- Mental Health
Interpreting the Ex as a Dream Symbol
Introduction to Ex Dreams
One of the more perplexing dreams that dreamers report having are those dealing with dreams involving exes.
No matter if the break-up was amicable or heart-wrenching, or if the dreamer was the leaver or the leavee, or if the break-up was years in the past or just a few days ago, dreams of exes always perplex dreamers--but for different reasons.
Those involved in a fresh break-up where emotions are still raw may see the dreams as indicators that a reunion is on the horizon.
Those for who the break-up happened so long ago they hardly think of the former partner may wonder why s/he is now a dream character.
Here are some ideas as to why exes appear in dreams and how to interpret them and the messages that bring--some of which may be surprising.
Ex Dreams as Wish Fulfilment
Don't You Want Me, Baby?
Dreams Occurring After Recent Break-Ups
Dreams about exes--boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, lovers--tend to occur most prolifically immediately following a breakup.
Because one is still raw with emotion and the dreams following the dissolution of the relationship are more or less attempts to sort out and process the unresolved feelings left in the wake of the breakup.
Dreams following a breakup may be least likely to give much symbolic information, yet may provoke the strongest emotions.
If one still misses the ex, or if the breakup was not the dreamer's choice, dreaming about the ex may provoke feelings of longing or hope--especially if the dream indicates a reunion is imminent.
On the other hand, dreams of an ex with whom one experienced a bitter break-up or felt the sting of betrayal, are likely to invoke feelings of anger, resentment, rage or grief.
No matter how the dream manifests, the sad truth is that it is highly unlikely that the dream is a prophecy promoting a reunion.
In fact, most dreams about recent break-ups are know as "wish fulfillment" dreams, which are covered below.
Sterling Broken Heart Ring
Wear this as a reminder that even broken hearts remain whole deep on the inside.
Don't You Want Me, Baby? Wish Fulfillment Dreams
After the initial breakup, or rather, after the breakup that one finally comprehends is THE breakup, the one that is final and real, a certain feeling of denial sets in.
This is the stage of the breakup where one feels that peculiar, odd feeling of calmness, of detachment, of complete understanding that the relationship is over.
Moreover, there is an feeling that it is good that the relationship is over, and that one has reached a maturity level wherein one can completely accept the end of the relationship with no need for grief, pain, tears or remorse.
This feeling is the beauty known as denial.
Denial is that feeling that breaks the fall, that holds the dreamer in check until she can actually come to grips with the shock of some waking life event and grieve properly.
During the denial stage, dreamers are likely to experience very pleasant dreams of the ex--dreams of reconciliation, dreams of things being as they were prior to the breakup, dreams of complete resolution, of things being better than they were even when the relationship was going well.
Such optimistic dreams are likely to lead dreamers to see such dreams as prophecies--indications that somehow, someway, all that could not be worked out in the waking world somehow will.
Such dreams are likely to lead to feelings that one has been involved in a romance that one might equate to being one of soul mate quality with dreams offering proof of the that status.
Sadly, these dreams are more than likely not prophetic.
Instead reconciliation dreams shortly after a breakup likely fall into the category of dreams known as "wish fulfillment" dreams.
Wish fulfillment dreams occur when there is sever dissonance in what the waking world has dealt the dreamer instead of what the dream envisioned would be the outcome of a waking life experience.
To compensate for this dissonance, dreams that fulfill the dreamers wish occur to give a kind of balance to the overwhelming disappointment one feels but cannot process nor find an apt solution for in the waking world.
The reason so many wish fulfillment dreams feel so prophetic, feel so much like things that simply must come to pass is because there are specifically designed to make the dreamer feel that way--to feel the hope at least in the unconscious areas of the psyche so as to soften the conscious mind until it can regain its footing.
It is imperative not to view such dreams as prophecies because doing so will ultimately only cause the dream more pain--pain the dreams are specifically attempting to alleviate.
Bell Bottom Blues - Clapton, Derek and the Dominoes
Learning to Interpret the Ex Symbolically
At this point, the ex in the dream begins to give the dreamer more information and insight that previously when he or she was acting basically as a mirror to the actual waking life person known to the dreamer.
Some things to consider when attempting to understand what an ex means in a dream are:
- The ex's career. Many people not only define themselves, but their partners by their careers. Instead of saying, "I practice medicine" most people make the declarative statement "I am a doctor." What was your ex's career? Was she a dentist? Did she sell used cars? Was he a therapist? A stand up comedian? Look at the career of the ex in the dream and ask what symbolic message that career holds. Remember--you are dreaming of an ex--if your ex was a stand-up comedian, is it possible that laughter has been excised from life?
