This week’s question comes from Nina:
“Hi Orna and Matthew,
What does it mean when you keep dreaming about your ex?
I’m having something weird happen lately that has me concerned about what to do. I broke up with a man I was dating over a year ago. He was verbally abusive and definitely a narcissist. When I first met him though, I was really attracted to him. It wasn’t until later when I saw who he really was that I got out.
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 having these dreams about my ex. When I wake up each morning from the dream and 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.
Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your current situation. This is a great question! We understand that it can feel very disconcerting to be dreaming about your ex, however, we have good news for you about what is going on and we’re excited to share with you what your subconscious mind is processing.
Let’s share with you how dreams work, the cycles of REM sleep, and what they mean for your situation.
During a normal 8 hours of sleep we experience 3 cycles of REM (or Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It is during REM that we are dreaming. Each cycle of REM serves a different purpose.
Sleep is extremely important to our mental health as it serves many different functions, keeping us healthy and happy as well as being able to handle stress. Having a deeper understanding of our dreams can give us insight into how our subconscious mind is processing the information we take in each day.
The first stage of dreaming occurs during the first 3 hours of sleep and is called “Wishful Thinking.”
During this stage our subconscious is categorizing all of the information that we 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 of that information and filing it away. We like the analogy of cleaning the desktop on your computer and putting the files away in their appropriate folders.
It’s like during the day all this information is being opened up on the screen of your mind and this first phase of dreaming is the filing system where the brain is categorizing common things together.
Our brain functions for our survival so an overarching idea is: “This Is Like That.” 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 to achieve a deeper more restful sleep.
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 of the information of the previous day, the subconscious is predicting where you will be going if you continue with the same information.
These predictive dreams are not predicting the actual future. They simply identify the track you’re currently on (like a train track) and if you continue on this path that it’s likely you’ll end up at this particular destination. It’s a logical process not an intuitive one.
Precognitive Dreams are usually not dreams you remember. The rare time that you wake up from a dream in the middle of the night and remember these dreams it is because you are probably experiencing a large amount of stress and your subconscious is predicting that things will continue to get worse.
So being woken up by Precognitive Dreams only occurs when we are under a lot of stress. All change is considered stressful, even when we are moving towards things we desire.
The final stage of dreaming occurs in the early morning just prior to waking up and are called “Venting Dreams.”
These dreams are attempting to release anything that no longer serves us. 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 our usual waking hour) an inordinate amount of importance is placed on these dreams. It would be like focusing and giving importance to what is in your garbage can instead of what you decided to not throw away.
Venting Dreams are the dreams we usually remember (if we remember our dreams) and contain the most useful information when analyzed. There are several parts of a venting dream that are important to take note of.
The first part is to separate the experiences of the dream into 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. Your emotion in the dream is unique to you as people can feel differently about bears, snakes, falling, etc.
The emotion in the dream is how YOU specifically feel about that particular thing.
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.
Another important aspect of a Venting Dream is called the timing cue. This gives you information about when in the past this emotional pattern began. Using our previous example of being at work and having a bear wander in, let’s add in that 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 is this similar to what was going on in your life when you were in High School.
With these tools you can now gain a deeper understanding of what your dreams are really doing and how they are attempting to serve you. Now we can look at your current situation and what this particular dream may mean for you.
Since you stated that you are waking up in the morning from the dream, we 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 we are unsuccessful at releasing the issue or integrating it into our new experience.
Dreaming about your ex (who was verbally abusive and a narcissist) while you are happy with your current boyfriend simply means 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 starts over.
It makes sense that you are waking up feeling out of sorts. As you are happy in your current relationship we suggest you 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 “trash” button in your mind. Let him go! Let your mind catch up to your evolution in this new relationship.
To summarize the three stages of dreaming: The first stage is like cleaning up and organizing from the previous day, the second stage is looking at where you’ll end up if you continue on this path, and the third stage is emptying the trash and integrating new learning.
Through our work with clients all over the globe for more than a decade we often hear people misinterpreting the messages from the subconscious mind. Dreams are only one way that we process new learning and release what doesn’t serve us.
It’s easy to get lost in analysis and not understand what is really going on.
First and foremost we are wired for survival. In today’s modern age, no one needs a great love relationship to survive.
To thrive in life we must have all areas of our lives scoring at an 8-10 – including our romantic relationship. Most people assume that lasting-love will just magically happen with the right person. Unfortunately, we will always have challenges whether we are single or coupled off.
There is no right person where you won’t experience any conflicts or issues. In preparing for long-lasting love it is important that you know what your own subconscious patterns are and if they are serving you to have what you desire.
Annoyed and frustrated that long-lasting love hasn’t worked out for you? Let us show you how you can create the love you want! Take the first step by booking a private session with us.
We are here to be your guides to long-lasting love.
Love and Abundance,