We’ve all heard the theory that your dreams are your brain’s way of processing and interpreting your life. For instance, if you constantly have dreams about your teeth falling out, it may mean that you are feeling super anxious about something. If you dream about needing to take a final for a class you’ve never attended (even if you haven’t been in school for years), that could indicate that in real life, you feel reluctant to do something you know you should do.
There’s another type of popular recurring dream that plagues some people, and that is dreaming about exes. Sometimes, no matter how long you and your ex have been broken up, you may find that they keep popping up in your dreams. So many people are left wondering: Why do I keep dreaming about my ex?! If you’re one of those people, first of all, don’t worry. It’s totally normal.
Why do I keep dreaming about my ex?
If you’ve been having recurring dreams about your ex, you may start to worry that you somehow still have feelings for them. Are you not as “over” them as you thought you were? Do you actually belong together? Should you reach out and call or text them right away? Slow down there, friend.
Lots of people dream about their exes. Even happily married people who are harboring absolutely zero affection for their former flames. We’re not sure who needs to hear this, but dreaming about your ex is in no way some kind of sign that you should reach out to them and try to rekindle your romance. Obviously, only you know your exact situation, and we’re certainly not in the business of giving relationship advice — we just don’t want people making rash decisions based on totally normal dreams.
There are several possible reasons you may be having recurring dreams about your ex, and most of them have very little to do with your ex themselves. According to Gary Toub, Ph.D., a senior training analyst at the C.G. Jung Institute of Colorado, the dream version of your ex is probably a symbol of something else. “The biggest mistake you can make when trying to interpret your dream is to think it's actually about the person you just dreamt about," he said.
“Your subconscious mind, or your dream, picks the best possible representation for something that it's trying to symbolize, so if the content is about your ex, you need to look at how that ex symbolizes something within yourself." As for what they symbolize, well, that requires a bit more digging into your own psyche.
Let’s say you had a good relationship with your ex (even if it did ultimately end in a break-up). If you’re feeling stressed right now — maybe due to something like a global pandemic, for instance — your subconscious self may be longing for a time in your life that was easier and more carefree. Thus, your subconscious brings up happier times while you’re dreaming as a kind of release from real-life stress.
What if you didn’t have a good relationship? Again, your brain might be expressing feelings of stress by using another stressful time in your life as a conduit. That could indicate that you’re struggling to cope with stress in real life, and it’s overflowing into your dreams.
Obviously, the business of interpreting dreams is a complicated one, and no one has it 100 percent figured out. However, sleep and dream experts do tend to agree on one thing: Dreams are symbolic and metaphorical. It makes total sense, right? Dreaming that you went to school naked doesn’t mean you should strip down and head outside. In the same way, dreaming about your ex most likely means that your brain is just trying to process something.
If you want to stop dreaming about your ex, you totally can! It may not seem as though we have much control over our dreams (since they happen when we’re asleep, after all), but sleep experts also agree that the thoughts we have while we’re awake (both consciously and subconsciously) influence our dreams.
In order to stop dreaming about your ex, first take some time for introspection and try to figure out what your ex may actually symbolize. Make sure to practice self-care (whatever that means for you personally) to try to reduce stress. Then, when you head to bed, simply tell yourself that you don’t want to dream about your ex. We know it sounds silly, but give it a try anyway! Good luck, and sweet dreams.