If you wake up from a scary dream about being shot, you’ll undoubtedly want to know what it means. While this unpleasant nightmare could just be a passing, middle-of-the-night fright fest, dream experts say it’s most likely a message from your subconscious — and one that really is worth interpreting.
“As I always say, dreams are messages from you, to you, about you, in order to improve you,” says Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst and author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life. “So even the scariest dreams, like ones where you get shot, have valuable guidance within them, tailor-made for you and your current circumstances.”
That’s because dreaming is a thinking process, Loewenberg explains. “They are a continuation of your thought-stream from the day. Your dreams are usually connected to and are commenting on any struggles, accomplishments, conversations, emotions, or thoughts you experienced.” And because the brain works differently while you’re in REM dream sleep, she says messages end up appearing in the form of symbols and metaphor.
To figure out what your dream is trying to tell you or what its theme might represent, Loewenberg suggests comparing the emotion within the dream to what happened the previous day, including the conversations you had. “You will certainly find correlations,” she says, giving the example that you might dream about a barking dog after having an argument with someone. (See the resemblance?)
With all that in mind, keep reading for what it can mean if you dream about getting shot.
What It Means If You Dream About Being Shot
1. You Received Harsh Criticism
According to Loewenberg, you’re most likely to have this dream after tough criticism and/or if you’ve been on the receiving end of emotionally-wounding words.
“Emotional pain and emotional wounds in real life often show up in our dreams as physical pain or physical wounds because the subconscious is trying to show you that your emotional and psychological sides need attention and healing, just as much as the physical side,” she adds.
If you feel like someone’s words were a “shot to the system” or as if their harsh critique was unwarranted, consider what you need to do to feel better.
2. Someone Questioned Your Intelligence
Dream details are never random, Loewenberg says, which is why it’s helpful to consider where you got shot as part of your interpretation. “For example, if you were shot in the head, then the dream is most likely connected to feeling as if your intellect has been wounded,” she says.
The connection, of course, would be that you feel as if your “mind” or intelligence took a hit. Again, this might be a sign that you’re struggling with someone’s harsh criticism, but this type of dream can also happen after someone talks down to you or questions your intelligence.
3. You’re Heartbroken
Now let’s say you were shot in the heart in your dream. If so, Loewenberg says it might mean you feel emotionally wounded in waking life. “Perhaps someone said something to you that broke your heart,” she notes, like a parent making a hurtful comment, a partner ending a relationship, or a friend saying something out of pocket. Whatever the case may be, this dream is a sign you feel “shot in the heart”.
4. You Didn’t Stand Up For Yourself
If your dream self gets shot in the leg, consider if you recently needed to “stand up for yourself” but didn’t. “Basically, someone likely ‘shot’ their mouth off at you and emotionally wounded you,” Loewenberg says, and it threw you off balance. If that’s the case, it might help to consider what you’d like to say next time a similar situation arises so that you can learn from the experience and feel more confident going forward.
5. You Feel Under Attack
If bullets are whizzing past you in the dream, it likely means you feel under attack in your waking life, Loewenberg says. It could also mean you’re “dodging bullets” in real life, she says, perhaps by not letting these things get to you.
That said, seeing as this scary theme is popping up in your dreams, it might be a sign you need to consider if you’re really handling all the stress, or if there are a few changes you could make to your surroundings so you don’t have to duck and dodge at every turn.
6. You’re Under A Lot Of Pressure
Dreaming about getting shot can also mean you’re under a lot of pressure or that you “feel under the gun”. According to Loewenberg, dreams love wordplay and the sleeping brain is really good at bringing in common expressions and metaphors. “That’s why, if you can find an expression or metaphor in your dream, you have found a big part of its meaning,” she says.
7. You’re Going Through A Big Change
Even though it’s obviously horrifying to die in a dream, or to feel as if you’re about to die, it’s actually possible to put a positive spin on this nightmare scenario. “Death in a dream is about change or endings,” says Loewenberg. “So ask yourself, in what ways am I changing or need to change? What is ending or needs to end in my life?”
It might be a sign that you need to leave a job, end a relationship, or finally admit that it’s time to break a bad habit. “Death is the end of life,” Loewenberg says, “but to the dreaming mind, death is the end of life as you know it.” And that can be a good thing.
Fox, KC. (2013). Dreaming as mind wandering: evidence from functional neuroimaging and first-person content reports. Front Hum Neurosci. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00412.
Nir, Y. (2010). Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology. Trends Cogn Sci. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.12.001.
Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, professional dream analyst, author of Dream on It: Unlock Your Dreams, Change Your Life