Dear Dr. Darcy,
This weird thing seems to happen to me which I’ve started to call “dream cheating.”
I’m in a happy marriage and love my husband and do not have trust issues. But every once in a while I will have a very realistic dream where my husband cheats on me. It feels so real and hurtful that IRL I can’t help but be mad at him the next day, as silly as that sounds!
I’ve had relationships where I was cheated on in the past and wonder if it’s my subconscious telling me to be guarded, or if this is a common thing that happens.
Every now and then, a family member or a client tells me about a dream they had. Then they present Google’s meaning of it, which I politely listen to.
When they’re done, I break the news that there is no such thing as a universal interpretation of a dream, because the dreamer herself plays a role in understanding its meaning. Also, and perhaps more importantly, dreams are metaphors. They are not to be taken literally.
That said, there is a formula you can use to analyze your own dreams.
The easiest way to land on an accurate meaning of a dream is to identify 3 things:
1.EMOTION. What emotion or emotions did you feel during the dream? Pick the strongest one or two emotions.
2.BELIEF/SELF-JUDGMENT. In the dream, how did you judge yourself? What self-referencing (usually negative) belief went with the dream?
3.Ask yourself where in your current life you’re experiencing that emotion and belief. That’s your answer.
Let me show you an example using myself:
I’ve never had the dream where someone cheated on me, but I’ve had dreams where I accidentally cheated on my wife Steph. And before that dream, I used to have a dream that I accidentally ate something with meat in it, even though I’ve been a vegetarian for decades.
DREAM: I accidentally cheated on my wife. I accidentally ate something with meat in it.
Helpless because I did a terrible thing that I can’t undo.
I can’t trust myself.
3.WHERE IN MY LIFE DO I FEEL [insert Emotion + Belief / Self-Judgment]?
At the time, I was in the throes of healing the PTSD I got when I learned that a former partner was a serial cheater during our relationship. It left me questioning my ability to judge everything in my life.
Note that two very different dreams were about the same thing: My inability to trust myself. If I’d taken either dream literally, I’d have gone down a rabbit hole that would have had nothing to do with what my unconscious was actually trying to process in my sleep.
That’s my quick-and-dirty dream analysis formula!
Sexual Orientation: Straight