Waking up from a nightmare may panic you a little, but waking up from a dirty dream about someone you know in real life can panic a lot. The prospect of going to work, school, or a social event and seeing them – knowing how “they” are in bed – can feel like an uncomfortable nightmare when you wake up. Here’s how to deal with a sex dream about a real person who you actually haven’t slept with.

Remind yourself why you are not consciously sexualizing her

In your dream, a person you have never thought of sexually – like a classmate or a friend’s partner – might have gotten super naughty. But try to think about what you really know about them. Is your colleague actually quite rude or shy? Is your brother’s hot boyfriend taboo? Recall the reasons why you did not consciously think about it sexually. Also, don’t be fooled by the bedroom magic they brought to your dreams: That was you. That was your brain, your fantasies, and your actions. If anything, honor yourself and your imagination here, not them.

All dreams that relate to people do not always have to do with the person in the dream.

Dreams can, of course, be intimate, so this can change the way you look at things, especially if you need to interact within a few days of the incident. However, stick to the facts. You don’t know what you imagined, how “they” acted, or how “they” look naked in your mind’s eye. It’s perfectly fine to keep this secret all to yourself.

“Sometimes we start to fantasize about the person we dreamed of because they seem so real,” said Melissa De Los Santos, a 33-year-old interpreter of dreams, who walks by Meli, the dreaming yogi. “The mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, but when you focus on what it is trying to tell you about you, put the other person aside and write about the symbolism of your dreams instead of the dream itself “You can see which part of you has been suppressed and wants to come out.” Let’s explore this …

Find the cause of the dream

If you dream that your teeth are falling out, do not acknowledge the secret desire to be toothless; If you dream that you are falling, running errands with no clothes on, or being late for a school assignment that was due ten years ago, you don’t want these things to be true. Obviously, dreams just don’t work that way, so take courage: you probably don’t want to make out with your chemical vet or your stupid boyfriend.

“All dreams that relate to people do not always have to do with the person in the dream. It shows you aspects of yourself that you see in this person that you want to accept more of, ”said De Los Santos. They added, “It could also be someone who has similar traits to that person, so for example, having sex dreams of an ex who has not been seen in years could be a colleague with similar traits.”

But what if the dream means you have a crush on the other person? Only you know the answer to it, but spend some time thinking not only about the symbolism of the dream, but also about the more practical things that it could represent. If you’ve been trying to stifle some budding emotions or get over someone, they can easily show up in your dreamland – and your dream bedroom.

It could lead to disaster if you do it IRL, or even let the other person know where your sleeping thoughts have wandered.

It can feel hurtful to wake up to realize that your brain went there without your conscious permission and we are really not blaming you for getting upset but really exploring all sorts of meanings here. If you have something for that person, if you continue to ignore it, the feelings will only flare up more often in your dreams.

How would you feel if someone you know told you they had a dream about beating you?

Act as normal as you would on a regular basis

You can be as sensible as you like about all of this, keep a careful dream journal and rule out an underlying infatuation as the cause of the dream, but it will still feel weird to see this person again in real life.

Katie, a 40-year-old woman in England who recently recalled having a sex dream about Dominic Cummings, former chief adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, told Lifehacker: “Act normal … and never make it come true . ”

We can imagine that it might be a little more difficult to “make it real” with an internationally known politician than with the barista who makes your coffee every morning, for example, but Katie is right either way. Act as normally as you normally would, and before you go on a mission to see if that person’s real-world sacking skills match those your brain invented for them overnight, think twice.

What would really happen if you slept with a colleague or classmate? Hell, if you’ve slept with this barista after dreaming about them, you might find that they don’t live up to your imagination and you have to go five blocks out of the way to have caffeine every day. Perhaps what actually attracts you is the forbidden nature of the encounter; perhaps your mind was fantasizing about it while you dozed off. Doing it IRL or even letting the other person know where your sleeping thoughts have wandered could lead to disaster. How would you feel if someone you know told you they had a dream about banging you?

“It may be uncomfortable at first, but know that a dream is not about fantasizing about this person,” said De Los Santos.

Put the dream aside, like you do when you wake up from where you’re back in college but somehow forgot to attend class for an entire semester. This is not real life, and it is not.