The meaning of the dream symbol: Fear

Fear is a common theme in dreams and is the essence of what are called nightmares. Its significance may partly depend on what, in the dream, is the object of your fear, but this will nearly always represent something within you - for example, some repressed emotion or instinctive drive.

1. What is frightening in a dream may represent (your encounter with) the unconscious in general, to the extent that it is still unexplored. Since -according to Jung - the unconscious compensates for the conscious mind and therefore contains qualities opposed to those of the conscious mind, you may well be frightened by it. However, those opposite qualities are there to round out your personality as you go through life, till you achieve wholeness; so, overcome your fear and get acquainted with what your unconscious contains. The unconscious may be represented in dreams by anything deep and/or dark (cellar, well, sea, black sky, etc.) or by a mother figure or brother/sister.

2. The frightening thing may represent some particular content of the unconscious, usually something you have repressed - guilt feelings and fears of punishment, sexuality, anger, etc. Sexuality and anger are sometimes represented in dreams by wild animals.

3. A father figure or other authority figure may feature in a dream that expresses fear or guilt. This is because self-condemnation and anxiety often derive from childhood fears of father's (real or imagined) disapproval, prohibitions or expectations. According to Freud, all other fears of punishment get their energy from the fear of castration, which, for a male child, forms part of the Oedipus complex. In a dream castration may be represented by the cutting off of any part of the body.

4. Fear of mother may appear in dreams, where mother as an object of fear may be represented by a spider, or water, or crocodile, or dragon. Are you in danger of being overwhelmed by your mother or your mother-attachment?

5. Fear of castration does not appear in women, but its place is taken by fear of losing mother's love; and for both sexes mother is the first object of love, and so any fear of loss of love in later life (e.g. that of a spouse) may evoke that earliest fear associated with mother.

6. Something representing a man’s anima or a woman's animus may be the frightening thing in the dream. This would suggest that you have repressed or neglected your anima/animus, probably because you find it difficult to acknowledge that the human psyche is bisexual, the woman's unconscious having strong male characteristics (centring round the use of reason, competitiveness, etc.) and the man's having strong female characteristics (centring on feeling, relatedness, etc.). If you are a woman with a tendency to be bossy or argumentative, you have not brought your animus into consciousness - which is why it sometimes erupts. If you are a man given to emotional outbursts, you need to give your anima a proper place in your conscious life; then it will cease to behave in an embarrassing way and will instead complement your masculinity in a creative cooperation.

7. Does the frightening thing seem evil? If so, it will probably represent some part of you that is destroying or threatens to destroy your inner peace or outward efficiency. Bear in mind that nearly everything in your unconscious has two aspects: a threatening or disgusting aspect, when it is shut away and neglected; and a positive, creative aspect, when it is acknowledged and given an appropriate place in your conscious life.

8. According to Freud, anxiety dreams are invariably disguised wishfulfil-ments. For example, a dream in which you are anxious about a person's health may reveal an unconscious resentment or hatred of the person. Take this possibility seriously: repressed negative emotions are very common.

9. Fear of falling is a common dream theme.

10. Does the fear felt in the dream bring the dream to a premature end?

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