How to Interpret Dreams You Have About Practically Anyone

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Once, not all that long ago, I had a dream about a co-worker I barely worked with. This person and I didn’t interact all that much. So why were they showing up in my dreams? It was unnerving and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it — or the other seemingly random and not so random people who’ve popped up in my dreams before.

While a dream about someone like a significant other might seem obvious, there are possible interpretations that are pretty unexpected. The same can be said for the sleep-time appearance of a celebrity or a parent.

Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, professional dream analyst and author, tells the Cut how to interpret the people and scenarios we envision in our dreams the most. Whether it’s an ex, a parent, a co-worker, or even a celebrity, keep reading to find out why, for better or for worse, we can’t seem to get them out of our heads.

If you dream about your ex …  
“The most common ex that we tend to dream about is our first love. In fact, we’ll dream about that person even 50 years since we’ve been with them. The reason why that particular ex tends to keep showing up in our dreams is that they symbolize what first love feels like — passion, excitement, always wanting to be together, being desired, and all those magical feelings. So the first love will show up whenever our current relationship gets a little routine and humdrum and we need to spice it up and bring back those feelings. They can also show up when we’re in a dry spell and we haven’t been in a relationship for a while.”

If you dream about your mother …  
“We tend to dream about the mother more than the father figure. In fact, on average, we tend to dream of our mothers or a mother figure about once a week. It’s important to remember, though, especially when you’re figuring out what the different people in your dream mean, that all figures actually represent a part of yourself. The dreaming mind will show us the different bits of our personality in the form of a person. So, that being said, if you’re a mother and you dream about your mother or a mother figure, that’s going to represent your role as mom. Pay attention to how she is in the dream. Is she helpful? Is she ill? Is she dying? Is she in trouble? However she is portrayed in the dream is a reflection of how you are seeing yourself as a mom.”

Loewenberg adds: “If you’re not a mother, then go ahead and look at your current relationship with your mom. If there’s no issue there, then she will represent the part of you that is nurturing, takes care of yourself, and is nurturing to others around you.”

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If you dream about your co-workers … 
“If it’s a co-worker you deal with on a daily basis — someone you work closely with — then they probably will be playing themselves. And so whatever is going on in the dream will reflect whatever is going on between you and the co-worker in real life.”

But how about a co-worker you don’t interact with often? Loewenberg says the following: “They’re going to represent some part of yourself. So ask yourself — and this is a rule that you want to apply with every person that shows up in your dream — what stands out to you about this co-worker? What is their outstanding quality? What is the first thing you think of when you think about this co-worker? Maybe the co-worker you’re dreaming about is a tech expert and is really good at fixing computers if something goes wrong. Apply that quality to yourself. Do you need to take on that quality just for your job or in general? Do you feel that you need to be more of a get-it-done-and-fix-it kind of person?”

If you dream about a significant other …  
“Pay really close attention to their behavior and their condition in the dream. For example, a really common dream we’ll have surrounding our significant other is that we can’t find them … That can indicate one of two things. It could mean that you miss them and that you’re not spending enough time with them, because maybe they’re always working or maybe it’s a long-distance relationship. The other thing it can mean is that you’re looking for a way to better connect — remember that couples can live together yet have no connection anymore.”

If you dream about your significant other cheating …  
“First, has there been infidelity in this relationship? If yes, that just shows that there’s still distrust. But if this dream seems to be coming out of left field and you have no reason at all to suspect them, the dream doesn’t mean that they are. It can mean that you feel that there is a third wheel in the relationship, like work or golf or a new baby — something that is causing you to feel cheated out of your time and attention with the significant other.”

If you dream about your significant other dying …  
“Don’t look at that literally! Dreams are symbolic. If you look at it literally, you’re going to freak yourself out. In a dream, death represents something ending or changing. So, is there some kind of big change going on in your relationship? Are you reaching a new level? Did you suddenly get engaged? Or is your significant other changing in some way? Have they lost a lot of weight? Did they get a promotion, and now there’s not enough time with each other and that relationship is changing in that respect? Assess things with that kind of approach.”

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If you dream about someone who has already died … 
“If you dream of someone who has died, they will likely represent a personality trait that you both share. Or they can represent who you were when they were alive and in your life. For example, if you have a childhood friend who has passed away and you dream of them, they could represent who you were back when you were friends and they were alive.”

If you dream about someone famous …  
“Celebrities are really fun to dream about! One of the most common dreams of a celebrity is that you’re friends with them and you’re hanging out with them. It can be a celebrity you really like or it can be someone who seems random … Regardless, the celebrity is going to represent some part of yourself that, like a celebrity, you feel deserves recognition and perhaps even applause. Ask yourself what the celebrity is best known for. Is it a song? Look at the title or the lyrics of that song because chances are there will be something relevant to your life in either the title or lyrics. If the celebrity is an actor, are they best known for a TV show or a movie? Then ask yourself if something is relevant to you in the title of that show or movie, in the story line, or, perhaps, in the character they play — maybe you relate to that.”

Is there a particular celebrity you know of that oftentimes appears in people’s dreams? 
“I remember there was a time when Oprah was the most dreamt of celebrity … but I would say that, overall, in all the years I’ve been doing this, it would probably be the president at the time that I get asked about the most.”

How to Interpret Dreams About Practically Anyone