Whenever we have dreams about ex lovers or partners – or any ex somebodies – the first place that we should look for meaning is within ourselves. There is a reason for these dreams – and that reason has something to do with what C.G. Jung said about dreams:
One should never forget that one dreams in the first place, and almost to the exclusion of all else, of oneself. Any exceptions are governed by quite definite rules. If we acknowledge this truth we shall sometimes find ourselves faced with very interesting problems.
I remember two instructive cases: one of my patients dreamed of a drunken tramp who lay in a ditch, and another of a drunken prostitute who rolled about in the gutter. The first patient was a theologian, the second a distinguished lady in high society. Both of them were outraged and horrified, and absolutely refused to admit that they had dreamed of themselves.
I gave them both the well-meant advice that they should spend an hour in self-reflection, diligently and devoutly considering in what ways they were not much better than their drunken brother in the ditch and their drunken sister in the gutter. The subtle process of self-knowledge often begins with a bomb-shell like this. The “other” person we dream of is not our friend and neighbour, but the other in us …
~ C.G. Jung, The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man
Dreams About Exes: Facing the Other in Ourselves
The interesting problems Jung speaks about in the above quote are those problems we encounter whenever we are forced to face something about ourselves.
That’s what real dream interpretation is: consciously facing something about ourselves.
It’s not always a bad thing to face ourselves; sometimes we have to accept something positive. I say this even though words such as good, bad, positive and negative are totally loaded.
One of the most common questions I get when people dream about ex lovers (or friends or enemies) is:
How do I stop dreaming about my ex?
I understand this question. Dreams about ex people in our lives can cause confusion about our current relationships, rip open wounds which never really healed, or even remind us of a painful longing for a love unfulfilled.
Dreams of a love unfulfilled can be really difficult for us to work with because lost love can leave us with the feeling that we missed out on something that should have been. Believing that something in your life should have been anything other than what it was is psychologically dangerous. Should haves are poison for your soul.
But for now, back to that burning question which so many of you ask …
How do I stop dreaming about my ex?
The answer to this question may come as bad news, but don’t be too quick to judge: I don’t know if we ever stop dreaming about ex people in our lives, most especially if these people have made a profound impact on us.
Furthermore, in terms of the depth of the impact someone makes on us, the length of time we have spent or been with another person doesn’t matter at all. Sometimes, people who have been in our lives for only a short time can leave much deeper psychological imprints on us than people we have known far longer.
Keeping in mind what Jung has said about dreaming mostly of ourselves …
Whenever we dream of exes, we always have to ask ourselves why the unconscious has locked in to the image of our ex and what is the unconscious revealing about ourselves.
Dreams About Exes We’d Never Get Back With
I remember one woman who dreamed that she was hugging an ex, wanting to get back with him (in the dream). She said that she woke up with her heart racing in anger because she’d “never get back with him” in real life.
Waking up with this kind of emotion is a good thing! The intensity of the emotion is where you start your dream interpretation.
If you have had a similar dream about wanting to get back with a dreaded ex, then again you have to ask yourself the question:
Why does my dream choose this particular person at this particular time in my life?
That’s always our first point of reflection regarding a dream about an ex. First, because the people in your dreams are reflections of you. Second, because your dream is the unconscious response to your conscious situation.
In terms of your conscious situation, you have to ask yourself whether the dream is a warning. Are you unconsciously falling into an old pattern?
Examine your current life and see if you are getting yourself into trouble. If this is the case, then listen to the dream and back off from this loving embrace.
Dreams About Exes: Seeing Yourself
You really have to shift your perspective whenever you work with dreams.
So first of all, instead of looking your ex in the dream as himself, you have to try to see him as part of yourself – just as Jung said in the quote above.
This does not necessarily mean blindly accepting his bad qualities as a part of yourself. It could be that those bad qualities about him are part of the real guy and not the dream guy.
Assuming those bad qualities are not hers, then who or what is the dreamer embracing in this dream? As I told her, she could be hugging her original impression of him.
Many times our immediate impression of people is intermingled with our unconscious projections. Projection is the unconscious transfer of our own qualities onto another person. Projection is behind that instant spark we sometimes feel when we meet another person.
In essence, we see in another what we cannot see in ourselves.
