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I had the following situation a couple of times:

I sleep together with my (long time) girlfriend and she wakes up after a bad dream. In her dream I did something bad, like having sex with another woman. She is angry at "me" about what "I" did. But I didn't do it. It happened only in her dream.

I tried to explain to her that the person in her dream is not me. Whatever she dreamed has little to do with reality. But her argument is: She wouldn't dream that if there would be no reason to dream like this.

Yesterday I saw a friend and he told me his wife was angry at him because she discovered a used condom in his pocket in her dream. He also tried to explain to her it was just a dream. And she answered like: "But why did you do that?"

We all live in Thailand but I guess that could happen anywhere. It seems some women (maybe also men, I don't know) mix up dreams with reality and they want an explanation from a real person about what happened in their dreams.

How can I (and my friend and others) counter an irrational accusation like "Why did you do xzy in my dream"?

I would have thought a short logical argument that a dream is not reality should be sufficient. But obviously it's not.

  • 3
    How far would you go to answer? (how rude could it be, I mean) – OldPadawan Mar 17 '18 at 8:47
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    Unfortunately, this question appears to be asking “What should I do?”, which the community has determined to not be a good fit for Interpersonal Skills Stack Exchange. We can’t decide for you what to do; after you determine what you want to do, we can help you with your goal, but we can’t make these decisions for you. Sorry. – Arwen Undómiel Mar 18 '18 at 11:51
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    @ArwenUndómiel If there was community consensus on that, the post you linked to doesn't show it. Although it seems pretty obvious that OP wants help specifically to de-escalate the situation, not for us to tell them whether they should de-escalate or start a screaming match or throw her out the window or just start running and never look back or start running... all the way to the nearest university, register for a psychology degree, spend a few years completing that, further that education into a doctorate, and then proceed to use that knowledge to determine the best course of action. – NotThatGuy Mar 18 '18 at 12:42
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    @ArwenUndómiel: The question is not "What should I do". The question is: How can I counter an irrational accusation? – user8838 Mar 18 '18 at 12:54
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    Does your girlfriend at least apologizes the next day? – Hawker65 Mar 19 '18 at 8:36
115

There is a matter of perspective that you're overlooking: dreams may not be real, but the feelings caused by them definitely are.

Did it never happen to you to wake up from a particularly painful dream and to start sobbing right away? If not, lucky you. But if it happened to you at least once, you know that you can feel incredibly sad because of a dream. Or happy, or angry, or nervous. Of course we know that they're not real, but dreams do influence our mood and our way of perceiving reality, and there's nothing stupid about it. It's normal.

So, to go back to square one, when she addresses you like that, it's because of the feelings that linger after the dream. If you answer her about the reality of the dream, you're probably missing the point. Not only: you're probably worsening the situation because you're invalidating her feelings. And feelings are true, no matter what caused them.

Play on the same team as her. That dream is upsetting her, she's feeling insecure and betrayed; console her. That doesn't mean that you have to apologize as if you really betrayed her. Just the simplest of the truths.

It's me. I love you.

With a calm, reassuring voice. If she allows you, caress her, make her feel that she's safe, that you're not one of her dreams. Don't just tell her, let her feel it.

I would never, never, never do such a thing to you. See, I'm here, next to you, just here so that I can hug you when you're having a bad dream.

Etcetera, you got the point.

Postpone the rational discussion to the day after. Really, the middle of the night right after a nightmare is definitely not the moment for logic. And when the moment of the discussion comes, ask her first how does she feel. She will probably tell you that "it felt like it was real" or something alike. If, on the other hand, she's still angry, keep on addressing her feelings, ask her if she really thinks that you would betray her, why does she think that etc. Now you can point out that dreams are not necessarily and not only the mirror of our desires or fears; there's a random component as well, and they are not so easily interpreted. So maybe what really happened was that she saw you looking at an ad with a naked girl, and during the same day she had an argument with her best friend, and bam, the two things get fused together in her dream and you're cheating on her. (I'm just throwing wild guesses here, I'm no psychologist.)

So, to sum up: if your girlfriend is sad, console her, no matter what the cause is. You can analyze the cause later when she cools down.

18

Point out that dreams are creations of a persons mind so the dream is her of her own making. In essence she created the "you" that did those things, not you. The discussion should then be about why she would dream about it.

