One of the fatal flaws of our culture is that we take everything at face value. We believe that every waking thought we have is true, and we believe that every nighttime dream is a direct reflection of reality. So when a client has a dream where she's having sex with someone other than her partner, her first response is to panic and think, "Uh oh! This must mean I don't really love my partner!"
Nothing could be further from the truth. If we were raised in a world of metaphor where we learned that the princes and princesses in fairy tales aren't meant to be taken literally (but represent aspects of ourselves), we wouldn't jump to panic when we dream about exes or other lovers.
If our culture operated in this way, I guarantee that we wouldn't fling ourselves immediately into self-doubt. Instead, we'd ask, "I wonder what part of myself this other lover represents?"
In the world of Jungian psychology, the unconscious is understood to speak in the language of metaphors. By extension, every element of in a dream represents some aspect of ourselves, and often those aspects we are not conscious of in our everyday lives.
Furthermore, Jungian psychology understands the "masculine" aspect of a woman's inner landscape — the part of herself that carries her mental clarity, creative manifestation, and spiritual action — to be represented by a man or a group of men in her dreams, and is called her animus. And for a man, the "feminine" aspect of himself — the part more connected to his emotional, poetic self — shows up as a woman and is called his anima.
For those who travel in the underground realm of psyche, we understand that sex in dreams is a call toward union of a higher order. The question, then, to ask is, "What part of myself am I seeking to unite with? What neglected aspect of my Self is trying to integrate into consciousness?"
When we can turn toward these aspects of ourselves that appear in dreams during the slow, morning hours instead of pushing them aside as we start our day as quickly as possible, we have the opportunity to create more wholeness and meaning in our lives.
Here's a short road map for how to work with sex dreams:
1. Remind yourself that the dream figure is a metaphor.
Do not take the person at face value, nor should you interpret the scenario literally. Putting too much weight on these things will mean you'll likely fall down the rabbit hole of anxiety, guilt, self-blame and more. So remind yourself that your dreaming-mind is speaking in metaphors.
2. Spend some time with the dream instead of running from it.
If your dream freaks you out, don't find solace in denial. Instead, write it down. Think about it. Journal about how your dream made you feel for the rest of the day following. In other words, turn toward yourself instead of away.
3. Ask yourself, "What part of myself does this person represent?"
In dreamwork, we talk about "shadow elements," which can be both elements of ourselves that we've deemed as negative (our jealous self or our angry self) or positive elements that we're having a hard time integrating (our intelligence, beauty, gifts, compassion). The person or people in our dreams are carrying these split-off aspects of ourselves that are longing to be seen, accepted, and integrated.
4. Recognize that sex in dreams is a call toward union of a higher order.
This means that your true self is longing for integration of shadow parts, which will lead to a stronger internal sense of wholeness instead of the fragmentation and disconnect that define so much of modern lives.
This is why sex dreams are cause of celebration! They're your psyche's way of bringing crucial messages about your inner world to you that you likely don't have access to in waking life.
When you can approach your dream world through the lens that all dreams are here to bring more wholeness, and every element in the dream is symbolic, your mindset will change radically and you will be able to receive your dreams as the gifts that they are.