In this dream, hugging an ex could mean that the woman is really embracing an unconscious part of herself. In order to get to that unconscious part of herself, she has to go back in time and re-experience the way she felt when she first met the guy.
For example, did the original encounter with this man awaken something in her?
Dreams About Ex Lovers and Partners: Recalling the Original Attraction
As I have just said, whenever we dream of reconnecting with ex partners that wake us shuddering in disbelief, we have to go back to that time when we first met the person. We should try to let go of any animosity or resentment about how the relationship ended.
See if you can put yourself back in time and feel what attracted you in the first place. That feeling represents something in you.
When we meet someone for the first time, we can often see all kinds of wonderful character traits, only to find out later that the person is nothing like the person we had imagined.
This is what I mean by projection.
Watch this clip on Jung’s concept of the inner masculine. It’s from an old PBS documentary called a World of Dreams.
Dreams About Ex Boyfriends or Husbands: Examples of inner masculine:
And incidentally, projection doesn’t only happen with lovers. It also happens with friends. Eventually though, reality takes over and our projections begin to fall away. When a person can no longer hold your projections, then the idealized relationship falls apart, giving you the real picture.
From there, we can either recollect that part of ourselves which we unconsciously projected or move on to the next person and go through the process again – and again – until we realize what is happening. I give good examples of this in the post What Does it Mean When We Dream About Someone.
Dreams About Ex Lovers and Partners: Reconnecting with Ourselves
Staying with the above dream about hugging an ex: in the dream, the woman hugged her ex and then found herself wanting a relationship with him again.
Whenever we have these kinds of dreams about ex lovers – where we are locked in a loving embrace of some kind – we have to translate that loving embrace into psychological language.
You have to realize that you are embracing, or reconnecting with, an unrecognized aspect of yourself, not with the actual person.
If such a dream elicits longing, then consider that what you really long for is a connection with this unknown aspect of yourself. And you should also keep in mind that it’s not only your longing. The unconscious also longs to be connected to consciousness.
Even if the dream evokes revulsion, check in with yourself and figure out what that means. As Jung said, spend an hour with yourself, reflecting on the possible aspects of yourself which the ex in your dream symbolizes.
Dreams About Exes: Energetic Exchanges
Another woman dreamed that her ex boyfriend gave her money. Though this is a really short dream, it’s rather packed with potential.
In this dream of an ex, we have the images of money and the ex-boyfriend. Let’s first look at the meaning of money, and after that, we’ll look at the ex boyfriend.
Simply speaking, money is a form of energy; and, the exchange of money is an exchange of energy. In psychological terms, energy is a measure of our vitality, i.e., the available energy we have for engaging life. Sometimes Jung called this a psychological value.
… psychological value is something that has an effect, hence it can be considered from the energetic standpoint without any pretense of exact measurement.
~C.G. Jung, “On Psychological Understanding“
Dreams About Ex Boyfriends
So in a dream, we can look at money as a potential psychological value.
Now let’s look at the ex boyfriend in a woman’s dream:
We know from Carl Jung that a man in a woman’s dream is often symbolic of her inner masculine. Integrating the qualities of our inner masculine makes us more whole.
I often say that integrating the qualities of our inner masculine can help us find our unique purpose life.
Finding that kind of purpose in your life is just like finding true love; it completes you – only it completes you from within yourself.
If you watched the video clip above, remember that your inner masculine represents your own thoughts and ideas about life and how you want to carry them out in this world.
This kind of wholeness is something which will carry you through the course of your life, no matter who or what comes or goes.
Dreams About Ex Boyfriends: Taking Back Your Energy
In this dream about an ex, the old boyfriend giving money to the dreamer is likely symbolic of him giving back the energy of her projections. If you realize what is being passed on from the unconscious, then you will feel an uncanny sense of revitalization.
If you don’t feel that sense of vitality, then you haven’t gotten the message of the dream. You’d have to keep working with it.
Remember that the dream and your associations about your ex should show you something about yourself that you do not already know.
If you can see the part of yourself that have projected onto this person, then try to realize and embody those qualities as an aspect of yourself. For example:
- Do whatever you thought he could do.
- Be whoever you thought he was.
- And it never hurts to examine those not so good qualities because they could certainly be negative shadow qualities.
