Do the other people in your dreams actually speak to you?
February 20, 2018 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Recently I noticed how lonely my dreams are. Is this a common thing?

I was just wondering whether it was normal for the other people in your dreams to completely ignore you? I have only been acknowledged once in my dreams (by Robert Plant of all people - we had a great time) and I am usually on the outside looking in at other people's conversations and other people's lives. I'm not even sure if they "see" me or they just accept that I am there. I guess I am just sort of standing there like a weirdo.

Last night after dreaming about spending a few "hours" in an unnamed Middle Eastern airport watching 3 sisters (not mine) share a conversation that I was once again not involved in, I thought i'd ask Metafilter if this was normal.

I am a bit of a loner so this might be the reason why. I just found it rather sad and quite lonely and i'd like to change this (in real life too). Could my lack of feeling included in life be affecting how I dream or is this how everyone dreams?

posted by ihaveyourfoot to Human Relations (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I converse with them. But don't blow this up into something to be really alarmed about.
posted by thelonius at 6:02 AM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't dream this way. I rarely dream at all, but when I do I am interacting with other people in them. I would not worry much about this though. Brains do what they do.

You may want to look into lucid dreaming to see if you can figure out a way to start talking to people in dreams.
posted by sockermom at 6:04 AM on February 20, 2018

I have both kinds of dreams--dreams that I'm acting in and dreams that are like watching TV. Some of my "watching TV" dreams star me, but I'm not the actor; I'm watching myself do stuff. I've never noticed a pattern to when I have which kind of dreams.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:07 AM on February 20, 2018 [5 favorites]

I rarely remember dreams, but some are of the 'walking through a maze of rooms' type of thing, where there's barely any human interaction, while others are most definitely social in nature. I woke myself up early this morning by shouting at someone in my dream who was really getting my goat. And yes, I also sometimes have dreams where I'm a bystander in other people's interactions.

Your dreams are bound to reflect your feelings and the things that preoccupy you. It would be strange if they didn't.
posted by pipeski at 6:12 AM on February 20, 2018

The important thing is that you feel lonely and want to make a change about that. That you noticed it in a dream as well, is the meaning of that dream for you. Dreams are tautological in that way; they mean the meaning we give them (or not).

When I'm lonely, I can have dreams where I talk to other people and wake up realizing that I'm lonely. I only very rarely, like once every few years, have a dream where I'm on the outside looking in. (I keep a dream diary.)
posted by fraula at 6:17 AM on February 20, 2018 [11 favorites]

I often have other people in my dreams but less often speak with them. I used to have these “cast of thousands” dreams where there’d be so many people in my dream and it was overwhelming and was linked to middle-of-the-night insomnia. The other night I had a dream where I talked to the two people in the car with me but not the third who I realized was another version of me - silent and somewhat faceless. It was disturbing.

It would not surprise me, though, if you are feeling lonely in your life that you might either dream lonely things or interpret your dream as lonely.
posted by amanda at 6:31 AM on February 20, 2018

I rarely remember dreams, and when I do, I don’t tend to remember interactions with people. The one glorious exception to this was the dream in which I was dating Neil Gaiman. That was lovely. He was a very attentive boyfriend, in case you were wondering.

I also subscribe to the the belief that dreams are just your brain wandering, and I don’t worry about what it does.
posted by greermahoney at 6:38 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

My dreams are almost always passive, like my perspective is a camera in a movie (usually in first-person). Could you think of your dream in that framing? From what your wrote in your post it sounds like it's possible.

The other characters do sometimes speak to me but if I respond it feels 'scripted', like I didn't have a choice in my response.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:38 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can't remember a single dream in which I *wasn't* talking with and otherwise interacting with other people. Dream!Me is a social butterfly.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:44 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

My daughter (6) just mentioned to me yesterday people in her dreams don’t or very very rarely speak to her, but do interact (eg facial expressions, actions directed at her). I thought that was strange but this thread makes it appear common. She also reports a far-away perspective, like a camera recording from above. She’s pretty social, fwiw.

My own dreams often figure no people at all, or intense verbal fights with people. :-/
posted by The Toad at 7:14 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

The important thing is that you feel lonely and want to make a change about that. That you noticed it in a dream as well, is the meaning of that dream for you. Dreams are tautological in that way; they mean the meaning we give them (or not).

Seconding this. One of the smartest things I ever heard about dreams and what they "mean" was: "What else are dreams but your own private mythology?" Think about it: if you look at one of those pseudo-Freudian dream-symbolism things, dreams about dogs are "about" friendship or loyalty. But if you personally got badly bitten by a St. Bernard when you were five, you personally are not going to be associating "friendship and loyalty" with St. Bernards. For you personally, "St. Bernard" means "danger".

