People in dreams generally represent something other than literally themselves!
Most persons in dreams, even family members, are symbolic of something or someone else. The language of dreams is “parable”. Their name or most notable feature may be symbolizing something. Dreamers, then, rarely receive personal information regarding their friends, associates, neighbors, extended family, fellow church members, etc. unless that information is highly relevant to the dreamer. Remember, most dreams are for the dreamer’s personal insight and direct benefit, not someone else’s. “Someone else” should be receiving and searching out the meaning of their own dreams.
The difficulty in interpreting the meaning of people in dreams is primarily in discerning just when a person is not symbolizing something or someone else (but literally depicting themselves), because there are exceptions up to 10% of the time.
Additionally, mothers and fathers tend to assume their children in dreams carry a literal meaning. We wouldn’t want to be wrong about a warning dream! But the question is still the same, “Is this dream about my child literally, or is it about something I have birthed in my life?” Untangling the riddle becomes more difficult, of course, the more children you have!
We suggest: before assuming that a person in a dream literally represents themselves and is not symbolic, consider these 10 categories of symbolism concerning persons in dreams! And remember, we are not talking about things that can represent people here (creatures, objects, etc.), but what people in dreams may symbolize!
People in dreams are categorized on this page as follows. Click the category to view its entries at the top of the page.
1. PROPER NAME MEANING
This very common possibility involves a person’s proper name symbolizing the meaning of the name. We placed it first on our category list because we’ve personally seen this hundreds of times.
Alex = protector
Ann = grace
Ben = right-hand man
Charles = free
David = beloved
Frank = honest
John = gracious
James/Jacob = supplanter/deceiver
Mary = bitter
Rick, Richard = wealth and fame
Robert= famous brilliance
William = protector
See PROPER NAMES in our dictionary for more examples and links.
This category is rarer than PROPER NAME MEANINGS due to the much more limited possibilities of word play. Keep your eyes peeled for the use of homophones, however.
Oprah Winfrey = win free
Sharon= share on
Justin Timberlake= Justice
3. MATCHED PAIR‒ PROPER NAME
Here, a person symbolizes another person with the same proper name.
This option is common when available. It is of course limited to your association with two people who share the same proper name, usually the first name.
Helen- Both my mother and mother-in-law were named Helen. I often dreamed of one of them, and generally (but certainly not always) one Helen in a dream referred to the other. Equally, as often, however, the Helen represented the meaning of the proper name which is bearer of light, or shining light which carries a spiritual significance.
So why do these dreams have to be such difficult riddles sometimes. The answer is addressed in Proverbs 25:2 2‒ It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter; and in 1 Corinthians 13:12‒ For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
4. MATCHING TRAIT
Another interpretation category is a person/group symbolizing another person/group with the same outstanding trait, profession, or title. We’ve seen this category in numerous dreams.
A sister or brother could potentially represent a sister or brother in Christ, or someone who is like a sister or brother, though we can’t remember such a dream example.
Glenn Beck has appeared in a couple of my dreams and clearly symbolized my brother because of his very strong will.
5. TRAIT ALONE
This category is different from MATCHING TRAIT in that a person does not symbolize another person at all, but his/her title, profession, or outstanding trait itself!
You may have to stretch to wrap your head around this concept, but it’s a very strong possibility when it comes to interpreting people in dreams.
BOSS‒ Someone in authority
CHEF‒ A creative person who is processing ideas
DOCTOR OR NURSE‒ Need for healing (any type)
FARMER‒ Concerning cultivation or seed and harvest, like fishing for business, church members, etc.
JUDGE‒ God as judge
LAWYER‒ Jesus our advocate
PILOT/DRIVER ‒ Someone is in the driver’s seat in an area of your life. This can be good or bad.
PASTOR‒Another pastor or a spiritual authority
POLICEMAN‒ Spiritual authority
PRESIDENT OF USA‒ ultimate or final authority
Another possible metaphor is that persons are foreigners, not of the same spirit or belief system.
To a light-skinned person, a dark-skinned person may also indicate darkness of spirit. My mother dreamed shortly before she died of a black man at the door with a glittery purple and red costume on. It unfortunately turned out to symbolize the trustee to her estate, my brother (purple= authority, and red= battle). Treachery and legal battle followed!
