When you wake up from a nightmare you might be a little panicked, but when you wake up from a dirty dream about someone you know in real life, you might be a lot panicked. The prospect of going to work, school, or a social function and seeing them—knowing how “they” are in bed—can feel like an awkward waking nightmare of its own. Here’s how to deal with a sex dream about a real-life person you actually haven’t slept with.
Remember why you don’t consciously sexualize them
In your dream, a person you may never have thought about sexually—like a classmate or friend’s partner—might have been getting super naughty. But try to think about what you really know about them. Is your coworker actually pretty rude or shy? Is your brother’s hot friend actually off-limits? Remind yourself of the reasons you haven’t consciously thought about them in a sexual way. Don’t be fooled by whatever bedroom magic they pulled in your dreams, either: That was all you. That was your brain, your fantasies, and your doing. If anything, give yourself and your imagination the credit here, not them.
Dreams can be intimate, of course, so this could alter how you see them, especially if you have to interact within a few days of the incident. Stay grounded in the facts, though. They don’t know what you envisioned, how “they” acted, or how “they” look naked in your mind’s eye. It’s perfectly fine to keep this secret all to yourself.
“Sometimes we start fantasizing about the person we had a dream about because of how real it seems,” said Melissa De Los Santos, a 33-year-old dream interpreter who goes by Meli, The Dreaming Yogi. “The mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and imagined, but if you focus on what it’s trying to tell you about yourself, put the other person aside, and journal on the symbolism of your dreams instead of the dream itself, you can recognize what part of you has been suppressed and wants to come out.” Let’s explore that…
Suss out the cause of the dream
When you dream your teeth are falling out, you’re not acknowledging some secret desire to be toothless; when you dream you’re falling, running errands with no clothes on, or late on a high school assignment that was due ten years ago, you don’t actually want those things to be true. Obviously, dreams just don’t work like that, so take heart: You probably don’t want to throw down with your chemistry TA or dorky friend.
“Any dreams related to people don’t always have to do with the person in the dream. It’s showing you aspects of yourself that you see in this person that you desire to embrace more of,” said De Los Santos. They added, “It can also be about someone that has similar characteristics of that person, so for example, sex dreams about an ex you haven’t seen in years could represent a coworker who has similar traits.”
What if the dream does mean you’re crushing on the other person, though? Only you know the answer to that, but spend some time not only thinking about the symbolism of the dream, but the more practical things it might represent. If you’ve been trying to tamp down some budding feelings or get over someone, they can easily appear in your dreamland—and your dream bedroom.
It can feel violating to wake up and realize your brain went there without your conscious permission and we don’t blame you for being shaken up, but really explore all the possible meanings here. If you do have a thing for that person, continuing to ignore it is only going to make the feelings flare up in your dreams more often.
Act as normal as you regularly would
You can be as reasonable as you want about all of this, keep a diligent dream journal, and rule out an underlying crush as the cause of the dream, but it’ll still feel weird to see that person again in real life.
Katie, a 40-something woman in England who recently recalled having a sex dream about Dominic Cummings, former chief adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, of all people, told Lifehacker, “Act normal…and don’t ever make it real.”
We can imagine it might be slightly more difficult to “make it real” with an internationally famous politician than with, say, the barista who makes your coffee every morning, but Katie has a point either way. Act as closely to normal as you regularly would, and before you embark on a mission to see if this person’s real-life sack skills live up to the ones your brain concocted for them overnight, think it through.
What would really happen if you slept with a co-worker or classmate? Hell, if you slept with that barista after dreaming about it, you could discover they didn’t live up to your fantasy and find yourself walking five blocks out of your way to caffeinate every day. Maybe what you’re actually attracted to is the forbidden nature of the encounter; perhaps that’s what your mind was fantasizing about while you were dozing. Doing it IRL could lead to catastrophe, as could even letting the other person know where your sleeping mind wandered. How would you feel if an acquaintance told you they dreamed about banging you?
“It may be awkward at first, but know the dream is not about fantasizing about this person,” said De Los Santos.
Push the dream aside like you do when you wake up from the one where you’re back in college but somehow forgot to go to class for an entire semester. That’s not real life, and neither is this.