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Understanding the Meaning of My Dreams During COVID-19

June 1st, 2020 · meaning of my dreams

One of the things that COVID-19 lockdown has led to is that people are dreaming more–and, often wondering “What is the meaning of my dreams?” Do they mean anything?

Surveys that have been done by authoritative sources indicate that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, we may be sleeping less well than we did, but we tend to be sleeping somewhat more. The result of this is that many people surveyed report that they remember more dreams than in pre-lockdown times. What’s more, these dreams tend not to be of the peaceful, relaxing variety.

Harvard psychologist Dierdre Barrett has conducted an international survey of dreams during COVID-19. She has found that numbers of dreams that we would classify as nightmares have increased dramatically. This is consistent with results found in previous times of trauma, disaster or dramatically heightened anxiety, such as in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks.

Around the time of 9-11, there was a dramatic increase in anxious dreams involving themes such as planes crashing into buildings or terrorist attacks. In the time of COVID-19, not surprisingly, dreams are featuring themes like masses of maggots, swarms of bugs and hoards of cockroaches or worms. As Barrett points out, in colloquial language we often refer to getting a virus as “catching a bug”, so such imagery would very aptly express our anxieties in the current coronavirus-obsessed world. It seems that we’re witnessing a new phenomenon: the pandemic dream.

Focusing on the Meaning of My Dreams in COVID-19 Times

It’s certainly true that many of the dreams that people are experiencing have strong roots in everyday experience. It’s not really surprising that dreams of “bugs” are appearing frequently at this time, when one of our biggest anxieties concerns “catching a bug”. It’s also clear that many of these pandemic dreams reflect our anxiety. However, I would suggest that this anxiety may be about considerably more than just the narrow anxiety around catching the virus.

This may take us back to a fundamental question: why does dreaming exist at all? There have always been those who view dreaming as “the rubbish dump of the brain”, or “the brain clearing its tapes”, but today, there are very many more people who feel that dreaming serves a valuable function for us as we seek to move forward in our lives. Why would we dream, if not to enable us to adapt better?

If we approach dreams symbolically, as depth psychotherapists do, we could see the appearance of bugs, roaches, worms etc. as themselves a symbolic representation of anxiety, or of gnawing thoughts. While it’s true that many people may be currently experiencing fear of the COVID “bug”, what might be less obvious but essential to recognize, is that there are a great many gnawing anxieties in the present situation: the disease itself, for sure; the economic situation; the impact the situation is having on our relationships and families, and many, many more important issues.

Why It’s Important to be Open to Dreams

This is why it may be very important to be attentive to the particulars of the dream. A dream may be pointing to a very great deal of anxiety, but its essential to get a sense of what the anxiety is actually about. Because dreams offer us the opportunity to gain a glimpse of what is happening within us on the unconscious level, they can give us an important “way in” to understand the nature of our anxiety. They may also offer us important clues as to how to move beyond the anxiety, and to enable us to gain a greater sense of fulfillment, meaning and direction in our lives.

This is why it’s so unfortunate if we don’t give our dreams and our unconscious personality the chance to be heard. If we miss out on taking our dreams seriously, we may well be missing our chance at connecting to resources that could actually help bring some sense of forward movement to us at times in our lives when we feel we are completely “stuck”.

In my opinion, the word “stuck” is very important here, given our current situation worldwide. The strong message that I’m hearing from very many people is that, with the COVID-19 lockdown, and all the restrictions, individuals are experiencing a strong sense of being “stuck”. We’re at a time of major life transition. For many people, both individually and collectively, there is a strong sense that things are not going to go back to the way that they were. For many of us, there is the sense that the future will look different, but its hard to get a clear sense of exactly how.

Paying attention to our dreams, and to what they tell us about our current life situation may be an important step in getting beyond our stuckness.

What Will You Do about Your Dreams?

Dreams can be an important source of self-understanding, and they can help us move forward in our lives. This is always true, but it’s especially true during this time of COVID-19.

I would strongly encourage anyone who remembers a dream to keep a record of it, and to reflect upon it, because there can be a wealth of understanding in dreams. It may also be valuable to consult with a therapist who is well-versed in dreams and dream symbolism, as Jungian depth psychotherapists are.

With every good wish that the meaning of your dreams will open itself to you, and grace your own personal direction in this challenging time,

Brian  Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst


© 2020 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Photo by Cade Renfroe on Unsplash (Creative Commons Licence)

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