What Do Dreams of Someone Else Mean?

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Last Modified 13 December 2023   First Added 18 March 2022

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Dreams of other people have a wide amount of variation – they could be about someone you like, your partner, an ex, someone you’ve just met, or someone you used to know many years ago. They could also be about a complete stranger or a famous person in a very ordinary setting. Some people even believe that dreams about someone else mean that the subject of the dream is thinking of them, or perhaps missing them.

What does it mean when you dream of someone else?

Dreams about someone else can have varied meanings. Typically, the meanings are centred around who that exact “someone else” is. However, regardless of who it is you’re dreaming of, one of the most common reasons for doing so is due to a deep connection with that person. This person is likely dear to you, someone with whom you have created lots of memories and who holds a special meaning in your life.

Even if this person is a celebrity you’ve never met, they may have been in a movie or sing a song that you love. These people have brought out emotions in you, perhaps fear or maybe admiration. Either way, these emotions have been ingrained in your mind and are resurfaced in your dream.

But what about those people you hardly recognise or someone you’ve hardly spoken to? Dreaming about someone you don’t know may be more about the symbol they represent in your life at that moment, rather than the actual person.

We have unpacked some of the most common people that may appear in dreams and what their appearance may mean.

Common meanings behind dreaming of someone

There’s a huge variety of dreams about other people. Here, we’ll teach you all about the related symbols and themes to deepen your understanding of what these dreams might mean for your life.

1. Dreaming about someone you like

Because dreams reflect the concerns and preoccupations of our waking lives, the people we really like and think a lot about are bound to appear in our dreams too. If you have or have had a crush on someone and you thought about them all the time during your waking hours, this is likely to be reflected in them being in your unconscious mind and finding themselves in your dreams. It’s really that simple and it doesn’t mean that they are thinking of you at the same time.

According to Dream Interpretation, dreaming of the person you like is one of those dreams that doesn’t have a single meaning but it is possible to understand the dream’s motivation. It’s your attachment to that person, plus the number of times you’ve thought about him or her that drives your subconscious to want to keep a fix on that person, even during your dreams.

2. Dreaming about someone famous

Celebrities and other famous people appearing in our dreams can represent a part of ourselves that we want recognition and applause for, according to certified dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg  Dreaming of famous people may expose your desire to be noticed and celebrated. They can reveal your unacknowledged potential, projected onto a dream character, so the person you’re dreaming about may represent qualities in yourself.

In an interview with Readers Digest, Loewenberg explains, “The message that celebrity brings to you can be found in the title of the song or maybe the lyrics or the character you know them from. There’s something your subconscious identifies from it that applies to you and your life right now.”

This idea is backed up by behavior therapist Shelley Smith who told The Huffington Post, “a person dreaming about [a celebrity] is seeking inspiration…or some characteristic that is associated with that celebrity.”

So if you ever dream about being served by Beyoncé in a supermarket, the meaning of the dream could be as simple and direct as her famous lyrics, “if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.” Likely translation: don’t delay in proposing to a loved one.

3. Dreaming about someone you hardly know

Perhaps even stranger than dreaming about an ex-partner or someone we once knew, is dreaming about someone we don’t even know. About 50 per cent of the people we dream about are people unfamiliar to us, according to a study in Psychology Today.

Neuroscientist Patrick McNamara says this is proof that dreams don’t necessarily mimic our everyday lives. “Instead they appear to be about other matters, matters and characters that we cannot capture adequately with images derived from everyday life.”

4. Dreaming about your ex

Dreaming about your ex can be disconcerting if you’re now in a relationship with someone else. Fortunately, these dreams don’t mean you want to get back together.

There are many different ways in which an ex can come to appear in your dreams. For instance, the person you dream of could be your first love or a recent ex-partner. The interactions in the dream can vary widely. You could be arguing, falling in love or getting back together, your ex could be apologising, or the dream could even get physical.