First, these persons in dreams indicate a spirit, either a disposition/orientation/perspective/attitude or a literal spirit. This is focusing on one issue. In particular, we have seen this refer to a spirit of independence, that is, an attitude of no need for a partner of the other gender. If you’re married and dream that a gay person lives with you, you most likely simply need to deal with some pride issues. If your spouse dreams this, he or she might consider the same thing.
Here, a person symbolizes his/her connection or relationship to you, but may not represent a literal person. Don’t forget to consider this possibility because it’s utilized in dreams frequently. The examples will help you define this option.
In another recent dream, the dreamer relayed a scene where he was accompany by a close friend. When putting the scene in the dream context as well as his life context, the close friend is most likely his wife!
Quite the opposite is most likely. EX’s generally represent something in the life of the dreamer rather than depicting the literal person.
These dream themes actually mean that an enticement will resurface in an area of past failure, particularly in romantic relationships. Beware, dreamers of EX’s, because you may be lured toward someone who appears attractive and positive, but is not going to be in your best interest. The contexts in those dreams often provide clues as to who the person is, what role they are playing, or what action is going on.
1. Our father in a dream may represent our Heavenly Father, especially if our real father is or was a reasonably good role model (though all fathers are far from perfect). This can be true even if the father is depicted as soon to die since in some seasons of our lives, it SEEMS like God is dead so to speak; that is, sometimes it seems like He has abandoned us. But take heart, those seasons are a temporary part of life to mold and purify us.
2. Our father in a dream may represent our literal father-in-law or step-father. (And of course, after eliminating the other possibilities, any person in a dream may be literal, but most (90% or so) persons in dreams are not.
3. Our father in a dream may represent an authority figure such as a boss or someone who fathered something in our lives.
4. Our father in a dream may represent the father of lies, which would be Satan. One of our children recently dreamed that we received a phone call informing us that his father/my husband had died. Yikes! Don’t you love those! The interesting part was that prior to the phone call, his father was racing a race car which was a Cobra. Since a cobra is a most venomous and deadly snake, could this not be interpreted as the father of lies dying in our son’s life? We suggested that he revisit the personal condemnation lies that he had believed as a teen or in recent years (you will never become anything, nothing will ever change, you won’t be able to succeed at anything, you won’t succeed at relationship, etc.) and ponder which one or ones were still encircling his mind from time to time. It will be interesting to see what happens, and we’ll report back on this one.
1. Our mother in a dream may represent the motivation behind something, the origin of something, or the nurturer of something. Make sense?
2. One mother can depict another, so one’s mother in a dream can depict one’s mother-in-law!
3. Our mother in a dream may represent the Holy Spirit, especially when accompanied in a dream by our father so that we’re now talking about a set of parents. “What?” you say, “Now you’re really getting crazy!”
Remember, the totality of God is described as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In a simple family, there also three: father, mother, and son. So mother could represent the Holy Spirit. And remember, these terms for God express who He is on our terms since we can’t really comprehend the eternal realm.
Someone asked me, “Then why wouldn’t the whole family of 3 appear in our dreams? Why would we have dreams about our parents without a son there?” In a literal since, maybe that could be supported theologically, but perhaps we shouldn’t get too theological. Dreams are parabolic anyway and certainly confusing enough as it is (Proverbs 25:2‒ It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter. 1 Corinthians 13:12‒ For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.)
See the dream at the bottom of this page for an example on a mother symbolizing the Holy Spirit.
4. A mother may represent someone “mothering” as in providing advice or serving (cooking, cleaning).
- In one recent dream, the mother turned out to be the dreamer’s attorney.
In another, it was a girlfriend working her tail off to get a commitment.
7. QUANTITY OF BLESSING OR CURSE
This interpretation category can be described as a group of people symbolizing the amount of blessings or curses for the dreamer to expect.
If you have a dream about your immediate family, it very well may be literal, relatives and strangers generally carry a different meaning.
This category is based on both universal and scriptural element types. To understand the universal connotation, one has to remove himself from today’s global and multicultural perspective. Historically, clans built walls around themselves and put a high value on their tribe. Others were seen as threats and outsiders.
This was also true of the Hebrews. There were Jews and everybody else! And remember that their scriptures clearly reflect their emphasis on the value of children, who were considered blessings; the more the merrier.
