Dreams Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


I have had several dreams about my death. In the most recent I dreamt that I was shot. This dream was very vivid and even continued after I woke. In this dream, I knew the people around me, but I didn't recognize them. I am running. I am shot in the back of the head. I lie on the ground, knowing that I am going to die and I'm frightened. I pray and ask God to forgive all of my wrong doings. I wake up praying, it's about a family member, friend, or myself. This dream however is staying with me, I just can't forget about it.


Brushes with death, in dreams or in waking reality, are very frightening. If the dream is much like your life and you live in a violent area or are in a violent relationship, you might consider moving on. If you are feeling the matter is more of a spiritual nature, that is, if you feel that you are being called to understand and come to grips with death or other fears you may want to contact a mental health professional, or perhaps a minister or priest for guidance.

However, nearly everyone who dies in a dream lives to tell about it, and the experience is really quite common. Death dreams are often approached in modern dreamwork as opportunities to make important changes in one's life. The death is seen as symbolic. That is, as the death of an older way of being and the birth of a newer, fresher existence. The power of the dream is directly proportional to the energy we have to make the changes.

The death symbolism in your dream will be unique to you and you are the only authority on the final meaning. If this were my dream, there are some metaphors I would explore....

The main symbol, death, I already mentioned. If there were no realistic threats in my waking environment, I might explore what values and habits I have that might be threatening. Not finding any, I would move on to a more symbolic approach and view my death as the passing away of what is familiar to me and the coming of something unfamiliar.

In my dream, the paradox of the unfamiliar people I knew (or familiar people I didn't know) is a way to prepare myself for this novel change in my life.

Prayer for me is, among other things, a movement towards the Infinite, towards what gives life meaning and value. Both death and prayer are good metaphors for this relationship, as they both indicate a leaning towards the infinite. The people I wake up praying about are an indication that I care about them and they may in some way connect me to this new way of life. The fact that the dream sticks with me further indicates the strength or power of the opportunity this can be. In my dream I would imagine another ending, one where fear played a lesser role. In my imagined ending, I ask the gunner who he or she or it is and what he wants. I would see if there were some way to negotiate both of our needs getting met without guns. My hope is that with some mutual understanding the dream gunner won't need to put a gun to my head to get my attention.

I would also set an affirmation to confront this gunner if we meet again. In waking life it is more prudent to run in these situations, but in the dream world the greatest transformations happen when we confront what seem to be overwhelming odds. Often it is the running itself that creates the situation of being chased.


Richard Wilkerson is general editor for The Internet Dream E-zine, Electric Dreams, and director of DreamGate, the Internet Communications and Dream Education Center. He writes the Cyberphile column for the Association for the Study of Dreams Newsletter.


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