Attacker Dreams

Greetings, dreamers!

The weather has turned, here, from a strange heat wave to chill, thunder, lightening, and rain.  In the garden, the last heart-shaped leaf on our bright redbud tree dropped to the ground this morning. It’s time for a cup of cinnamon spice tea, introspection, and dreams…

Thank you for the dreams you send, little word paintings of yourselves.  Here are my tentative thoughts on some of those I’ve received recently, either via comment or email, about being attacked or threatened.  With introspection comes recognition of aspects of ourselves we may be less familiar with, and they can visit us in dreams, as we shall see!

Dreams of Attack on Family

By far, the most common dreams I receive are those in which the dreamer is being chased, threatened or actually attacked.

Dream One (Jessica): I walk out of my room into the hallway and hear this voice, “If you ever want to see your family again…” I wander down the hallway to my brother’s room and see bodies lying around on the floor and everywhere, but I’m not scared…I had the dream again, only this time the bodies are family members. The voice sounds like my dad.

Dream Two: (recurring, submitted 10/25/10, different dreamer) I dreamed that one day my sister and I were home alone while my parents were out eating dinner. Without notice, two burglars came into my house and killed my sister…

These dreams were enough to make me spill my tea! Dreams where someone comes in or breaks in and threatens or kills the dreamer’s family are actually most common amongst young adults making their own way out into the world.  It’s as if moving away from the family, either literally or in beliefs or attitudes, is so threatening it feels like death.

In the first dream, “someone” has come in and “killed” everyone, and the dreamer is unafraid (unlike how she’d probably feel in waking life!).  Remember, research has shown that our feelings in dreams are different from those we have when awake, and this is a good example of that principle.  Dream feelings can represent feelings we are unaware of having in waking life, and may need to become familiar with.  Perhaps our dreamer’s growing independence has changed her role in the family, her feelings about security, and self-confidence–nothing to be afraid of, after all. But her family has changed completely in her mind; the way she saw herself as a child is gone forever, which may have been represented in the dream “as if” they had died, rather than that she has become an adult, and sees her family from that perspective now.  Sometimes, parents have a hard time letting go of their maturing children, and their children can feel like they are hurting the parents just for growing up (and this can happen even when the “kid” is 35!).  Creative people often choose different roads than those of their parents, which can make their movement through life particularly difficult.

In the second dream, the target is the dreamer’s sister. The dreamer may want to ask herself what qualities of the dreamer does the sister share? Are those qualities things the dreamer is eliminating in herself as s/he matures?  Death is, as I discussed in another post, transformation in dreams–the “death” of the old self must occur before the new self can arise.  Since we create all the characters in our dreams, they are all a part of us.

Attacking the Self

Dream Three (Gladys): Someone comes out of my closet, their face covered with a black jacket, walking toward my bed carrying a knife. I hear my aunt calling my name. When the person hears my name, s/he goes back to the closet.

The psyche is often represented in dreams as a building, with many rooms.  To be “closeted” has made its way into speech as meaning hiding an aspect of oneself from others, as if in a closet. In closets, we store our clothes, the things we put on to hide and protect our bodies, or real selves.  So, in dreams, when someone comes out of a closet, pay special attention.  That character may be a hidden, important part of yourself!

In this case, the character comes out with a knife. It may be the character is a murderer–whose qualities, once recognized, are going to change the dreamer’s conception of self and othersthe character is going to give the knife to the dreamer (in case the dreamer needs to be more discriminating, or assertive, or self-protective).  The dreamer assumes the character is dangerous (who wouldn’t?!), but that may not be the case.  She might want to explore the idea that an unconscious aspect of herself may be emerging from hiding, and although that may feel threatening, it contain qualities she, herself, needs.  The closet character may have actually been wanting to give her the knife (representing, for example, the powers of discernment, letting go, cutting off, assertiveness, or self- protection). Try making a list of the qualities that character has, when you consider him/her in the dream, without judgment.  Sly? Crafty? Determined? Creative? Watch for an “aha!” moment, when you feel “that’s it!” That, then, would be the quality to start developing in your own, conscious self!

Dream Four (Marcus): I’m dreaming I’m lying down in my bed and some man kicks down my door and starts stabbing me. Right before I die, I look up at the killer’s face and it’s me.

Ah, yes. An aspect of yourself is always the one trying to “kill” you. When you integrate the qualities it embodies, your old self “dies” a little bit–that is, you grow and change.

If you are troubled by scary dreams, though, check out the post on nightmares to learn what to do to stop them!

About Veronica Tonay

International dream expert, Dr. Veronica Tonay, earned her masters and doctoral degrees in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1990s. She has been a licensed psychologist in private practice since 1997 (CA PSY 15379), and has taught psychology courses to undergraduates at the University of California at Santa Cruz since 1989.  Her work has been featured for over 25 years in many media outlets, such as Psychology Today, NPR Public Radio,, and The Chicago Tribune. Dr. Tonay was featured dream expert on the Discovery Health TV Channel's 3-episode miniseries, Dream Decoders. She has organized several dream conferences for the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and has published journal articles and three books, including: "The Creative Dreamer, Revised: Using Your Dreams to Unlock Your Creativity" (Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts) and "Every Dream Interpreted," published in London by Collins & Brown.  She lives with her husband, Steven, in Santa Cruz, California, gardening, painting, writing, dancing, and dreaming.
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