QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
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 SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

What does it mean when I kill someone in my dreams? In my dream I was climbing up a ladder behind by brother (I don't even have a brother in waking life!) to get to the top bunk bed and I put a knife in his back. Even in the dream I was shocked by my behavior. I'm a very non-violent person and was upset that this occurred, even in a dream!

Answer

Finding ourselves behaving in dreams like criminals is very upsetting, even though it is quite common. For any upsetting experience, its often useful to write the experience down in a journal as clearly and detailed as possible. Although your dream will have personal meanings beyond what anyone but you yourself can discover, the act of killing and being killed in dreams is really quite normal, even among those who would never hurt a fly.

Dream workers find the most useful way to approach these dreams is to first see that the deaths and slayings are not meant to be taken literally, but rather symbolically. This becomes especially clear when we kill figures that don't even exist in waking life. The image of death taken symbolically can mean many things, one of which can be the death of an old attitude or personality trait or behavior pattern.

In this way the whole sense of the dream is reversed, and death becomes a doorway to a new way of living. As you can see, the meanings shift according to who is being killed. Killing our parents may be giving up values they gave us that no longer work for us, while killing a sibling may be getting beyond relationships that involve useless rivalry and competition.

It is always interesting to note how *far away* the murdered figures are from you, both physically or in terms of blood relations. An unknown person or distant cousin may indicate that the personality trait or habit that is dying or being done away with is rather distant from your core personality. Killing oneself or an intimate other offers the opportunity to make key changes in your life or attitudes.

If this were my dream, the unknown brother might represent a part of myself that I'm very competitive with but don't admit it. We both want the "Top Bunk" or top place. By dreaming about this I become conscious of this struggle and may choose some alternatives, such as sharing the top position with those key parts of myself where I would usually kill rather than let them be on top. I would want to know who the unknown brother was, and perhaps watch and see who I compete with as I go through a regular day.

The key here is to approach the elements in the dream metaphorically, and then to apply these metaphors to ourselves and our life. In this way the most adverse dream conditions become our allies in personal growth & self empowerment.

2/19/98

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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