The Meaning of Being Naked in Public in a Dream

detail-of-the-statue-of-the-capitoline-venus-stefano-baldini

There are a variety of dreams in which you (or someone else) may appear naked: sensual or sexual dreams, and dreams of being free and almost released from your body (perhaps even swimming or flying) for instance.  This article though, is specifically about the kind of dream when you find yourself naked or partially dressed in an inappropriate (usually public) setting.  For example, you may find yourself at work or school inexplicably without pants on, or you may emerge into a public space from a shower, swimming etc. and realise you forgot to put your clothes back on. You may actually be seen by others, or you may be frantically trying to find clothes or hide yourself before you are noticed.  The over-riding emotion that arises from these dreams are usually ones of embarrassment and shame.

I have deliberately not written about these kind of dreams up until now, as they can be some of the most challenging types of dreams to explore.  Dreams of being naked ask us to honestly look at that which we most want to hide from ourselves.  They bring up issues of being exposed, of vulnerability and of revealing our truest Selves.  But in order to do so, we must acknowledge difficult concepts relating to pain, loss, blame, guilt, responsibility, fear and, of course, shame.

Dreams of being naked in public ask:

  • What am I most afraid of admitting to myself?
  • What do I think people will dislike or reject me for if I tell them?
  • Where in my life am I feeling exposed?
  • What am I afraid will happen if I am the “real me”
  • How do I let go of blame (of myself or another) for something bad that happened?
  • Why do I feel the need to protect myself, and what would happen if I didn’t?
  • What does being vulnerable mean to me?
  • How am I judging myself right now?

The degree of discomfort we feel in a dream where we are naked in public is important.  Feeling suddenly caught off guard, but not deeply upset by being naked in a dream is likely related to a shorter term or more recent life event.  A dream like this may be about feeling vulnerable as we experiment with a new situation, such as a new job or relationship.  It is an incredibly difficult thing for most people to be able to let their guard down, and expose themselves for who they really are.  We fear being judged, exploited, hurt or ridiculed.  If you have been recently hurt in a relationship, you may dream of being naked.  Similarly, if you tried something new that made you feel uncomfortable, and then feel you failed or messed it up somehow, you may also have this dream.  It may be about a recent disappointment in yourself, and a sense of wishing you could have done things differently.

If, however, the dream is profoundly unsettling, and you felt ashamed, humiliated or embarrassed by being found naked in public, there is a good chance you are dealing with deeper seated issues that have their roots in your earlier history.

Shame cuts to the very core of who we believe we are.  Many psychologists and therapists now believe shame served an evolutionary function, as it prevented our ancestors from revealing secrets that may have had them  exiled from the tribe if they had shared them.  In early human days, such an exile could have been a matter of life of death.  Though we no longer need to protect ourselves from the exile of the tribe, we still feel shame.  But shame is an emotion, and like all emotions, it can be worked on and even ultimately shifted.

The first step is acknowledging that we feel shame at all.  This may be one of the primary gifts from a dream of being naked.  These dreams gently assure us that it is the right time to admit those things we hide not only from others, but from ourselves – those feelings of being inadequate, or the fear that if somebody finds out who we really are, they will reject us.

It can also help to recognise that we are not defined by our past behaviour or experience, but in how we chose to deal with it.  Shame can make us feel that the bad things that happened to us are our fault – they aren’t!  Shame can make us feel that the bad things we did make us a bad person – they don’t!  Nobody is perfect.  Dreams of being shamefully naked ask us to stop being so hard on ourselves, to realise the person doing the judging is actually our own self.

Some of the best actions you can take when you feel shame are to:

  • Realise you are not alone.  When we feel ashamed it is like we are the only person in the world who feels like we do.  But these feelings are incredibly common and entirely normal.  We all share the same sense of isolation, and connection with others is a powerful tool for healing
  • Find a loving, supportive person to talk to and share your feelings with, whether it be a close friend or family member, or someone professional if you need to start there.
  • Give back to others by volunteering or performing random acts of kindness.  Altruistic acts can sooth a sense of worthlessness as you realise the good you can bring into the world, they can bring perspective and create feelings of empowerment and pride
  • Practice gratitude for the things that are good in your life, and as you work on being kind to others, practice this kindness to your self – you deserve it!
  • Focus on surrounding yourself with kind, loving and supportive people, and spend your time doing things that nurture the soul – dancing, making music, walking in nature, caring for animals, cooking, being creative and so on

To gain more insight into what areas of your life this dream may be focussing on, sometimes certain parts of the body will seem to have greater and unexpected significance.  You may wish to read these articles for more in-depth information on the symbolic meanings of arms and shoulders, eyes, hair, hands, head,and legs.

There are of course times when it is necessary to protect yourself.  Sometimes a dream of being naked in public may indicate that you feel exposed or vulnerable to someone or some situation that may be damaging or exploitative to you.  At such times, it is important to maintain your defences.  You may find clues in the dream as to how to do this.  For example, hiding behind a wall may symbolise not engaging at all, or perhaps engaging without any emotion – to remain “stony faced.”  Finding a costume or uniform to wear may indicate a certain role you need to play in order to deflect the person’s attention from the real you.  Whatever evasive manoeuvres you need to make, a dream of being naked in public will also try to gently remind you that the part of yourself you are hiding is still there, and still valuable.  Don’t hide it so often or for so long that you forget about it yourself!  Ensure you have a safe place to be the real, wonderful you.

Dreams of being naked in public are often difficult to explore, but they offer a chance for profound healing.  They challenge us to be brave in overcoming our fears of how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves, they invite us to forgive and to let go of past hurt, they encourage us accept and express every part of us.  Ultimately, a dream of being naked in public can be a vital step on the path to becoming you most Authentic Self.

Image top: Detail of the statue of the Capitoline Venus, Stefano Baldini

Image below: Psyche and Amor, also known as Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss (1798), by François Gérard

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2 Comments

  1. This is such careful and thorough work, Amy. Thank you for taking the time to help us. My favorite dream is one in which my best friend, recently deceased, and I were planning a road trip. Suddenly he lept up and shouted, “Come on, Reetz, let’s get going!” I jumped up and threw off all my clothes, stuffed a suitcase, and we were off! It was such an exhilarating feeling.

    You make me wonder about angels so often being depicted naked.

    Like

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