So: you are the best arbiter of what each of your dreams "mean". If you have been noticing that you are dreaming about people having conversations around you that don't include you, and this bothers you, then for you, this does mean that your subconscious may be telling you "hey, work on this". For another person who's always being bothered by co-workers, the idea of a dream where other people are having a conversation and leaving them alone might be heavenly ("I was in a room full of people but no one needed anything from me, it was awesome!").

To answer your original question - I've had dreams where people talk to me, I've had dreams where they don't, I've had dreams where I went white-water rafting with Mark Knopfler. It's all over the place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:11 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of dreams where I watch others talk to each other, and I have dreams where I watch others talk to me (it's like I'm standing back watching a film of them talk to me). Very occasionally I feel as though they're talking directly to me and equally occasionally I respond to them.
posted by purplesludge at 8:21 AM on February 20, 2018

Many years ago there were people who believed that it was only possible to dream in black and white. There were very people who reported only dreaming in black and white. However, as colour TV became commonly available through the 50's, 60's and 70's the number of people who reported only dreaming in black and white dropped until I don't know if you could find someone who dreams that way now. The colour of the dreams was clearly being effected by the media that they were experiencing.

So I am wondering if in real life you spend time interacting and being stimulated but without anyone talking to you, and if this is being reflected in your dreams. For example if you do a lot of passive on-line activities it might be effecting the way your brain interprets the world while you sleep.

Or, like symbolism in dreams it might indicate that part of you is feeling that nobody tells you anything, or that nobody acknowledges you. I would explore that. Certain common dream elements - such as losing teeth tending to be linked to the dreamer being afraid of saying things they shouldn't - it may be that this element in your dreams is based on the same feeling but in real life.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:22 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have both kinds of dreams, ones where I'm watching other people without interacting with them, and ones where I'm interacting and an active part of the dream-story. I think it isn't uncommon to feel like you're "watching" your dreams.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 10:40 AM on February 20, 2018

I almost never see people's faces in my dreams, if there are any people in them at all. Most of my dreams are location centric -- if they're nightmares, I find myself stuck in empty bronze wastelands or never ending depths of blue (and I mean BLUE) water. But even when they're happy/neutral dreams, and people are present, we don't "talk". I don't hear voices. I feel feelings, though, and have a sense of pressure (like if I am being hugged or kissed). The feelings/emotions take the place of actual conversation.

Dream analysis can be very helpful during times of great stress, but in my experience, this is one of those things that's perfectly normal until you fixate on it and your brain decides it's a matter that must be explored in dreams over and over.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:23 AM on February 20, 2018

The dreams you remember are not all your dreams. You may be having hours of dreams where you interact with people, it is truly random what you dream just before you wake. Your dreams might be processing totally random elements of your experience. Sometimes I have really weird and distressing dreams, and I'm sure they point to things I worry about. But I don't imagine they convey a truth about anything.
This morning, I dreamt that I was going to a restaurant with my mother and brother. Somehow, they had magically turned my stepfather into a baby. The idea was that he would be easier to manage that way, but as it was, I was now in charge of that baby, and it totally ruined my night. In the end I argued loudly with my brother.
I can tell you exactly how this dream made sense, but it doesn't really matter. It's just a dream.
posted by mumimor at 12:22 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you feel lonely. I have very vivid dreams (medication induced I think) and I constantly dream I'm in meetings or colleagues are asking me to do stuff - basically it's like another day at work but often the interpersonal dynamics are better and I wake up feeling more positive about the person. It can go the other way too.

I am anxious about work so maybe you are anxious about loneliness and that's directing our dreams a bit?
posted by kitten magic at 3:09 PM on February 20, 2018

My dreams tend to have gobs of dialogue but it comes in different forms.

Sometimes it’s as though I’m scripting the dream — people say exactly what I would expect/hope they would say, and I know just what to say in response.

Sometimes the dialogue is more antagonistic — people argue, fight, scream, or say horrible paranoia-inspired things, and nothing I say can put it right.

Sometimes the dialogue is totally nonsensical — a whole parade of people will chant a nonsequitir together, or someone will speak a line straight out of Mad-Libs, and that will establish a whole new line of “dream logic.”

Sometimes an animal will start speaking English and then warn me that no one will ever believe me because he won’t do it in front of anyone else. Malicious but hilarious.
posted by armeowda at 9:40 PM on February 20, 2018

Thanks very much for the responses. I am definitely aware that loneliness is an issue for me, as I mentioned in my post, but I wanted to know whether or not my dreams were a reflection of my state or whether it was common for people to dream this way. Seems like everyone dreams very differently no matter what their state and so I have no idea! Really interesting to see how people dream, though.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 1:14 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

My dreams are always experiential and interactive - even when I have been lonely IRL, if that helps.

Last night, I was shopping in a record store run by Jeremy Irons. We had quite a good chat about decorating the place. At the end he single-handedly held off some attacking robots while I escaped. And you know, he was really, really charming.
posted by Sutekh at 5:03 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

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