- Think back to the time period spent with the ex. What were the living circumstances back then? Were there financial problems? Were there goals dreamed of but never pursued? What significant life events took place at that time? The ex in a dream may be a stand in for either unresolved issues from that time or the ex may be reminding the dreamer to pursue forgotten goals.
- What kind of abode was inhabited--an owned home, a rented apartment, a basement in a relatives house? Homes often stand-in for parts of the self or the body. If one is currently living in a home but dreaming of living in a basement with an ex, this could indicate that the dreamer still feels as if he is living underground, or could indicate some form of depression.
- Outside of struggles with the ex, what other events were occurring? Were children born? Were new careers started? Think of the the ex in these terms and see if waking life is mirroring the past. See if there is any wisdom from the past that can be applied to current conditions.
- Think of friends that were around during the time of the relationship. Are they still a part of one's life? If not, why?
When an ex appears in a dream, attempt to analyze him or her precisely as one would any other dream character--one must forget that the person one was involved with personally and think of the ex as a person one knows just like any other person from waking life.
Attempt to describe, with complete objectivity the ex to person who as never met him or her before. Describe what s/he did, does, where s/he is now (if known), what s/he was passionate about, etc.
This is important because as odd as it sounds, by the time one has recovered from the grief of the lost relationship, the ex may be standing in as an anima/animus figure--the hidden male within the female.
More on the anima/animus can be found in the "Dig Deeper" section below.
When the Ex Becomes a Symbol
However, dreams of exes that occur after extended periods of absence from the ex generally carry completely different meanings and are often give far more profitable information to help the dreamer gain greater personal insight and power.
Once the initial phase of dreaming of a recent ex has passed, one may still experience dreams about one's ex, however, at this point, the ex has generally become more of a symbol for something rather than representing the actual person the ex was.
It is at this point that the ex can begin to be a source of valuable symbolic information rather than a source of grief or pain.
Read on to discover howl
Exes as Carry Overs of Old Patterns
As previously pointed out, one of the questions dreamers should ask when attempting to interpret the ex as a symbol, key questions to ask and ponder are those that involve an introspective look at the time, time period and activities one spent with one's ex.
One must not only account for daily activities and life events, but one must also think back to the emotions one experienced during that time.
Once this has been done, one should look to the waking world and see if similar situations exist, even on a symbolic level, in the current waking world.
The reason this is important is that the ex may be communicating the message that one's life is existing, that one's reactions are on par with, that one's life circumstances are precisely the same as they were when one was with one's ex.
What this can mean is that one is continuing to carry on with habits and ways of life one swore off after leaving the ex behind.
The reason this analysis is important is because all too often people in general blame their life failures on the connections they have made with the wrong mate.
All too often one feels that if only one had not been involved with the ex, things would have gone much better. The ex is blamed for anything failed or sabotaged in life.
While it is certainly true that they are companions who are vindictive for no reason and who carry malice in their hearts, the truth is that the only constant in any relationship is you. Characters may come and go from one's life, but one remains the same no matter who enters and exits the house of the soul.
Dreams of exes may painfully be pointing out ways in which the dreamer is like the ex or alternatively they may point out the behaviours, thoughts, and beliefs that the dreamer has that almost magically conjure the type of person that will reinforce one's negative opinion of one's self and keep one locked in a space of static non growth and eternal return of repeated mistakes.
It is important to look at the time one spent with the ex to see if there are any similarities between that time and the present.
- Carl Jung and the Jungian Anima Archetype
Information designed to help the reader gain a basic understanding of the Jungian anima archetype.
- Carl Jung and the Jungian Animus Archetype
Information designed to help the reader gain a basic understanding of the Jungian animus archetype.
- Carl Jung and the Jungian Shadow Archetype
A guide to helping the reader understand more about the Jungian shadow archetype.
- Carl Jung and the Four Primary Jungian Archetypes
Informs the reader about the concept of the four primary Jungian archetypes: the archetypal Self, the archetypal Shadow, the Animus archetype, and the Anima archetype.
Dreams about exes usually fall into three categories:
- Wish fulfillment dreams--dreams that attempt to compensate for the loss in the waking life by fulfilling the dreamer's desire in the realm of sleep.
- Dreams that are processing the issues related to the break-up thereby assisting the dreamer with resolving relationship issues so that the process of going forward without can move more swiftly and the dreamer can resolve the relationship and continue moving forward in life.
- Dreams where the ex is showing up in a highly symbolic capacity and needs to be interpreted from a lens that extends beyond the physical person the dreamer knew in the waking world.
It is up to the dreamer to determine which category the ex in the dream falls into. It is also imperative that the dreamer not leap to the conclusion that dreams of exes are prophecies of reunion so as to avoid adding more heartache on top of heartbreak.