Perhaps she is insecure and worries you will sleep with other women, if you haven't talked about these things perhaps this is a good starting point.

9

I've found that a lot of my dreams are fueled by fears I have. I used to think they pointed at real things going on, but now I've found often they're just the things I'm afraid will happen and not what is actually happening. May be something to suggest, and then you can ask her what she is afraid of, why, and help her figure out how to get over those fears, assuming they are unnecessary.

5

A bit of theory:

« "Wunsch" [wish] is the big word (meaning) of "Traumdeutung" » (roughly translated) 1

According to his theory, the dream, far from being stupid or magical, has a meaning : it is the « fulfillment of a desire » (Originally in German: "Wunscherfüllung" or "wish fulfillment").

Its function is to please the dreamer, and meet her/his vows. The dream gives hints about the most hidden and shameful secrets of the dreamer, like some wills « repressed » in her/his subconscious.

According to Sigmund Freud, one can see dreams as the expression of our secret wishes and/or fears (Disclaimer: some psychoanalysts seem to disagree while some agree).

A bit of practice:

your dreams let your own fear/wish emerge, but they are not the facts of my life... I'm neither responsible for your thoughts nor blameworthy for them.

Would you go one step ahead (more rude IMO, but you can work around the idea, maybe...)?

Don't put YOUR burden on MY shoulders. Don't blame ME for YOUR thoughts.

What you do with that information depends on what the other person is willing to listen to, and how you phrase it. As you said : I would have thought a short logical argument that a dream is not reality should be sufficient. But obviously it's not.

I will be your choice to explain or not, to let it go or not, to escalate or not...

You may want to tell her she has to:

  • 1st: trust you
  • 2nd: search and read by herself

Then, both of you may go back to discuss about this...


1 The Interpretation of Dreams - Sigmund Freud

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    I don't know about you, but generally I am not the most open to rational arguments just after I wake up... Especially after a nightmare. I expect that's the same for others. – wizzwizz4 Mar 17 '18 at 17:57
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    @wizzwizz4 : when I wake up, I'm not open to any argument but coffee :) in this case, OP doesn't have to argue or explain anything when it happens, rather later, when they've both cooled down, and when GF had time to relax. Especially because OP needs to have her search and read and listen. But that's only my pov... – OldPadawan Mar 17 '18 at 18:05
2

Dreams tend to be strongly influenced by what is the first to come to mind. And people tend to think first about things, given some stimulus, that are somehow in context to that and

  • something that recently happened and is thus still fresh in memory
  • something they recently thought about
  • something that happened about a week ago. It is not clear why, but there is at least one study stating that events that are only 3-4 days ago have less influence
  • Fears and Wishes
  • Generally associations and assumptions. If you're already in a dream scene where there's a pond, you're more likely to find a fish in the water than to dream of a truck flying by.
  • Some unknown factor
  • Your thoughts at the time

If you're hoping for sources, I'm afraid this list is mixed together from a collection of scientific papers, personal experience, other people on the internet confirming it and so on.
The point I'm trying to make with this list is that you can actually answer the question "But why did you do that?".

Ask her if she's afraid you would actually cheat on her in real life. Allow her to be honest and don't lash out on a yes. Instead, you and her can work together to find ways so she feels more secure. Maybe she knows where her fear comes from - some behaviour of yours that she associates with unloayal people maybe. If this is the case, you can try and change your behaviour so that she feel more secure about this.

However, if anybody were asking me "why did you do this in my dream?" neither jokingly nor as a scientific/psychological question, I would reconsider how serious I can take them. If it's formulated as "you did something wrong", It might be wise to tell her you don't accept this behaviour.

1

Was she fully awake at the time?

In the period between sleeping and being fully awake, people may not have a firm grasp of what was only a dream. Wait until she's fully awake before you try to discuss it.

Was she serious?

Deadpan jokes may get taken the wrong way. Talk to her about it. And don't stress over something if she didn't actually mean it seriously.

If she's fully awake and still genuinely blames you for events in your dream...

Describe some of your dreams. Make sure you describe ones which are so far-fetched as to be obviously ludicrous. My ex-wife once had a dream in which her childhood pet Labrador (which had been dead for 10 years at that point) was the Supreme Ruler of the Earth, and Hillary Clinton was the interpreter between the dog and humanity. It should be clearly impossible for anyone to claim that dreams like that are in any way connected to reality.

