"I had a dream that is more related to love, than sex. I recently had a dream about an old lover. This is someone that I have seen on and off for a few years, when our paths have crossed. I’m unsure if I love him, but there is certainly strong feelings of lust and a desire to know if a relationship could work. Despite currently being in a relationship, I often wonder about the possibility of me and this other man being together. However, the fact that our connection has never gone anywhere suggests it won’t evolve into anything more.
In the dream, I was standing at the edge of a lake with my current boyfriend. It was somewhere mountainous in summertime. We went for a swim in the lake and saw an animal as we were swimming.
It looked like a beaver, or something similar, but I’m not sure exactly what it was. It was building a nest.
As my boyfriend and I walked out of the water, I noticed a nearby watering hole with lots of people swimming in it. I saw my old lover swimming out in the middle of the lake. I left my boyfriend and I swam out to the old lover. He took me in his arms, kissed me and told me that our connection would deepen, but it wasn’t ready yet. I left him and swam back to shore. My partner was no longer there and I felt very lost. The dream was powerful enough to wake me from my sleep. "
Erykah Badu, in her track Next Lifetime from the transcendent album Baduizm (1997), describes a parallel dilemma of thinking about another lover while being in a relationship ⸺ now what am I supposed to do / when I want you in my world / but how can I want you for myself / when I'm already someone's girl? The song offers liberation for the clandestine desires by way of transmigration, also known as reincarnation. When the souls are reborn into new bodies, the connection can bloom in another lifetime. The protagonist, in both the dream and the song, is time.
There are a number of reasons why we dream of lovers from the past. We have shared our stories and bodies with them, if only for a moment. At one point in time, we may have even loved them. We archive these experiences as memory and stage them as raw, instinctual parts of ourselves in dreams. This can sometimes feel like going back in time. While the appearance of these ghostly lovers may be confusing and consider us to rethink the past, these apparitions are more often illuminating how far we have come. They can also represent remnants of our past that we are now missing, such as youth, freedom or joy associated with our previous selves. They can also represent the things we do not want. It is not unusual for past lovers to appear in dreams during times of change, transition or impasse. For this dreamer, who has often wondered about this connection deepening, this dream is the manifestation of those what if thoughts.
Synchronicity is the theory of meaningful coincidence. It is the way we ascribe significance to a series of coincidences, that lead us to experience that feeling of fate or destiny. The old lover and the dreamer, by having an on-and-off connection over a period of time when their paths crossed, were in a spiritual entanglement with time. Synchronous meetings do not necessarily indicate fated love. These meaningful coincidences also serve as illusions, which are just as significant. Either way, life has offered these individuals many chances to connect. The dream is showing a situation that, like in waking life, is suspended in a romantic limbo ⸺ the very nature of on-and-off connections. Could this connection possibly deepen in the future? Absolutely. Anything is possible. But the fact that it has not, despite many opportunities, tells otherwise. Sometimes, people remain in the same timeline we leave them in.
This dream offers the gift of experiencing time simultaneously. By fracturing the illusion of linearity, we gain nuanced perspectives on our motions through space and time. To stand in the past and present at the same time is best embodied by the two-headed Roman god Janus, who had one face looking to the past, and one face looking to the future. The two heads symbolise the evolution from past to the future, and how one could not exist without the other. Antonio, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest articulates this concept wholly ⸻ past is prologue. This is also reinforced by the ancient Buddhist concept of pratītyasamutpāda, which is the principle that all things happen in dependence upon multiple causes and nothing exists as an independent entity. The past informs the present ⸻if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist. If not for the old lover, we would not have the new lover. And when the past and present collide, we must assess our trajectory in the interval between the two experiences.
It is the present-day partner and the dreamer who witness the beaver-like animal building the nest in the water, not the lover from the past. This demonstrates that foundations, security and companionship are in the process of being built in the current connection. Nests are tangible structures of home and love. The animal embodies the innocence and primal energy of the present-day relationship, or its potential. The fact that there is one animal, and not two, is indicative of a commitment in which two parties haven’t fully signed, and this may be because the dreamer is sometimes looking backwards into the past. It is also worth noting that because the nest is being built on water instead of earth, the foundations of the home are not fully secure.
The lover from the past kisses the dreamer and says the connection is not ready to deepen yet. The dream is an echo. What does it mean to not be ready? It could be that the person is still hanging on to aspects to their youth, or perhaps they are processing big things, such as abandonment or grief, or just occupied with other entanglements, be it travel, work, family or other romances. It is probable that these aspects of not being ‘ready’ exist inside the dreamer and are represented in the dream as the lover from the past. If the dreamer can close the door to the what if questions about the past lover, they will open a door to expansion. Magic will happen. To engage in the what if daydream is ultimately, a disempowering position to be in, as the outcome lies in the hands of another, who at this point, offers only mystery, illusion and limbo. What if? It doesn’t matter. Let go of the what if. Life will surprise you.
To back to the past, is to undo the present. This is demonstrated by the current partner disappearing at the end of the dream. For now, the dreamer must evaluate their own movement from the past to the present. Using the old lover and the current partner as markers in time, the dreamer is invited to ask themselves, how have my needs and desires changed from Person A to Person B? Are my thoughts about the past keeping me suspended in limbo? What choices can I make to elevate my growth and happiness? What are my hopes and expectations around commitment, clarity and future-making? Which doors can I close to make room for expansion?
Take it from Erykah Badu, who said I’ll see you next lifetime ⸺ the connection might have run out of chances to fruit in this life, but perhaps they will meet again in the next one.