Dream analysis: 'I'm in my old boyfriend's house and there’s no one home'

Psychoanalyst Michael Murphy examines the deeper meaning of your dreams 
Dream analysis: 'I'm in my old boyfriend's house and there’s no one home'

 Picture: iStock 

Q. A boyfriend broke up with me 10 years ago, and I was very upset at the time. Three years later he got married and has since started a family. I also got married and now have a young child. I'm happy with my life, but I often have a version of this dream: I'm in my old boyfriend's house and there’s no one home. I walk around the different rooms, checking what has changed. Suddenly, I hear noises and realise he and his wife have returned. It dawns on me that I shouldn't be there. They’re shocked to see me - an uninvited visitor. I'm frightened by my strange behaviour.

A. The bottom line in your dream is that you’re checking on what has changed in the ten years since your boyfriend broke up with you. It might be a profitable exercise to compare and contrast life with your boyfriend back then and married life now. 

Michael Murphy. Picture: Denis Scannell

Michael Murphy. Picture: Denis Scannell

Face it consciously, particularly since the drama of your dream shows you fear that such an inventory will be intrusive and uninvited. Essentially the dream is designed to help you take control of a traumatic situation that was forced on you ten years ago. You declare you’re happy with your life, so now is the time to take charge of that unwanted breakup, and put it to rest once and for all.

Q. My nine-year-old son has a recurring nightmare. In it, lobsters and crabs start coming into the garden. He jumps into the trampoline but they climb up the ladder and up the netting. They’re clicking their claws at him and he's surrounded. He makes a dash for the house but there are lobsters inside too – they’re behind curtains and in his shoes and in cupboards. It's not an 'inherited' fear from me, as I would be happy to pick up tiny crabs at the beach. We don't live near the sea.

A. What an overwhelming nightmare to afflict your son, and you’ve captured the emotion attached to it: fear. Lobsters and crabs are water animals with hard shells that are alien - we can’t make pets of them like we would a dog or a cat, so we can’t incorporate them into our human reality. Your nine-year-old son is suffering from an invasion almost beyond the reach of language that’s causing him severe pain and distress. He’s being harassed outside in the garden, but he’s also under attack inside the house. I wonder could this infestation nightmare be triggered by the ubiquitous coronavirus and fear of contamination?

Another possibility to be explored – gently - is bullying, since you mention "clicking their claws at him and he’s being surrounded". An over-involved mother could also give rise to such a nightmare, and you appear open to that “inheritance”. Exploring all possibilities around the dream imagery, maybe even drawing pictures of the crustaceans, will help mediate a way towards a safe space with more individual freedom for your son.

  • Please send your dream queries to feelgood@examiner.ie 

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.