And if she persists...

At this point you have to decide whether you intend to continue a relationship with someone who literally cannot distinguish between hallucination and reality. If she believes she is justified in being abusive towards you for things which are purely imaginary and which she herself acknowledges are purely imaginary then she has a very real mental health problem. Not only that, she is not currently willing to acknowledge that she has a problem. It would be nice to advise you to stick around and help her, but honestly you need to get yourself safe first.

0

This may not apply to girl friends, but people in this situation may not be in the right mind to realize the right reaction if she was a random person would be, "who knows?"

It appears she feels insecure (or other kind of uncertainties or lack of confidence, etc) about something unspecific. A better interpretation would be, she feels insecure about everything in one aspect. It's not about you, and you can't know its source easily, but you merely didn't stop it. Or more blatantly, they may not feel it's better to make some alternative choice that is bad for you (before they begin to feel desperate). You are just the indicator of something that may happen.

This probably applies to most kind of fear when someone has a strong emotional feeling. If the problem source is more unknown, or someone tells them unnecessary to learn, or someone has made sure only the obvious things doesn't hurt while the feeling itself persists, it probably would only makes it stronger. A known threat would probably be much better (before it's known to be desperate).

Think that if you are a nuclear physics, some anti-nuclear people may think you are the best indicator of what can go wrong. While they might be against your ideal and want to remove your jobs, that also means they respect you as the best professional in this field, if this field does anything good. They are personally bad for you if you don't intend to help, but you are not personally bad for them if they didn't go crazy.

Naturally people could have a very low standard for beginning feeling desperate in such situations for all sort of reasons. But before that, it's just a low priority problem, that you are supposed to either simply show them there are no (strong) indications yet, or you have understood it so well to a degree that justifies a one-time-for-all solution, even though there isn't a strong indication indeed. Or for simplicity, just stay calm.

And unfortunately, being able or unable to answer the question directly, or even insisting on its low priority, or even showing your intention to be consistent, is more like showing there "might" be some unknown "potential" problems, which might be trivial problems such as you don't know how to deal with this, or not so trivial problems such as that she cannot understand or you also feel insecure, or some most crazy possible things saw in the dreams.

"Thinking too much" about this, or more exactly, feeling too obligated and behaving like there is an unnatural deadline for resolving it while you think too much about this, is like saying it's necessary to prepare and deal with such extreme cases. And unless you do much more, by common sense she is not supposed to trust you with this premise.

I could say something like "to stay calm usually means to show things works well and to leave the problem itself open." But that could easily lead to someone feeling too obligated to consistently not do anything for it.

The accepted answer should be the answer. But just some more information to make it more logical so that it could be adjusted for situations, and to answer the somewhat clickbaity title. Just another obvious thing: Not knowing how to react isn't anything worse than asking "Why did you do that?" itself.

0

Consider: "The girl in the dream was you, because everyone in our dreams is ourselves, but they represent parts of ourselves that we may not recognize. The dream means that I love all of you."

It's worth a shot. It's consistent with respecting her feelings, engaging in the meaning of her dream, and re-inforcing your monogamy.

At worth, she'll think you're the one being silly.

-1

Expand your knowledge on dreams

The first problem is that you can't counter what the other person is saying about what a dream is. By expanding knowledge on dreams, you can create arguments on what a dream means. The problem is that dreams can feel real. I've had instances I didn't know it was a dream until a few days after. I realized this because it could have never happened. Making sure your significant other realizes this as well is your best bet.

I've done some searching on Philosophy SE. This question has some sources you can use on what dreams are. There are probably more, however it is a great starting point.

The discussion

Focus the discussion on the difference between a dream and reality. There are probably details in the dream that just don't make sense. If these details are not present focus on what you researched and why dreams are different than reality.

If she is not willing to believe you, you can suggest she does her own research on dreams. Make sure you give her some resources to start by herself. If she is not willing to do this as well, then there is nothing else you could do.

  • To me it seems that the first part of your answer is irrelevant as the OP's SO knows and admits it was a dream. (I'm not judging the second part of the answer.) – yo' Mar 19 '18 at 20:48
  • I see, I must have misread that part. Was already wondering why it got downvoted. I think I just leave it here, so someone with a similar question can use it. – Peter Mar 19 '18 at 21:05

protected by LinuxBlanket Mar 20 '18 at 10:38

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