This week's question comes from Nina:
“Hi Orna and Matthew,
I keep dreaming about my ex and it has me really confused.
I broke up with him over 5 years ago because he was verbally abusive and definitely a narcissist. When I first met him though, I was really attracted to him and I thought he might be The One. It wasn’t until later when I saw who he really was that I got out. It took me a long time to get over that relationship
I’m currently dating a really great guy. In fact, we’re talking about moving in together. He is the opposite of my ex – kind, thoughtful, supportive. He’s a really great guy and I’m so glad we’re together.
The problem is… I keep dreaming about my ex. When I wake up each morning from the dream I feel so out of sorts. I don’t know what to do with this! Am I supposed to be with him? What is my subconscious telling me?
I really hope you can help me sort this out as I am feeling really confused right now. I’ve chosen the wrong partner for me before, and that is something I do not want to do again.
Yes, it can feel very disconcerting to keep dreaming about your ex when you are in a committed relationship with another man. However, these dreams could be good news from your subconscious mind when you understand the purpose of your dreams.
Dreaming about your ex can trigger a lot of conflicting thoughts and emotions. Are you supposed to get back with him? Does this mean that you’ll see him again? Is he thinking about you?
All of this can lead you to feeling out of sorts and concerned for your current relationship. That makes perfect sense, and we want you to understand that your feelings are appropriate.
To understand why you keep dreaming about your ex, you’ll need to understand how dreams work, the cycles of REM sleep, and what they mean for your current situation.
Where Do Dreams Come From?
Dreams are messages from your subconscious mind. And your subconscious doesn’t communicate with you directly. It communicates in your dreams through symbol, imagery, story, and metaphor. It also communicates through your physical body as physical sensation. Your feelings (whether physical or emotional) are signals from your subconscious that you need to pay attention to something.
For example, the pain you feel in your ankle after you’ve injured it is a signal to pay attention to that injury and not to put your weight on that foot until it heals.
Another example is when you feel anger at someone for cutting you off in traffic. The anger is a reaction to a deeper emotional story you have about what it means to you. Maybe you feel disrespected, or it feels unfair, or you don’t feel safe. The anger is your subconscious’ way of drawing attention to the underlying story and meaning you carry around about this type of event.
While you’re dreaming, your subconscious uses symbols, metaphors, and stories to give you insight about the events in your life.
What does it mean when you’re called to ask, “Why am I dreaming about my ex?”
It means that your subconscious wants to draw your attention to something about that situation to understand it more deeply.
Are There Universal Dream Symbols?
There are many dream interpreters who believe that symbols within a dream are universal. It does make sense that if you dream of your teeth falling out that you are probably feeling some anxiety.
But what does it mean when you keep dreaming about your ex? Is there a universal meaning behind these types of dreams?
This would only make sense if the circumstances were the same in all past relationships or that everyone had the same experience from a break-up. Since what happened between you and your ex is unique to the two of you, then your dream is unique to you as well.
If you look up dreaming about my ex in a book trying to find some universal meaning won’t be helpful because the details of your specific relationship and current situation will not be considered in the text.
Instead of looking for a universal meaning, you’ll receive much more benefit and understanding by exploring clues in your dream that will bring you the insights you are looking for.
How Do You Stop Dreaming About Your Ex?
The key to finding peace of mind when you keep dreaming about your ex comes from looking at specific details within the dream itself. The dream about your ex is specific to you and the meaning of it is specific to you as well.
Dreams are your mind’s way of processing what is going on in your daily life. They are a vital part of keeping your mind healthy and functioning. People who experience a consistent lack of sleep have trouble remembering things, thinking clearly, solving problems, as well as issues with their ability to reason.
Sleeping and dreaming are essential to keeping your mind and body functioning at an optimal level. Even if you don’t remember them does not mean that you aren’t dreaming. REM sleep (when your dreams occur) increases brain activity and promotes learning.
Examining your dreams by knowing what time of night they occurred as well as the plot points in them will reveal the answer to: Why am I dreaming about my ex?
How Often Do You Dream At Night?
During a normal 8 hours of sleep, you experience 3 cycles of REM (or Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It is during REM that you are dreaming your most vivid dreams. Each cycle of REM serves a different purpose.
Sleep is extremely important to your mental health as it serves many different functions, keeping you healthy and happy as well as being able to handle stress. Understanding the function of dreaming while you sleep can give you insights into how your subconscious mind processes the information you take in each day.
Wishful Thinking – The First Dreaming Stage
The first stage of dreaming occurs during the first 3 hours of sleep and is called “Wishful Thinking.” During this stage your subconscious is categorizing all the information that you have collected during the day. This information includes sensory information, emotional information, experiential information, as well as data.
You could say that your subconscious is categorizing all that information so that it could file it away. Your mind is organizing all the information you collected during the day and metaphorically cleaning the desktop on your computer and putting the files away in their appropriate folders. Similar emotions, experiences, data get grouped together through the subconscious filing system.
These “Wishful Thinking” dreams are also the type you experience when you take a nap during the day. These dreams do not have much significance in their meaning. It’s simply a necessary process for the brain and body to achieve restful sleep.