Dreams About Ex Wives and Ex Girlfriends: the Inner Feminine in Men
Very often, female figures in men’s dreams embody the very qualities which should be a living part of his personality. How you relate to this inner figure affects how you relate to the world around you, and especially, how you relate to women in general. C.G. Jung’s word for the inner feminine of a man was anima.
The anima contains all those common human qualities which the conscious attitude lacks. The tyrant tormented by bad dreams, gloomy forebodings, and inner fears is a typical figure. Outwardly ruthless, harsh, and unapproachable, he jumps inwardly at every shadow, is at the mercy of every mood, as though he were the feeblest and most impressionable of men.
Thus his anima contains all those fallible human qualities his persona lacks. If the persona is intellectual, the anima will quite certainly be sentimental.
C.G. Jung, Psychological Types
Here’s a clip from C.G. Jung’s essay, Approaching the Unconscious, from Man and His Symbols (highly recommend this book for anyone – at any level).
Recurring Dreams of an Ex Girlfriend
The man had accepted what happened and he wanted to move on, but the dreams of his ex were disrupting that process.
Keeping in mind what Jung said about the anima being a part of yourself, if you are a man in this situation of constantly dreaming about an ex, then you should understand that the dream is using the image of your ex in order to get you to see something about yourself.As I said, many times we fall in love with someone, or are attracted to someone, because we see something in that person which we do not see in ourselves.
Again, the word for that is projection. The unconscious always projects unrecognized qualities of ourselves onto others.
We do not do this consciously; projection is an autonomous dynamic of the unconscious.
The aim of a recurring dream about your ex is for you to see that projected psychological value in yourself. Remember, that value, doesn’t necessarily mean desirability or benefit. It simply means a measurable quantity or quality.
Dreams About Exes: The Inner Meaning of Women in Men’s Dreams
As I said earlier, you have to go back in time to when you first met your ex. What was it about the woman that first attracted you?
Sometimes, the dream woman can be symbolic of an artistic endeavor which wants to come to life through you. This is where the concept of the muse came from. Though a woman in the real world could constellate your muse, your muse is ultimately an inner figure.
Dreams About Our Partner’s Ex
A woman once shared a dream about her boyfriend’s ex girlfriend kissing him. Now, with a dream such as this one, we’re really descending into the depths of unconscious, psychological associations. Again we have to explore why the unconscious would choose the image of the ex girlfriend of her current boyfriend.
What does the dream about an ex girlfriend of her boyfriend show her about herself?
Here we see the dreamer’s inner masculine coming together with an unconscious part of the dreamers’ femininity. So, the ex girlfriend is likely a shadow figure of some kind.
Again, if you dreamed this dream, you have to ask yourself, “what is it about this ex girlfriend that could be like myself?”
You can start working with a dream like this immediately upon waking by registering how the dream made you feel.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s a symbolic psychic image of a psychological process. It is an image for something within you, and most likely, not a literal statement. And it is especially a NOT commentary about you “thinking about” or “being jealous” of your partner’s ex.
Dreams about Our Partner’s Ex: the Symbolism of Kissing
Always keep in mind that your dreams reveal something about yourself – something of which you are unconscious. Psyche uses the objective world and the people in it in order to build bridges between your consciousness and the unconscious.
As I have said in another post, kissing indicates a very close or intimate relationship. When we look at that symbolically in a dream, it can mean psychological integration.
If you have this kind of dream, one where you see your partner’s ex up close and personal with your partner, then you have to take a close look at what each of these dream figures mean to you. Only then can you begin to understand what it means for them to come together.
Sometimes, it’s easy to recognize that a particular person in a dream is a reference to ourselves. Other times, it’s not so easy.
The dream is an attempt at psychic balance. If we can find the place in our lives where the dream tries to fill in what’s missing, then we become more whole. This wholeness is actually the aim of all dreams.
To become more whole is not about becoming a better person, it’s just about being real with who and what you are.
Want to learn more about working with dreams or Jungian Psychology?
- Dreams of Father Dying: A Symbolic Rite of Passage - February 15, 2020
- Dreams About Dead Fathers: It’s Time to Re-Think or Update Your Conscious Attitude - February 14, 2020
- Nightmare Meaning and Nightmare Disorder:A Jungian Perspective - January 22, 2020
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