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The Dream Meanings of Anxiety and Fear

January 28, 2024


Fear often plays a prominent role in dream imagery. Modern psychology views it as a mistake one wishes to undo. A scream of fear in a dream thus indicates a grave error that requires personal initiative to rectify. One of the primary factors in ‘worry’ (why not preparation or even anticipation of joy) for health and well-being lies in resolving fears. Psychologists from various schools believe that fears exist in everyone: on one hand, as necessary protective switches and safeguards, and on the other, as a historical legacy. If it’s ‘normal’ to have certain fears, then those who dream of their fears are better equipped. Those who do not dream of their fears also have them, but find it harder to process these fears, which is the only way to eliminate them. Confronting fear is part of being human. Understandably, we don’t want to be touched by this fear and thus suppress it. What is suppression? In depth psychology, suppression is an internal defense mechanism that prevents one from perceiving what one fears or rejects and feels threatened by. Suppression is thus motivated forgetting. The motivation is shaped by our desire not to experience states of fear or general discomfort. By tending to suppress our fears, they haunt us in our nightly dreams. If I fear expressing my aggression openly, I will likely have dreams where I am confronted with this aggression. Everything that frightens us and that we avoid in waking life confronts us in our nightly dreams. Such a fear dream can escalate into a nightmare, from which we wake up sweating profusely or even screaming. The term ‘nightmare’ comes from ‘Albina’, the white goddess, from which the word ‘elf’ is also derived. The nightmare is also the dream associated with elves, in which the negative and dangerous aspects that elves symbolize arise. One must confront this fear in the dream and must not suppress it by telling oneself it was just a dream best forgotten quickly. After a fear or nightmare, it’s best to look closely at the nature and cause of the fear. If you want to interpret such a dream – and you should definitely interpret such dreams, as they tend to recur – ask yourself the following questions: What scares me in this dream? Look closely at the frightening situation and ask yourself where you know this situation from in your daily life. How do I react to this fear in the dream? What does this reaction lead to? What other reaction possibilities are conceivable? At least play out alternative reaction possibilities in your imagination. However, it is better to aim to try out alternative reaction patterns in waking life. Why are you dreaming this fear or nightmare now? Frightening dreams often occur just after the frightening thing was consciously or unconsciously experienced. So go through the last few days before this dream again and write down all the frightening moments. How can you relate these or one of them to your dream? Have you had a similar dream before? Try to remember if you had similar frightening dreams in your childhood. If so, try to understand these dreams and realize that your reaction is, so to speak, outdated. This means that you no longer need these fears, which were understandable and possibly functional in your childhood, as an adult. If you deal with these five questions in detail, it should not be done in a distant, unemotional way, but let yourself be touched by the fear and insecurity. If you want to confide in a partner or friend, then you can examine these fears in your imagination with their support and ‘remember, repeat and work through’ (S. Freud) these fears bit by bit. However, it is essential to view your fantasies and feelings from a distance afterward. But if you approach your fears in a detached way right away, they will not lead you to their origins. In essence, you make fears your ally with this technique by showing you where they come from. Once you have understood this, you can usually resolve these fears. However, if this is not possible against all expectations, you should ask a psychotherapist who has experience with dreams for advice. Dreams that cause fear are always indications of doubts, uncertainty, inhibitions, and feelings of guilt or inferiority. What is important for the interpretation of such dreams is what triggered the fear. If a particular fear dream occurs frequently and greatly disturbs the dreamer, this indicates a serious disorder that may require therapeutic treatment. As soon as you wake up from this dream, you should try to analyze this fear dream in the waking state to find out the reason for it. The ancient Egyptians described being afraid as not being quite satisfied with oneself.

Cultural Interpretations


  • Having: You will successfully complete something.
  • Being plagued by feelings of fear: One has made a mistake.
  • Being frightened by terrible dream images: There are suppressed worries or conflicts with people who seem dangerous to us.
  • Screams of fear: You will have unpleasant surprises.


  • Fear in a dream is telling you that you need to address the resolution of your problems with greater care. It is also an expression of actual fearfulness that has taken on threatening dimensions because it was handled too carelessly. Regardless of the form in which fear appears in the dream, it always represents a call to tackle problem-solving and daily challenges more consciously and courageously.


  • Being afraid of something: You will overcome your enemies and, despite many obstacles, come closer to your life goal – the greater the torment, the greater your success.
  • Being afraid of a particular thing: Difficulties in the household; a plan will remain unsuccessful – almost certainly indicates some misfortune.
  • For a young woman, this signifies disappointment and unhappy love.
  • If a young woman is afraid of a dog, she may doubt a good friend.
  • Causing fear in others: You will soon find yourself in a critical situation or face a disappointment.

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