To dream of attacking or being attacked often relates to issues of control or criticism in life. Even if you feel you are in complete control of your life, you may still have an attacking dream, because deep down, you could be waging a war to stay in control, and fear what would happen if you lost control. Attacking dreams are not usually about wanting to hurt ourselves or others, but can be about our own unresolved internal conflict. Dreams of being attacked or attacking can disturb us with their violence, but attack dreams show us a way to peaceful resolution. (Please note, these insights may not be relevant if you have PTSD and are suffering traumatic dreams that relive your experience. If this is your situation, please do seek personal, empathetic, professional help.)
Attacking dreams are challenging to address because they are often asking us questions such as:
– Where am I being defensive in my life?
– Where may I be hurting myself or someone else in real life?
– What old patterns of behaviour do I need to break?
If you dream you are being attacked, where in your life are you insecure or vulnerable? If in your dream you are doing the attacking, this does not mean you actually want to go out and hurt someone! Consider if you may be self sabotaging your own efforts (bad habits, not finishing things you started, letting people down etc.)
Or for both attacking or being attacked dreams, is there something in your life you need to get rid of, a behaviour or belief that you have outgrown? You may be attacking your own fears and doubts, so to “eliminate” them can be a good thing. Remember, you are not dreaming of real people, but what those people represent to you. If you dream of being attacked by Bob your neighbour, who you see as highly critical, maybe you feel your own critical nature is preventing you from achieving your goals – the voice of self doubt. If you dream you are attacking your old head master at school who you saw as authoritarian and a bit scary, it may be that you need to escape the restrictive rules of authority that you place on yourself.
It can be helpful to look at where you are being attacked in the dream, or doing the attacking. Is it a dream of being stabbed in the back? You might be betraying your own principles, lying to yourself or someone, or perhaps you should be more careful about whom you trust. Are you being wounded in the heart? This might be where you are denying your true feelings, or reminding you of when your heart was broken in the past, and asking you to let your heart heal – to stop revisiting an old wound and blaming others for your hurt, and move on. Are you being cut in the throat or cutting someone else in the throat in your dream? This could be asking you to speak up for yourself, to find your own voice. Is it your legs or feet in the dream that are under attack? This could mean you “don’t have a leg to stand on” – that you are basing your beliefs or attitudes on something that has no real grounding, or that you need to learn to stand up for yourself. Is it your eyes? This might mean your dream is asking you where you are turning a blind eye to something, what is you don’t want to see? Or maybe you are seeing something clearly for the first time, as if your old eyes were blind but now you can see. These are just a few ideas to get you started. See what works for you.
Also look at the weapons of attack. Think what these symbolise to you. Describe it as you would to a child. For example, a sword might be described as sharp, precise, a bit old fashioned, used in children’s fairy-tales. How does this relate to your own feelings and behaviour? It might be the critical voice in your head, with sharp words, judging you in an old fashioned manner for behaviour that you learnt as a child was bad. Whereas a tank is impenetrable, fires from a distance, is large and strong. This may remind you of a distant father or boss, who didn’t support you but would criticise you and not realise they hurt you. You might still carry this pain with you, and every time you get hurt, you react to the person as if they were your father or boss, head master, or whatever. Attacking dreams can help release you from that pattern of old pain and start building a new, fresh positive way of interacting with other people, and a more positive voice in your own head.
To help move on, try writing a letter to your attacker or victim, telling them what you feel, why you need to move on from them. Forgive them and release them – tell them you have no need for their outdated behaviour. You can then burn, bury, or flush this letter down the toilet – symbolising releasing that old pain from your life. It can also be helpful to write one from the attackers point of view – this can give you insight especially if you are attacking your “internal critic” who it can be quite a good thing to silence!
See how your dreams over following nights change to ones of you befriending the attackers or them transforming into something more pleasant, or of them becoming insignificant, powerless, or small. Look for positive changes in your life where you feel more confident, people seem to relax more around you, and you yourself feel more relaxed. This means you understood your dream clearly, and acted on it well. If the attacking dreams continue, keep working at it, try new ideas to see what they are really saying. And don’t feel bad if it is difficult at first, attacking dreams are often about our own conflict, if it was easy we wouldn’t feel conflicted!
On another note, attacking dreams can signify a possible health problem. Review your eating/exercising/sleeping/substance using behaviours. If you have any cause for concern beyond taking it more easy, getting a bit of fresh air and exercise or eating less processed foods and a few more fruits and vegetables, you should see a doctor. I am not sure who said this originally, but this quote is most appropriate here: “Listen to the whispers before they become shouts.” Your subconscious knows what’s going on with your body, often before your conscious mind does, especially in a world where we are all so busy and stressed. An attacking dream can symbolise your immune system, your body fighting some kind of infection. Or it could be your deeper self struggling with the rigid rules of work and effort our conscious mind places on it.
Dreams about attacking animals will be reviewed a bit more in a future blog about the roles of symbolic animals in dreams, but most of the rest of this post can still apply to an animal attacking dream.
An attacking dream invites us to stop, reflect, and see what needs changing. Attacking dreams gives us hints as to how we can change our lives to improve, to grow, to develop new behaviours and beliefs that serve us well, that do not cause us internal conflict. They offer us a chance to relax, and feel confident, safe and empowered. But only if we listen to, and act upon, the messages in our dreams.
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