8. DECEASED PERSONS ALIVE
Generally, these dreams mean that: Something this person represents will resurface.
This category is the opposite of DEATH DREAMS. While Death Dreams depict someone currently alive in reality dying or dead in the dream, Deceased Persons Alive dreams depict a decedent as now alive!
These dreams may bring out strong emotions which range from highly disturbing to quite exhilarating. We get asked a lot about these dream themes.
Dream of loved ones once-again-alive may be very dramatic and impressive which may indicate that the application of the dream is pretty important to the dreamer. Here are a couple of examples.
Background: This dream took place 4 ½ years after my father had died and 6 months after my mom. The brother who was assigned to be the sole trustee surprised us with behavior so treacherous that it would make a good movie. The story began to unfold is ways that looked like justice would save the day. But several months into the legal battle, it began to look like the brother might get away with a good deal of his schemes. In fact, it seemed like God had abandoned the other siblings.
The dream: In this night vision, I had to revisit my father’s corpse in the morgue 3 days after his death. When I entered the room, I noticed that his eyes were open, then moving slightly. As I wondered if this was some normal biological reaction, they totally came alive! I hugged and conversed with him and then went to get my brother (not the trustee).
Interpretation: Going on the interpretation for Deceased Persons Alive dreams, “Something this person represents will resurface”, I was encouraged. If my father in the dream literally represented himself, he would be taking our side because he was a man of integrity. We could take comfort and expect some justice. If my father in the dream represented my Heavenly Father, the result is the same. Perhaps the symbolism is both signifying confirmation. Now, months later, as the battle goes on and on, I continue to take comfort from such an impressive dream.
Sometimes the deceased person in a dream, although a loved one, represents something negative. Sometimes this person represents a curse, perhaps a generational curse. If the topic sounds intriguing (or if you’re beginning to wonder if you’re cursed, check out this on-line information For more information on this topic, visit BLESSINGS AND CURSES‒ YOU CHOOSE.
The Dream‒ In this dream, the dreamer is confident that the deceased person, a father-in-law, does symbolize a curse or something negative. Fortunately, the man could not stand up in the shower. So that tells us that cleansing (forgiveness) when put in place will render the curse unable to stand.
9. INDISTINCT PERSON
The facial features of the persons in this category are not memorable or impressive. In fact, we may never be shown the face at all! Take note of these. They may not represent a literal person, but a spirit perhaps within a person.
With this possibility, a person symbolizes a group of people. Not as common, but always a possibility depending on the context of the dream.
I once dreamed of US Senator Al Franken who had just been sworn into office. In this dream, he represented all the Washington politicians who were like-minded. The example below provides another example.
DREAM: a young man dreams that he is considering asking his girlfriend from middle school to marry him since she just called off the wedding she’d planned with another guy. He decides not to, but when his brother says that it would be OK to just invite her to a family dinner, his mother has the opinion that even this would not be a good idea.
X-girlfriend = Category #6 CONNECTION‒ an enticement will resurface in an area of past failure. Beware, because you may be lured toward something or someone which you are still attracted to, but is not good for you.
X-girlfriend = Category #4 MATCHED PAIR TRAIT‒ one x-girlfriend represents another x-girlfriend. The dreamer feels that both applications most likely apply.
Brother = Category #10 REPRESENTATIVE‒ After eliminating several other categories, the dreamer feels that his brother represents the family in general since this brother and his wife hosted the last holiday gathering and was hosting the upcoming family gathering in the dream.
Mother = Category #6 CONNECTION‒ definition #2, our mother in a dream may represent the Holy Spirit.
The dreamer concludes that the most likely scenario is that his most recent girlfriend, who is currently dating someone else, will break that relationship off and contact him to see if she can get it going again. He feels that hearing from her shortly would be a sign that the dream was a prophetic warning, and he says he will not agree to converse with or meet with her.
These persons are generally limited to family, someone who holds authority over the dreamer, someone who is partnered in some way with the dreamer, or someone who potentially could have significant effect in the dreamer’s life.
Expect the other elements in the dream to remain symbolic. This principle applies to other dream element categories as well. Maybe one in 10 will be literal within a dream.
And by the way, a dreamer’s entire immediate family (or most of them) in a dream are usually literal rather than symbolic.