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 recurring dreams of tornadoes. I dream I see them off in a distance and am seeking shelter. Sometimes I have even been caught in them and have had to "ride out the storm". I am never hurt in any of these dreams. Can you help me interpret their meaning?


Dreams of natural disasters often leave strong impressions and emotions upon awakening. This includes not only tornadoes, but fires, tidal waves, earthquakes, lightning and other threatening natural occurrences. Those who have actually been through a waking life disaster, natural or human conflict, and have recurring troubling dreams of this afterwards may wish to seek help from a mental health professional. Most of us, however, have disaster dreams from time to time.

Each dreamer will find a different meaning for these, and there are many causes as to why this might be. There are some approaches to the dream that are useful and may help reveal the significance of the dream.

I'm going to list a few here:

1. Most recurring dreams have *slight* differences each time. Be sure to write the dream down immediately upon awakening and describe the dream in as deep of detail as possible. Be sure to date the dream.

2. Look at the dream metaphorically.


Describe generally what the natural disaster does and how it does it. For example, an earthquake rumbles and shakes everything that was once firm and solid, it tumbles buildings and things we have constructed, it is uncontrollable and unpredictable. Likewise, a tornado might be something that blows everything away, swirling up the most precious of things we have put together and leaving a path of destruction.
Describe what else in your life is like this or how and where you might be afraid of this kind of disaster.
Pretend for a moment *you* are the tornado, earthquake or tidal wave. How would you act, why might you shake or twirl up some other people or place?

3. Represent the dream in material form. While it is important to write about the dream and represent it, one may also want to hold the profundity of the dream and express it. Drawing, painting and sculpting may do this for you, or perhaps a collage, a dance or putting up a Web site might better express the dream for you. When we write about our dreams, we are usually trying to understand them. But when we express our dreams, we are trying to stay in touch with the powerful new feelings and intuitions they provide.

Siegel, Alan B. (1990). Dreams That Can Change Your Life. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher. Hartmann, Earnest, (1984). The Nightmare: The Psychology and Biology of Terrifying Dreams. New York: Basic Books.


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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