In a dream I had a few nights ago, my friend Cyrus and I were trying to save an apartment building in Scotland from burning to the ground. A few nights later, I dreamed that I slept with my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Forbes, and the whole time, I was really worried about what she thought about my body. Super weird, right? Upon waking, it really got me wondering, why am I dreaming about these particular people? Like, what does it mean when you dream about someone?
According to clinical psychologist Dr. John Mayer, dreaming about a particular person can mean a variety of things, and it can happen for a whole host of reasons.
He shares with Elite Daily why certain people might be appearing in your dream world:
The analogy of a brain being like a computer is accurate.
What happens is, when you fall into sleep, those thoughts and images and data that are spinning in your brain prior to sleep — those things are going to continue to spin throughout the night.
He adds that you don't really know how that "data" stored in your "computer" (aka the thoughts, memories, perceptions, and experiences you might have had throughout the day, or even in the days prior) might appear in a dream. And as for why these people enter your dreams in the first place, you might have had a thought, sensation, or experience that stimulated an association with someone — without even being aware of it.
"We have no control of how all that information you receive during the day might show up as you sleep," Dr. Mayer explains. "That's why it can sometimes make people uncomfortable."
Yeah, sleeping with your kindergarten teacher is definitely uncomfortable, my dude.
Here are a few other common people you might tend to dream about while you're sleeping, and what it might mean about your relationship with them.
Dr. Mayer tells Elite Daily there's no one-size-fits-all reason for why someone shows up in your dream, and that it's pretty unique to each person and their experiences and associations.
So, if your parents are showing up in your dream, yes, it could symbolize an unresolved issue or childhood memory. But it could also be a lot more simple or even more random than that.
For example, Dr. Mayer explains, say your mother gave you a coat, and you decided to wear it one day. Even if you don't really consciously think about your mom much while you have that coat on, she's still implicitly associated with the object, and those subconscious associations can absolutely show up in your dreams.
The dream might also be sparked by a feeling. Like, if you're feeling lonely throughout the day, for example, and you think about calling your mother. That "data" might show up in a dream represented by your mother's presence.
While it could be as simple as seeing a movie that celebrity was in, or having a major crush on said star, Dr. Mayer brings it back to your perceptual mind, and the data you perceive throughout the day that might not make its way to your conscious thoughts:
In rushing to the office today, I might pass in downtown Chicago a young woman with hair exactly like Michelle Pfeiffer in the last movie I saw with her in it. It could be out of the corner of my eye. I might not even think of her consciously. And then she shows up in a dream!
Or maybe you had a tequila with a colleague, and George Clooney is in your dream that night because he owned a tequila company, and somewhere in your brain, you have that knowledge stored, and that association was made in your sleep.
Crazy stuff, right?
Dr. Mayer says worry not about this one, even though he admits many of his patients often do. Dreaming about your ex doesn't mean you're still in love or have unresolved feelings, or even that you're unhappy with your current relationship status, whatever it may be.
Maybe you had great sex with this partner and you're yearning for physical contact. Or, again, maybe it's as simple as contact with an object; perhaps you used a scented lotion that you often used around the time you dated your ex.
That said, dreams can be a great way to start unpacking what might be going on with you if it feels like it might be deeper than just random data.
Dreams come as a result of your mind putting these connections and associations together in ways that might not always make sense to you, so it doesn't hurt to try to wrap your brain around them, know what I'm saying?
Dr. Mayer says friends are a good example of how intricate the reasons can actually be for why a person is popping up in your dreams. He gives the example of the Chicago Marathon being a potential catalyst for a dream about his friend with whom he once ran the marathon.
He tells Elite Daily,
The marathon is grueling, it’s strenuous. And during the actual experience, one might think, what the hell am I doing this for?
Part of the experience associated with my friend, a good friend, might be strain or unhappiness or struggle. So, when that friend that I ran the marathon with shows up in a dream, maybe it's something like the two of us together in jail, or being in a dessert.
There is an underlying association with struggle (or difficulty, endurance, maybe thirst) during something we experienced together.
Anyone else feeling seriously mind-blown yet?
When it comes to dreaming about a boss, or a similar figure of authority, Dr. Mayer says to consider the fundamental concepts behind that person as they relate to you. Maybe your boss represents hard work and demands for you. Maybe they symbolize strength and motivation. Or maybe it's just simply stress and work anxiety.
Again, Dr. Mayer says that analyzing the people who appear in your dreams can be a really telling and interesting peek into your mind that could ultimately lead to some pretty cool self-discovery.
And that's really what we're all after in this life, amirite?