Why Do I Keep Dreaming About the Same Person?

Recurring dreams are common, whether they involve falling from a great height into nothingness or missing an important exam years after leaving school. But what does it mean when you have multiple dreams about the same person?

The answer can vary, depending on who is occupying your nighttime thoughts, dream experts say. And interpretations vary, according to scientists.

Researchers generally agree that dreaming is the way that the brain processes events and emotions. Sociologists Carey Morewedge and Michael Norton studied people in the United States, South Korea and India and found that 56 percent, 65 percent and 74 percent of respondents, respectively, think dreaming reveals hidden truths.

Their findings also suggested that dreams can influence judgment. The researchers concluded that people are likely to believe dreams are more meaningful than waking thoughts, especially when they confirm the dreamers' existing beliefs.

Carl Jung, Swiss Psychoanalyst
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst, helped to pioneer the study of dreams

What do repeated dreams reflect?

Recurring dreams are usually connected with a specific issue, conflict or tension in our lives, and are a way of helping us process our feelings about it, psychotherapists and dream experts say.

"As long as the issue continues, so does the dream and once the issue is resolved, the dream will stop," Tampa, Florida-based professional dream analyst and author Lauri Loewenberg tells Newsweek. "A recurring dream means you are stuck."

One of the most common types of recurrent dreams are those involving specific people, most commonly family members or ex-partners, but occasionally strangers as well.

Loewenberg advises paying close attention to the emotions in recurring dreams and delving into what aspects of your current life make you feel the way you feel in a a dream. If a dream is threatening, you may be experiencing feelings of being attacked by others or being blamed.

"A good caveat is, if you are having a recurring dream about someone you deal with on a daily basis, they likely are going to play themselves. If it isn't someone you deal with daily, or if it is someone you haven't spoken to for a while they are going to play a part of you," Loewenberg says.

A rule of thumb for figuring out the symbolism of a subject who recurs in your dreams, is to determine three things that come to mind when you think of that person, she adds. Of those three things, the issue you most identify with is the one they represent.

Who do dream subjects represent?

A typical subject of recurring dreams is the ex-spouse or partner. The interpretation of this sort of dream depends on which former partner you are thinking about and what they mean to you, with many showing up in our dreams decades after the relationship ended. The ex we dream about most often tends to be our first love, according to Loewenberg.

"The first love can represent excitement, desire or butterflies," she adds. "The first love will be a reminder that we need this back in our life, or we are in a situation that reminds us of it."

Stock picture of a woman sleeping. Recurring dreams are usually connected with a specific issue, conflict or tension in our lives, and are a way of helping us process our feelings about it, dream experts say. iStock / Getty Images

If a previous relationship was negative or ended badly, recurrent dreams about a partner can represent grief and loss or unresolved issues, including forms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Sleep Foundation.

Mothers, or mother figures, are a frequent subject of dreams. If you are a mother yourself, Loewenberg says, your mother might represent your role and your ability to nurture yourself and others; for example, if the mother is a helpful character, that will reflect how you are as a mother at the moment.

By contrast, If you are fighting with your mother in your dream, you might be experiencing conflict in your own role as a mother. For those without children, including men, mothers can represent one's creative side or nurturing self.

By contrast, dreams about a stranger usually represent a part of yourself that you might not recognise. Dreams of people from our past, such as former classmates, can be the hardest to interpret, as the characters appear to come out of nowhere. Yet, even apparently arbitrary dream subjects have something to tell us, Loewenberg says. The head cheerleader from high school, for instance, might represent your ability to be the cheerleader in your own or someone else's life.

"Dreams are never random," she adds. "Everything in a dream is connected to something and dreams are messages from you to you about you in order to improve you."