamiliar, the air electric, and you feel alienated. You forgot which way is down and which is up. You think you’re still dreaming, but you’re not.
You’re confused, perplexed even!
They are not here. You might even glance at the side of your bed. But, no one is there.
And now you question why did it happen. “Damn you brain,” you say to yourself! Why did you let me dream of them again!
Why do I keep dreaming about my ex!
Why do we dream about our ex-partners? Why do we keep dreaming about them, and why would we have a dream about them years later? And more importantly, what the fuck does it all mean?
Well, Those are themes and questions that I’m going to be traversing and answering in this article.
So let’s get to it.
The reasons why you keep dreaming about your ex
Before we start, let me share a quick disclaimer with you. There are numerous reasons why you might dream about your ex, some far beyond this article, so don’t take the listing below as exhaustive. This list is exclusively an accumulation of the most common reasons people dream about their ex-partners.
1. You want them back
Unsurprisingly, the number one reason you might dream about your ex-partner is because you miss them. If you’re not sure, track your social media behavior for a few weeks. Did you find out that you stalk your ex there? Or maybe you’re just thinking about them a lot. If any of the options ring true, there’s a 99,9% chance that you still have feelings for your ex.
If this is you – if you’re missing your ex, either desperately or just slightly – you have to ask yourself two vital questions. The answers to them will make it easier for you to get to the bottom of why you might be dreaming about your ex. So here they are:
- Am I missing my ex as a person, or am I missing just the idea of them? You see, many breakup survivors I spoke to miss what their ex represented and not who he or she was. They miss who their ex could be, that is, a compatible partner or someone with whom they could have chemistry. In other words, they long for their ex-partners’ potential, not them as a person.
- Am I missing my ex as a person, or am I just missing having a strong emotional connection with someone? Related to the previous point, many men and women don’t actually miss their ex, but simply the emotional connection they had with them. In other words, they miss having someone who loves and cares for them close by.
2. You lack closure
When dealing with closure, you have to understand that it comes from within you and not from outside sources. Meaning that if you’re pushing your ex to explain all the nuts and bolts of why things didn’t work out, or if you’re forcing them to send you some bizarre farewell message, know this: nothing they send, say, or do will make you feel at peace.
This peace is something only you can find within yourself. Only you can learn to accept your breakup and come to terms with your loss. Only you can find closure in the midst of internal chaos and the crackling sounds of emotional fireworks.
3. You’re disappointed by reality
Another reason why you dreamt or kept dreaming of your ex could be because you thought reality would be different in the present moment.
Perhaps you hoped that your ex would one day become your spouse. Hell, maybe you believe they were “the one.” And now, when those things didn’t turn out to be what you wanted, you got frustrated and disappointed with life.
If that’s the case with you, go and practice acceptance. Put differently; learn to accept your loss.
As I’ve mentioned in my article on compatibility and my newsletters, there is no perfect partner, that is, someone who will stay with you till the end of time.
How so, you might ask? Well, because people change over time. And this little fact brings us to the bitter-sweet reality.
You can ignore change – your current reality – but you can’t ignore the consequences of it. Therefore, again, learn to accept it. There is no other way; there has never been one.
4. You’re lost in an existential abyss
Many people fall into an existential crisis or a crisis of meaning when they lose a significant other. This crisis puts anxiety, confusion, and a loss of hope in the forefront of one’s psyche.
Unsurprisingly, this mishmash of moody and bleak feelings can easily make you dream about your ex and what you at some point had with them. I believe it’s a common reaction to loss that most of us go through.
5. You’re dissatisfied with your life
Maybe you hate your job. Perhaps you don’t find any interesting characters in your social group – perhaps you don’t even have one. Or you’re just dissatisfied with life in general.
These are all solid reasons why you might succumb to dreaming about your ex and your better, more fruitful past.
If this contempt for life somewhat describes you, I would primarily focus on building a better future – one that’s better than your past.
6. You dream about your ex ‘Just cuz’
I know everyone hates this answer, but sometimes there is no concrete “why” behind your dreams.
Sometimes you just randomly dream of your ex. There’s no logic or rationality behind it; there’s no cause and effect. It’s just absurd, as life itself.
