Common Dream Motifs
Motif: a main element, idea or feature of art, literature and music {the Muse}. In dreams the motif is the main theme, with the possibility of one or more motifs within it
The Grim Reaper Death in a Dream
What Does It Mean?
Common Dream Motifs

on Fire

Possible Meanings of Death in a Dream

<1>If the dead person is someone you actually knew it may mean you should take notice of what he or she said or did, or what happened to him or her. The person is not coming back to 'haunt' you but to advise you or to help you. In actuality, this person is a part of your own psyche, taking the form of the dead person. Such encounters may help you to fulfill a long desired relationship, or put something right. For example, you may learn to forgive the person {or yourself}and as a consequence get peace and healing for yourself.
<2> If a deceased partner or parent appears in dreams, the above may apply. Bear in mind that the dead do live - inside us; and that it is important to realize when this is a healthy and life-enhansing thing and when it is purely negative, stunting your own personal growth. If it is the latter, resolve to have it out with the dead person the next time he or she appears in a dream
<3> If the dead person in the dream is actually a living person - and especially if that person is your partner or sibling - the dream may be expressing unconscious resentment towards that person, or a desire to be independent. Feelings toward someone close are often ambivalent {simultaneous conflicting feelings toward that person}: love or respect mixed with fear or hatred or resentment or jealousy. The usual conscious response to such a dream will be anxiety, and you will feel anxiety in the dream itself.
<4>The dead person may be you. If so consider the following possibilities:
  • What is being expressed in the dream may be your own anxiety about dying. Death is inevitable {an old Sufi Islamic proverb: when the angel of death appoaches it is horrific, when it reaches you it is bliss}, and facing up to the fact may bring great rewards: self-acceptance; new values; a broadening of one's personality, compensating for past omissions or lopsidedness and utilizing hitherto neglected personal resources. This would be especially applicable if you are in the second half of life.
  • The message may be that your old self needs to be left behind. This may mean that you must stop carrying around with you the crippling burden of your past {irrational guilt-feelings and martyrdom complex, or any other negative self-progreamming}; and, instead, you must open yourself to what the present moment is offering. Alternatively, the 'old self' may be old attachments, habits, ambitions, values, goals; in which case the dream is telling you that the only way forward for you lies through giving these up and looking deeper within yourself for better values, etc. {where 'better' means more in tune with your real self}.

    {Primitive rites of passage,as described in mythological symbolism as well as in dreams, which mark transitional stages in a person's life - birth, initiation into adulthood, marriage and career, death - all contain death-and-rebirth symbolism and express a recognition that the development of new attitudes more appropriate to one's new stage in life {the death and resurrection of Jesus is a metaphor for such death and resurrection stages in the individual life}. The symbolic death of the initiate in these rites may also be seen as a descent of the conscious ego into the unconscious: it is the unconscious {and the compensating knowledge that it holds} that provides the means for new growth - rebirth.

    It is just possible that, if your own death features repeatedly in dreams, it is an expression of an unconscious wish for death. Freud speculated in 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle' that there might be, in everyone, just two controlling basic drives: one towards life and love and pleasure {Eros}, and the other towards death {'Thanatos'}. This is highly controversial {as is much of Freud's theories}, but it is indisputable that many people display strong masochistic tendancy.

    Are you compelled to repeat painful experiences? Do you tend to interpret what other people say as a criticism of yourself? If so, you may be suffering from repressed guilt-feelings and an unconscious urge to punish yourself - which sometimes take the form of a fate-neurosis and/or a wish {unconscious, as in your dream} to see yourself dead. If you feel this applies to you, talk to a friend about it or consult a psycotherapist. See Suicide

    A wish for death may be a retreat from life's problems and pains, or a response to a sense of failure. If this applies to you, bear in mind, first, that a very sensitive person may also be burdened with an over-severe conscience {the product prehaps, of having a stern father or a sin-and-guilt religious upbringing}. In that case, see the previous paragraph. Secondly, what makes a thing a problem is usually one's attitude towards it. For example, suppose you have been made redundant {repeat mistakes over and over}. If your reaction is to see this as a punishment, see previous paragraph. If you see it as a failure, try to change your attitude or perspective by asking what creative purpose may be being served by your redundancy; perhaps, for instance, the demolishing of an inadequate or false self-image in order to make way for the construction of one that corresponds more closely to your individual ground-plan or 'destiny'.