5. Dreaming about someone from school

What does it mean when right out of the blue you dream about someone you used to know very well, perhaps an old friend from school who you haven’t thought about for years? According to Psychology Today, dreams of being in school are common among adults of all ages. In fact, in dream surveys, being in school typically ranks among the top five dream categories in frequency, even among adults who have been out of school for decades (e.g. Mathes et al., 2014). The most common school dream themes are missing classes all term and therefore being likely to fail exams, and being unable to find the classroom.

However, the significance of this kind of dream might not always be as deep as you might imagine. It’s quite possible that you saw someone earlier in the day who reminded your brain of a former friend and your mind stored away the information without you even realising it.

6. Dreaming about marrying someone

If you dreamed about marrying someone it’s likely to be a memorable one. And the meaning depends on whom you’re marrying. If you have a dream about marrying someone you wouldn’t dare marry in your waking life, don’t panic. Dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg told Bustle that you’ll want to “ask yourself what stands out about them to you.” She added, “Maybe they are always volunteering and doing charitable work. That would likely be what they represent to you, in which case your subconscious is proposing the idea of being more charitable in your own life.”

Meaning(s) of the dream:

Dream analysis is more of an art than a science, and the meanings of dreams vary culturally, historically and according to who is making the analysis.

In terms of dreaming of someone else, interpretations rely hugely on the individual’s unique circumstances. Articles on dream analysis often personify the subconscious and it’s possible that the brain conjures up such imagery because of unrecognised needs or concerns in our waking lives.

Often the people in our dreams are actually symbols for a specific thing or even our own emotions. For example:

  • Dreaming of your friend who is a nurse may mean you feel like you need some nurturing and care in your life
  • Dreaming of a distant cousin may symbolise feeling distant in situations in life.
  • Dreaming of someone who used to live in Edinburgh when you have plans to travel to Scotland next week.

We can think of the people in our dreams as actors and actresses playing various roles and representing many different things, according to Journey Into Dreams. Being able to see these people as simply a player on the screen makes it easier to understand what they might symbolise in the dream, or if the dream could be about something important for us to know. For more on the theory of dreams, check out our article on what dreams mean and why we have them.

What to do when you dream about someone?

Today’s leading experts have offered their best theories on the meaning behind specific dreams. As touched upon earlier, dream characters are usually symbolic representations of our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. So if you find yourself dreaming that a childhood enemy suddenly wants to be your friend, this is unlikely to reveal anything about their current feelings for you.

Instead, according to Sleep Bubble, dream analysts suggest that this dream signifies the dreamer’s newfound sense of self-esteem. The childhood bully is a symbol of weakened self-esteem, but because the bully has changed their behaviour, this suggests the dreamer is less troubled by threats to their self-esteem in the present day.

In a similar vein, the commonly held belief that if you dream about someone, that person is missing you is probably a romantic, but flawed idea. Of course, there’s a possibility that, by mere coincidence, they’re missing you. However, the chances are that dreaming of the person is simply a reflection of something happening in your own life.

So if you do find yourself dreaming of someone, try to unpack what they mean to you and what they symbolise rather than the actual person in the dream. This way, you may discover the real behind why they were in your dream.

Notable appearances in popular culture:

Dreams of other people feature heavily in popular culture and are depicted in hundreds of popular films, television shows, and books. One of the most memorable is the dream sequence in Wayne’s World 2 in which a native American leads Wayne out into the desert to meet Jim Morrison who tells him to put on a concert. The dream showed that Wayne was feeling directionless in life and needed guidance.

Another highly classic dream sequence and a highlight of the musical Grease is when Frenchie imagines her guardian angel Frankie Avalon passing on some life advice in the form of Beauty School Dropout.

Depicting characters’ dreams in films and books gives their writers the chance to get highly creative in depicting internal feelings and emotions which would otherwise be impossible to convey.

couple walking on beach

Just like dreaming of someone else, being chased in your dream means also has a meaning to your life.

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