And believe me, when you’re trying to make sense of something that fundamentally doesn’t have any rhyme or reason behind it, you won’t get anywhere good. Thus, try to let go and live life despite this uncomfortable sensation snugly attached to your pumping heart.
But I dream about my ex every night!
Day one. You fall asleep. You’re with them. You wake up. You feel hurt.
Day two. You fall asleep. You’re with them. You wake up. You feel hurt.
Day three. You fall asleep. You’re with them. You wake up. You feel hurt.
After enduring this monotone pattern for a few weeks, the hurt, grief, and all it’s partnering emotions and internal conflicts begin to overwhelm you. They come rushing at you from all sides like a stampede of bullets.That’s life, bitch.
This is how we process our breakup pain. We literally have to feel it to heal it. So knowing that, let yourself feel the bullets making their way into your body and brushing over your skin.
After a time of enduring these painful experiences, you’re going to feel better. It’s all part of the grieving process. Just make sure you’re actively participating in your healing and not solely relying on time to fix all your hurt because it won’t.
What if I dreamt about an ex years later?
Dreaming of your ex years later is an exciting phenomenon. One of the main reasons it happens is because you’re still carrying some stuck conscious or unconscious emotions which were not adequately processed yet.
Perhaps there’s still some form of trauma stored inside of you, and since you didn’t make a good enough conscious effort to let it go, it forced itself out. So think of dreaming about your ex years later as a form of your brain’s or heart’s emotional cleansing process.
What dreaming about your ex comes down to
No matter the reason why you’re dreaming about your ex, no matter if the dream was happy, sad, or a nightmare, and no matter if you’ve dreamt it years later or just days after your breakup, the reason why your dreams happen always comes down to one factor: trauma.
When our relationship ends, the trauma we experience can be subtle, insidious, or outright disastrous to our psyche. The consequences include PTSD, panic attacks, hypervigilance, sleep disorders, self-destructive beliefs, a damaged sense of self-esteem, mass confusion, emotional numbness, a loss of hope (depression), and of course, nightmares. (1)
Ultimately, the way trauma shows up in your life is mostly in the form of temper tantrums, a lack of vulnerability, and a fear of intimacy. All of which prevent you from forming healthy relationships.
If you’re dealing with any form of trauma, seek help. From me, a therapist, a counselor, a family member, or just about anyone you can afford and who is willing to listen and able to help.
If you don’t have anyone and don’t possess a large budget, I strongly recommend picking up these three books. They are as close as you can get to an actual therapist, in my opinion.
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns
- The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
- Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse by Jackson MacKenzie
What Does It Mean When You’re Dreaming About Your Ex?
A yes, that’s the age-old question. Well, it could mean many things and depends entirely on the context of your dream.
If you’re dreaming about yourself reconnecting with your ex or rekindling the attraction between the two of you, you might miss them, the connection, or the idea of them.
If you’re dreaming about your ex cheating on you or breaking your heart once again, you might feel hurt at the moment.
If you’re dreaming of your ex already being in a new relationship with someone else, your subconscious might be just telling you, “dude/girl, move on. Your ex has probably done the same at this point.”
As with randomly dreaming of your ex, we could paint the meaning in your dream with the same brush. In other words, your dreams could mean absolutely nothing and contain no hidden symbols or anomalies. In fact, that’s the stance I take on dreaming about anything.
I’m convinced that our dreams are irrelevant and arbitrary nighttime thinking. We could call them purely biological phenomena that contain no actual meaning or purpose except for the one we stamp on them after reflecting and pondering.
Ways to find the meaning behind your dreams
If you’re someone who believes or at least semi-believes their dreams carry some hidden meaning and wish to find it, dream analysis is your go-to method.
In essence, dream analysis or dream interpretation is a therapeutic technique commonly used in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. It aims to help you find the meanings hidden – or not so hidden – behind your dreams. After you identify these meanings, you have the opportunity to learn from them, to heal your broken heart, and to grow as a person.
You can pick and choose between four main models of locating meaning behind the dreams you keep having of your ex. Down below, I will discuss each one in turn, and in the end, you can choose to use the one that suits you.