These dreams are not ones you usually remember, so it’s unlikely that dreaming about your ex would occur during the Wishful Thinking stage.
Precognitive Dreaming – The Second Dreaming Stage
The second stage of dreaming occurs in the middle of the night and is called “Precognitive Dreaming.”
In this stage the subconscious mind is attempting to predict the future. After categorizing all the information of the previous day, the subconscious is predicting where you will be going if you continue along the path you’re on with the same data.
These dreams are not actually predicting the future. They simply identify the track you’re currently on (like a train track) and if you continue it’s likely you’ll end up at this particular destination. This is a logical process not an intuitive one.
Precognitive Dreams are rarely recalled after waking in the morning. The rare time that you wake from these dreams in the middle of the night is because you are probably experiencing a large amount of stress, and your subconscious is predicting that things will continue to get worse. (Again, this is a logical assumption made by your subconscious mind, not a prediction of what’s to come.)
Venting Dreams – The Third Stage Of Dreaming
The final stage of dreaming occurs in the early morning just prior to waking up, these are called “Venting Dreams.”
These dreams are attempting to release anything that no longer serves you. They can also be dreams integrating new learning, or a combination of the two.
As most people remember their Venting Dreams (because they occur close to your usual wake up time) an inordinate amount of importance is placed on them. It would be like focusing and giving importance to what is in your garbage can instead of what you decided to not throw away.
You can liken these dreams to your mind hitting the EMPTY TRASH button on your computer.
Because Venting Dreams are the ones you usually remember, you can mine them for useful information. In order to analyze these dreams, take note of a couple things…
Analyzing Your Dreams
Discovering The Primary Emotional Experience
The first step is to separate the experiences in the dream from everyday known experiences and unique experiences. The everyday aspects of a dream (i.e. you are in your house or at work) are not that important as these are “normal” every day occurrences or items. What is useful to note are any unique aspects of your dream.
For example, you are at work in the dream and suddenly a large bear wanders into the office. The large bear is a symbol your subconscious is using to represent something important to you. To get to the importance of the symbol, ask yourself how you feel about it. Does the bear frighten you? Does it bring you comfort? Etc.
This will give you the primary emotional experience the dream is venting or integrating. The emotions you feel in the dream are unique to you as people can feel differently about bears, snakes, spiders, falling, etc.
The emotion in the dream is how YOU specifically feel about that particular thing or event. You may love roller coasters, whereas they might terrify your best friend. When you’re looking to analyze a dream, you want to make it personal to you because it’s your subconscious creating the symbol and/or metaphor.
Discovering The Source Of The Emotional Pattern
The next step to analyze a Venting Dream is to identify what is called the “Timing Cue.” This gives you information about when in the past this emotional pattern began. Using the previous example of being at work and having a bear wander in, what if you were with your high school friends in your current office. The presence of your old friends reveals the root of when the emotional pattern began. The question you want to ask yourself is: How is this pattern relevant in your current circumstances?
Let’s say that you were frightened by the bear and caught off guard by its appearance. You could ask yourself what is going on in your current work situation where you feel afraid of something unexpected happening and how this is similar to what was going on in your life when you were in High School.
With these tools you can now understand the purpose and function of your dreams. Knowing what to give importance to, and what to release so you can move down a new path.
What Does It Mean When You Keep Dreaming About Your Ex?
Since you stated that you are waking up in the morning from the dream, you can assume that this is a Venting Dream, meaning your subconscious is attempting to release you from an old pattern.
Because you keep having the dream, this means that you are not getting the message. Dreams repeat because you are unsuccessful at releasing the issue or integrating it into your new experience.
Dreaming about your ex (who was verbally abusive and a narcissist) while you are happy with your current boyfriend can be an indication that you are at a new place in your life and ready to release all the trauma of that past relationship.
Having this dream multiple times means that you have not “thrown away” all the discomfort you felt in that relationship. You have moved on and yet each time your subconscious attempts to vent it away you have instead been thinking about your ex and what he may or may not still mean to you. Spending time another day thinking about him then instigates you having the dream again and the cycle repeats.
It makes sense that you are waking up feeling out of sorts. As you are happy in your current relationship, you can let your mind release your abusive ex. The next time you wake up having had this dream (or similar) about him you can know that you’ve hit the “empty trash” button in your mind. Let him go! Let your mind catch up to your evolution in this new relationship.
If, after examining your dreams, you’re still confused and unsure of their meaning, or you’ve now discovered you’re in a pattern that you cannot break, it’s time to get some professional help.
Selecting a life partner is a big decision and you can mitigate the risks involved if you know what to look for besides just your feelings for him. Your feelings are always temporary, and every great guy doesn’t make an ideal match for you.
If you’re the kind of person who wants lasting love with a someone who gets you, that you trust and share great chemistry with, join us for a complimentary Soulmate Strategy Session so we can get bring clarity to the type of relationship that would truly fulfill you long-term.
Orna and Matthew Walters are Soulmate Coaches who have been featured guest experts on Bravo’s THE MILLIONAIRE MATCHMAKER. They uncover subconscious blocks to love so that you can select an ideal partner to share your life with. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.