The weirder the dream, the more likely it has spiritual meaning.
Dreams have the capacity to represent the whole range of human emotions. Some dreams have no emotions at all, while others have a variety of both positive and negative feelings.
Certain emotions seem to arise in dreaming more often than in waking life, especially those revolving around aspects of dreaming that feel strange, bizarre, otherworldly, unnatural, and/or weird. For some people, experiences like these are intriguing and draw them towards dreaming. For others, such dreams make them feel confused and uneasy, driving them away.
A helpful analysis of these emotions and their curiously ambivalent impact on people appeared just over 100 years ago, in Sigmund Freud’s essay “The Uncanny” (1919). A brief review of Freud’s argument can shed light on why dreams have always had a vital role in human spirituality, from ancient times to the present day.
The German word that Freud examines in this essay is “unheimlich,” which is usually translated into English as “uncanny,” but more literally means “un-homely.” Something that’s unheimlich is the opposite of what is homely, familiar, comfortable, and known. And yet, as Freud points out, the German word heimlich also means hidden, secret, held within. So more specifically, the unheimlich is that which reveals a secret of something once known and familiar, then lost and hidden within. To feel unheimlich, to feel the eerie dread and haunting wonder of the uncanny, is to encounter what Freud calls “the return of the repressed.”
What Happens When You Experience A Very Strong Sensation Of Uncanniness In A Dream?
First step: Pause, and pay close attention. There’s more going on here than in your other regular dreams.
Second step: Consider what exactly in the dream—what image, character, or action—evoked this unusual emotional response.
Freud identifies several recurrent themes or motifs that tend to elicit a feeling of the uncanny; one of these may relate to your experience.
- Something that looks like an object is actually alive
- Something that looks like a person is actually an object, or a robot
- A threat to the eyes or limbs; castration anxiety
- A double or Doppelganger
- Sharing mental contents; telepathy
- Compulsive repetitions and weird rhythms
- Getting lost in the woods or a maze
- Strange coincidences
- Being given the Evil Eye
- Death, dead bodies, graveyards
- Body parts acting independently of the mind
- Being buried alive
- Déjà vu
The common emotional thread in all these phenomena is the feeling of encountering something both familiar and unfamiliar, real and unreal, long gone and yet here right now. For Freud, the experience of the uncanny reveals powerful realms of the unconscious we are rarely able to access in the waking state. It feels so terribly unsettling because it compels the waking ego to recognize its own limitations and confront what lies beyond the boundaries of ordinary awareness.
This, of course, is precisely what makes an experience of the uncanny such a powerful stimulus for growth, both psychologically (integrating conscious and unconscious aspects of the self) and spiritually (perceiving new dimensions of reality).
1.This means that when you have a dream that feels uncanny, you have a special opportunity to expand your self-awareness and discover new spiritual insights about your life.
2. Despite their off-putting qualities, uncanny dreams are invitations to develop an expanded view of the self and reality as a whole.
3. Although Freud does not use this language, I would say the uncanny in a dream marks an eruption of transpersonal energy into consciousness.
Such dreams can have a tremendous impact on waking life attitudes towards the soul, death, morality, God, and other existential concerns. They are like micro religious conversions, striking a person with a vivid, unforgettable revelation of hidden truth and esoteric knowledge.
Written by: Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D. Originally appeared on: Psychology Today Republished with permission