Psychoanalysis is a form of therapy developed and coined by Sigmund Freud. At its core, the theory claims that most of our thoughts, desires, and feelings reside in the unconscious part of our brain. It also states that these attributes can only be dug up by examining our dreams and childhood memories.
The way Freudian dream analysis works is like the movies. A patient would lie on the comfy couch while the therapist would ask him questions about his dreams.
After a few sessions, the therapist would begin to point out different symbols in the patients’ dreams and utilize free association techniques to help them understand the meaning behind those symbols.
Now I understand that you don’t have a therapist to do this with, but don’t sweat it. You can smoothly perform simple dream analysis by yourself too.
For example, grab a piece of paper as soon as you wake up from a dream and freely write about it for 10 to 15 minutes. Then stop, analyze what you’ve written, look for any thematical patterns, and then try to form a meaning based on that piece.
Jungian dream analysis
As the title suggests, Jungian dream analysis is developed by Carl Jung and is quite similar to Freud’s counterpart.
Like with Froidian dream analysis, in Jugs version, we’re also hunting for unconscious peculiarities and symbols that may or may not hold meaning. You can even use the same exercise as before when analyzing your dream. However, this time we’re adding an additional step in our exploration – we’re searching for a dream’s overall message.
According to Jung, if the interpretation of your dream – or it’s the message – doesn’t resonate with you or doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t helpful or beneficial in any way. So at that point, feel free to dislodge it and search for a new one.
If you’re interested in what a dream message resembles, check out this article, where I’ve outlined how I used Jungian analysis on one of my dreams.
When it comes to finding meaning within your dream through the lens of gestalt therapy, the main thing you have to cultivate is a dialog between you and certain parts of your dream. Stated differently, you have to bring the dreams content to your actual life.
Here’s how you do this:
First, identify the first 1-3 objects and all of their attributes (color, shape, sound, taste, etc.) that you remember most within a dream. Next, reflect on this object like you would reflect on it if it were right in front of you.
For example, if you dreamt about your ex and they are the object you remember most, create an imaginary dialog with them.
Ask them things like, “what are you doing in my house? Then switch characters and answer, “just checking in how you’re holding up since our breakup.”
You can also ask things such as, “why or how am I here with you,” then answer your question.
After some time conversing with yourself, feel free to explain how you feel about the object you’re experiencing. In our case, your ex.
Conclusively, this back-and-forth role-playing will help you understand your feelings, thoughts, and dreams better.
Analyzing dreams is quite different through an existential lens that it is through the one of Freud or Jung.
From an existential viewpoint, your dreams are not something that interpretation can make sense of; they hold countless meanings, and hunting down symbols in them is a waste of time since there are none (or there’s an infinite number of them.)
In practice, analyzing your dreams using existential methods would mean contemplating your relationship with the self, the one you have with the world, and with the objects in it. It’s a weird thing to pull off, to be honest.
Anyhow, feel free to experiment with the above methods all intermeshed together.
In actuality, you don’t need a process or a system to find out the meaning behind your dreams. Try out all the methods I’ve laid out for you and determine which one fits you like a glove.
What Dreaming About your Ex Is Not
I know dreaming about your ex might seem like a good reason to reach out to them. Perhaps you believe the dreams means that they are thinking about you!
I understand that some of you keep looking for a reason to break your silence and reach out to your ex-partner. And I know that dreaming about them might seem like a good reason to do just that. But it’s not.
You see, most people and clients of mine made the mistake of misinterpreting what their dream meant in reality.
They thought, oh, I just dreamt of my ex being with me again! They must miss me/still love me/think about me, right?”
Dreaming about your ex-partner may mean many things, but It never means anything along the lines of, “They want you back, they were a great match, or they miss you and can’t stop thinking about you.”
So, resist your urge to contact your ex-love. Do yourself a favor and work on your recovery.
If there’s one thing I want to leave you with, it’s this. Dreaming about your ex, be that constantly, or semi-constantly, is something everyone faces after a breakup. It’s your heart’s way of healing. Don’t try and subdue your dreams and don’t waste time looking for some significant meaning behind them. Just let go. Just let go.
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