  • <5> If the gender of the dead person is stressed, the meaning may be that your masculinity/femininity or your animus/anima needs reviving.
    <6> a dead animal in a dream almost certainly refers to some part of you - an instinctive force, perhaps - and the dream will be telling you either that this part of you {e.g. guilt-feelings or inferiority complex} ought to die, because its effects are wholly negative; or that it is a valuable but repressed part of you that you must now bring to life, to rectify an imbalance in your personality.

    Going Deeper into the Possibilities of the Meaning of Death

    Death should never be taken as a literal interpretation in a dream. There is always the possibility but it is so rare that to take it literally would be mistaking the meaning of the symbol. Dreams compensate what the dreamer already knows, they do not as a matter in principle predict the future. Any prediction of future events would be within the knowledge of what the dreaming mind already has access to in personal knowledge and experience. If you were to have two horses in a race the chances of one of them winning is for sure. The dreaming mind can calculate the possibilities, and within a dream symbolically suggest the results from the possibilities. But we must remember that symbols in a dream are metaphorical of the dreamer's life, as it really is and not as the ego-centric life wishes it to be. To interpret a symbol as a literal fact will always produce an incorrect interpretation. As much as we wish to believe in the power of the mind, the reality is it has it limits, even within the metaphysical confines of the dream world. There are possibilities within the unconscious mind that do produce synchronistic experiences but when interpreting a dream these experiences are secondary in their approach.

    To understand death we must understand the metaphors that the dream produces in the sleeping mind. To get a better understanding how this is done we can use mythology as the example, the metaphorical reference to the meaning{s} of a particular symbol in myth or fairytales. Perhaps the best known story is that of Jesus' death and resurrection on the cross. Because of faith Christians see this as a historical, literal truth. But putting that side, and not to disparage anyone's faith, the death and resurrection is metaphorical of what happens to the psyche when a person undertakes a transition in their own personal life. There is a 'death' to the old person, the old way of thinking and doing things, and a resurrection to a new life, new ideas, a new outlook. Jesus died to wipe away the sins of humanity, and was resurrected to a new life beyond the ordinary existance of time and space. To see yourself or someone else dying or dead in a dream will surely be a reference to some part of your waking life that is, or needs to, undergo a transformation or transition. If a person is changing jobs, a career change that has great emotional distress, the dream may showcase a death. It may be something you are already doing, or it may be something you may {or may not} need to be doing. The death is metaphorical of what is happening in the waking life and is not a reference to a literal experience of a death of the body. It is psychological, with physical implications as a result of that psychological change. With every death comes new life, thus making the dream a prognisticator of future events, but within the already possessed knowledge of the dreamer.

    Jung expound the fact that dream symbols always have more than one meaning or reference. To elucidate on the symbolic death of Jesus we can use that reference to the possibilities in the individual life of the dreamer. Whereas the symbolic death in a dream will be a reference to the waking life of the dreamer {changing jobs as an example}, there is also a deeper connotation to the dream symbol. Jesus symbolizes the spiritual aspect of the human life, and his death and resuurection would also connote that aspect with the individual psyche. What is beyond the normal range of possibilities {Jesus ascending to heaven}, the individual too can experience a wider range of possibilities. As Jesus symbolizes going past the material world of things, the dream recognizes the need of the individual to do the same before balance is restored to that life. Creativity, and/or a spiritual awakening {not necessarily religious} are the possibilites that lie within a death and resurrection motif. These are metaphysical, and Jung saw those patients who discovered these aspects within their lives make a complete recovery from any psychological {and physical} ill that they may have experienced. Jesus is the metaphysical, and symbolizes in the individual life the metaphysical aspect that needs to be realized before a balanced, harmonous life is to be experienced.

    As you work through the everyday waking life and overcome the tasks {dragons, demons, barriers to overcome in mythology}that are presented to you, there lies beneath the surface a need to reconcile those parts of you that are beyond that everday life. Childhood experiences that may be repressed or forgotten could very well be the stimulus for a need to 'die' to the old self, the experiences from childhood that live on into adult life and to an extent controls that life , and be resurrected to a new life, free of the possessions of the wounded experiences from childhood. Death in a dream is something metaphorical of your emotional life. As complex as life is, the complexities of the symbolic value of the dream symbol must be recognized to have full meaning and results.


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