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Arrow Question / Issue:

"I am concerned about bad a dream I had where I died, or about other bad dreams. Should I be worried? What do the dreams mean?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

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I generally wouldn't worry too much about bad dreams or be overly concerned based on a dream. They might mean nothing. Nevertheless, it is good to always be prepared for death at any time, because that is such an important moment in terms of our salvation. Other events in life also require adequate reflection and preparation, but it seems that needless and unprofitable worrying over a dream is not useful but rather can cause harm (e.g. due to stress). If something from a dream bothers you, it might be useful to bring it up with a good priest to see if he can be of assistance. If the situation warrants, it may also be helpful to consult a good mental health professional.

In case it helps, I'll mention that I'm aware of a good & holy priest who instructed someone very worried over a bad dream to not let it bother them. It concerned the supposed bad state of their soul and was terrifying to them. Perhaps the dream was a trick of Satan to lead the person (a practicing Catholic!) into despair. That is one of the dangers of putting to much value in a dream (which may NOT be from God).

As Scripture says...

"Empty and false are the hopes of the senseless, and fools are borne aloft by dreams. Like a man who catches at shadows or chases the wind, is the one who believes in dreams. What is seen in dreams is to reality what the reflection of a face is to the face itself. Can the unclean produce the clean? can the liar ever speak the truth? Divination, omens and dreams all are unreal; what you already expect, the mind depicts. Unless it be a vision specially sent by the Most High, fix not your heart on it; For dreams have led many astray, and those who believed in them have perished." (Sirach 34:1-7)

And as the Baltimore Catechism states...

"Dreams are the thoughts we have in sleep, when our will is unable to guide them. It is forbidden to believe in them, because they are often ridiculous, unreasonable, or wicked, and are not governed by either reason or faith."

"God did frequently in the Old Law make use of dreams as a means of making known His Will; but on such occasions He always gave proof that what He made known was not a mere dream, but rather a revelation or inspiration. He no longer makes use of such means, for He now makes known His will through the inspiration of His Church."

Regarding messages in dreams, you might be aided by good research concerning traditional Church teachings with respect to discernment of spirits. Remember that there are evil spirits working for our destruction. So we must be careful.

Yet even if a message is not from God, there is the chance that God can utilize the mental imagery from our sleep for our good. For example, perhaps the dream presents a convenient opportunity to prepare for a happy death or to speak with a holy priest who can provide some useful spiritual direction. Or maybe the dream might cause you to put your fears into your loving Father's hands through prayer. He loves you very much and wants your best always. Go to Him!

I know it's disturbing when things like this happen and I understand your worry, but personally I've had so many dreams and probably almost none ever happen (e.g. none come true in real life). That doesn't mean it's impossible, of course, just that statistically speaking most (all or nearly all) bad dreams that I recall have NOT come true. It seems indisputable that needless and unprofitable worrying over a dream is not useful but rather can cause harm (e.g. due to stress).

If it was me, I would not put much value into what dreams "mean". The might mean nothing at all, or they might be easily misinterpreted. Again, you could seek the advice of a holy priest (or, as necessary, of a good mental health professional). And, of course prayer is a wonderful idea. Remember that God 'works everything to good for those who love Him'. If God wants to communicate something with you, He can certainly find a way.

And of course, if the dream was prompted by watching bad programs (or even if it wasn't), such viewing should be stopped. Likewise, it may be wise to evaluate if you have engaged in (or refrained from) some activity that may be related to the dream (e.g. unnecessarily participating in dangerous activities, forgoing appropriate medical care, etc.). If so, consider making needed changes.

All and all I would think it best to just be prepared and try not to worry too much. Use this incident as a good opportunity to become even better prepared. Speak to God in prayer and contact a holy priest (or mental health professional) if necessary. Perhaps in the long run, you'll eventually find yourself grateful for the "bad" dream, or at least for what came out of it!

As a side note, if the dreams have you thinking about dying, it might be an excellent time to prepare for a holy death – it's always a good practice for Catholics to be prepared for eventual death (hopefully long into the future!). You might consider a brown scapular if you don't already wear one (see here), and you might also want to try here for some death-related resources.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: We are not intending to give – or qualified to give – medical advice. Consult a good, qualified medical professional(s) for medical assistance.


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