5 Scary Dreams That Actually Mean Something Good, Therapists Say
You might not need to worry if you keep having these nightmares.
Your parents have died. You're covered in snakes. You are dying. These common scary dreams can wake you up in the middle of the night in a panicked cold sweat. Is this nightmare a sign your mother is really sick? Or is your reptile dream a metaphor for your anxiety? Turns out, certain scary dreams actually mean something good.
"People most often remember their scary dreams because they create a shock to the system that wakes us up," explains John Sovec, LMFT, a therapist and coach who's based in Pasadena, California.
But just because you remember them, it doesn't necessarily mean those nightmares will become a reality.
"The majority of scary dreams are warnings. But don't be afraid of them," says Lauri Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst and author. "They are simply the way the subconscious is shining a light on an issue that needs your attention."
Keep reading to learn which bad dreams aren't actually so bad.
Perhaps one of the scariest dreams is the one in which you are dying. These nightmares can often feel so vivid that you might even think you're actually dead. But dying in your dreams is not usually literal.
We often have this nightmare when we're facing a major life transition. "Dreams of dying are a place to process that change and release some of the unresolved thoughts and feelings," Sovec explains.
"While death is the end of life, to the dreaming mind, it is the end of life as you now know it or the end of a phase of life," adds Loewenberg.
"Changes and endings in our lives often show up as death in a dream because our subconscious is helping us to understand the finality of it so we can more effectively let go of that which is no longer viable to us," she shares.
Depending on where you are in your life, dreaming that you're pregnant could fill you with excitement or have the opposite effect. But even if you're not ready to have a baby, it's still a positive dream.
Dreams of pregnancy tend to "indicate something new is beginning to develop in your life or within you such as a new idea, project, or mindset or even a new relationship is beginning to form," explains Loewenberg.
READ THIS NEXT: The 8 Most Common Recurring Dreams, According to Data.
Snakes in your dreams could feel like a really bad sign, but these reptiles actually symbolize healing. Remember, two winged snakes wrapped around a staff is the symbol for physicians, ambulances, hospitals, and pharmacies.
"So the snake being associated with healing is deeply embedded in our psyches and the bite of a snake in a dream is often symbolic of a healing injection," Loewenberg explains.
One common way this manifests is that the snake in your dream represents a toxic person who your subconscious is telling you to stay away from. If the snake bites you, that could mean that you are healing from a physical or emotional injury.
It's the end of the world
Turns out, dreams about the apocalypse have less to do with planet Earth and more to do with your own personal world.
Similar to dreams where you're dying, dreams where the world is ending mean you're undergoing a huge transition. Loewenberg says changing careers or moving to another state are two examples.
"With this dream, the change is not about just you but also involves your surroundings," she explains.
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Someone you love dies
Dreams where a loved one dies can be the most heartbreaking, and even cause you to cry in your sleep. But again, this is a nightmare that signifies change.
"If you get this dream, the first thing to ask yourself is if the person you dreamed about is changing in any way. Or is your relationship with them undergoing some changes? Or perhaps the way you see them has changed," Loewenberg advises.
These dreams can also be your subconscious telling you that you're not completely satisfied in your relationship with this person, Sovec points out.
If you are a parent, you might dream that your child has died. But Loewenberg says that this is usually connected to big milestones like when they learn to walk, start school or college, or learn to drive.
"Each milestone can feel like a little death, the ending of that phase of your child's life," she explains. "These dreams allow us to mourn each phase that has ended and appreciate the older more independent child that is emerging."