Feelings in Dreams

A major element of dream imagery is its emotional tone. Feelings can be experienced directly in dreams, including fear, anger, guilt, sadness, shame, joy, pleasure, elation and happiness. Sometimes, feelings are symbolized by objects or colors; for example, red may symbolize rage or black may mean depression. A particular place or scene may evoke memories of the feelings associated with them. For example, a childhood playground might represent the happy experiences playing with friends. On the other hand, a high school classroom might be associated with the embarassment felt in giving a wrong answer to a math teacher’s question. One of the functions of dreaming is thought to be that of processing the previous day’s feelings. For example, if the dreamer has gone to sleep feeling angry about a particular situation experienced at work, the night’s dreams attempt to neutralize the anger. If this fails, the dreamer will most likely awaken in the morning feeling out of sorts. Milton Kramer, a well-known dream researcher, refers to this phenomenon as “the mood regulatory function of dreaming”. Nightmares are characterized by intense emotions such as terror, rage, etc. Post-traumatic dreams usually consist of intense, unpleasant feelings associated with the traumatic experience. A key point in understanding the meaning of a dream is to explore the feelings experienced or symbolized in the dream imagery. Often, a dream will pin-point the authentic feelings we have about an issue or relationship that we do not recognize during waking life.