What Do Dreams of Someone Else Mean?
10 min read
Last Modified 19 December 2022 First Added 18 March 2022
Are you one of those lucky few who can remember your dreams in vivid detail after you wake up? Or does all memory, even of the most incredible dreams, simply skedaddle the moment you open your eyes?
For many of us, the memorable dreams – the ones that stick around, cluttering our thoughts for days – are those in which other people are the focus, rather than ourselves. Why is this so? Because we’re trying to work out just what the dream could mean.
In this article we’ll examine what our subconscious could be trying to tell us when someone else – perhaps someone we may know or used to know, a complete stranger or even someone famous – plays the starring role in our dreams.
You pull out your wallet, look up to pay for your supermarket shopping and a huge smile lights up your face as you recognise the checkout girl.
It only happens to be international singing sensation Beyoncé Knowles – ‘Queen of Pop’ and multi-millionaire businesswoman. Nothing strange about that at all!
The superstar kindly asks if you’d like to keep the hanger inside a t-shirt you’re buying. “Yes, please Beyoncé,” you casually reply. “I didn’t expect to see you working here today and when are Destiny’s Child getting back together?”
“Hey honey, please don’t tell anyone,” she replies in her honeyed Texan drawl, flashing a million-dollar smile. “I just love working in this cute little store in my free time. I’m actually thinking of quitting showbusiness to do this for the rest of my life. It sure helps to keep my feet on the ground.”
Nodding away, you nonchalantly tap your card to pay as though this kind of thing happens to you all the time. Then just as you’re about to leave, you glance behind you to see that next up in the queue is Her Royal Highness, the Queen who’s buying several dozen tins of budget range dog food.
The next moment you wake up. It was only a dream, but it felt vividly real.
Dreams of other people have a wide amount of variation – sometimes they could be about someone you like, your partner, or an ex, someone you’ve just met, or someone you used to know many years ago. They could be about a complete stranger, or a famous person in a very ordinary setting, as described above. Some people even believe that dreams about someone else mean that the subject of the dream is thinking of them, or perhaps missing them.
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.
See Dream Meanings 101: What Dreams Mean & Why We Have Them? to learn more.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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 behavior, 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.
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.