Emotions in Dreams – Decoding Dream Symbolism

Emotions in dreams: A key to decoding dream symbolism

Emotions are at the heart of many dream stories. The dream imagery and actions trigger emotions that would otherwise stay bottled up or unexpressed. So in that sense, dreams provide venting, like a volcano vents to release pressure. By releasing emotions during a dream you might avoid a blow up while awake.

Dreams can trigger strong emotions like rage, terror, love, and ecstasy. Experiencing these emotions while dreaming doesn’t necessarily mean you feel them in your waking life, but is a good indication you feel something similar. In dreams the gloves come off, your inhibitions come down, and the emotional centers of your brain are highly active. So you might not feel rage in your waking life, for example, but something is probably pushing you that direction, and if the situation is left unaddressed you could find yourself in a rage. You might not be in a state of ecstasy, either, but maybe you feel really happy—or could feel that way under the right circumstances. The potential is there.

emotions in dreams - rage

A volcano erupting can symbolize rage

One of the golden rules of dream interpretation is that dreams exaggerate. They do so to get your attention and really express the underlying dynamics of a situation. For example, you are buried with work and dream that you are buried alive. Being buried alive is a much worse situation than being buried at work, of course, but in an exaggerated way it expresses how you feel. Many dreams can be interpreted simply by relating the emotions they trigger with your waking life. Look especially at how you react in a dream. When you react strongly to a situation in a dream, it’s a good indicator that it symbolizes something you feel strongly about, something that arouses powerful emotions in you.

For example, a female dreams about a bit of drink spilling on her mattress during sex, while a condom is being put on. She flies off in a rage and kicks out her partner. Her reaction shows that she feels very strongly about whatever the spilled drink symbolizes. Turns out, it symbolizes the spilling of semen, and she fears accidentally getting pregnant. Only takes a little bit to get her pregnant.

Her reaction reveals that she subconsciously knows the meaning of the symbolism of the spilled drink. Otherwise, why react so strongly to something that on the surface appears innocuous? Her emotional reaction reveals the meaning of the underlying symbolism, and in turn reveals the meaning of the dream.


I'm the author of "Dreams 1-2-3: Remember, Interpret, and Live Your Dreams," and "The Dream Interpretation Dictionary: Symbols, Sign and Meanings." At reddit.com I'm known as RadOwl. I began studying dreams in the early 1990s and delved into all major schools of thought, especially the writings of Carl Jung.

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2 Responses

  1. Jennifer Murray says:

    Thanks again. Great article. Everything you have shared has been very helpful. Can’t tell you how much I enjoy having someone to discuss dream interpretation with.

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