What Do Dreams About Murder & Crime Mean?

Maybe it’s all the reruns of "True Detective" before bed — but maybe it’s deeper than that.

Experts explain the meanings behind dreams about murder and crime.
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If you've never woken up in a cold sweat after having a dream about someone being murdered (or about any other crime), consider yourself lucky. These grisly nocturnal visions can shake us to the core, whether we're the victims or perpetrators of the horrifyingly violent acts. But do dreams about murder simply symbolize standard fears about crime or is there a deeper meaning to decode? Whether it’s a dream about someone murdering someone else or one where you’re the perpetrator of a crime, these disturbing nightmares could help shed some light on non-criminal issues taking place in your waking life.

As is the case with all types of dream interpretation, it’s important to consider the feelings that come up when we dream about someone being murdered or experiencing some other violent crime — and then analyze where else these feelings come in our lives currently. “As a practitioner of dream interpretation with a psychology background, it's important to remember that dream symbols vary from person to person because of their own attachment to or interpretation of said symbol,” mystical practitioner Shawn Engel, author of Love Spells and The Power Of Hex, tells Bustle. There are general dream meanings that can be applied broadly, but it’s actually most helpful to interpret your own dreams based on your own experiences.

However, it’s important to note that dreams about a traumatic experience are also a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — so if you've been the victim of a crime in real life (or are close to someone who has been), it could be helpful to talk to a professional rather than try to decode a crime- or trauma-related dream on your own. "Metaphorical dream interpretations are more for those who have not experienced such trauma in waking life, as these correspondences are not applicable to PTSD-related flashbacks,” Engle says. Working with a trained mental health professional can help you work through traumatic events and potentially cut down on any related nightmares.

So no, dreaming about committing a crime doesn't mean you're on your way to becoming the next Bonnie or Clyde — nor does dreaming that you’re the victim of a crime mean that something bad is about to happen. While it’s possible that you’ve just been hitting your favorite true crime shows a little too hard before bed lately, dreams about murder and other crimes can often symbolize different kinds of (non-crime-related) anxiety, dissatisfaction, or feelings that we’re experiencing in our real lives.

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1. Dreams About Robbery

If you dream that your home has been broken into or that someone has stolen something of yours, it might mean that you’re currently feeling anxious about losing something (or someone), or that you’ve had your privacy invaded in some way. According to Engel, dreams about robbery are usually symbolic of a fear of having something taken away from you — whether it’s an object, a person, or something more abstract. “For example, if you run an online business and you're afraid of getting your intellectual property stolen, you may have repeat home invasion dreams,” Engel says.

If you’re the one doing the thieving in a dream, it’s possible that you feel something is missing in your life or that you’ve been unable to get something you want. Robbing someone else of their possessions in a dream could simply be a symbol for the intangible qualities or experiences that you’ve been striving to create for yourself but haven’t succeeded at yet.

2. Dreams About Being Kidnapped

A dream about being kidnapped is another one of the more disturbing scenarios we can encounter in our sleep. This could symbolize feeling held back by or trapped within a situation in your everyday life — one that's taking up too much of your time and attention or making you feel stagnant. Your captor in the dream may hold a key to figuring out what needs to be addressed in your waking life. For example, if you dream that you're being held captive by an ex-lover, it may mean that your remaining feelings about that person are making you feel stuck or unable to move forward.

If you're kidnapping someone else in a dream, it could indicate that you’re holding onto something in your life that you should be letting go of. This could be a job you dislike, a relationship that’s run its course, or any other situation that you’re clinging onto out of fear or desperation.

3. Dreams About Assault

Dreaming of being assaulted, whether physically or sexually, can signify that you feel violated or that some aspect of your life feels wildly out of control. “In the dream world, visions of grisly acts like assault can be metaphors for how the dreamer feels when walking through life,” Engel says. “If they feel attacked or like their space or body is being invaded in waking life, these themes will show up in their dreams drastically.”

If you have a dream like this, pay attention to which areas of your life feel scary to you, or if there’s anything that current feels like it’s beyond your control in a frightening way. This dream may be a sign that it’s time to start facing the situation. Is there a way to take small steps to get a better handle on it? Start taking some baby steps to alleviate your stress.

4. Dreams About Murder

Murder dreams are often more than just horror-movie-induced fears creeping out of your subconscious at night. According to Engel, murder dream meanings are often the result of repressed emotions or feeling a loss of control. “When we're looking at themes of trauma in dreams — which include victimization, surrender, loss of control, and passing away, we can surmise that the dreamer is feeling repressed in some way,” Engle says. “It may feel like they can't hold onto what's in their life.”

If you have a dream about someone being murdered, it could indicate that you’re dealing with some repressed feelings of anger, frustration, or fear — and your subconscious is trying to find a way to get you to express them. If you're the one being pursued by the murderer, it could mean that you're trying to outrun an aspect of your emotions or a situation that you need to own up to. And if you’re the one doing the murdering (yikes!), it could represent something you feel guilty about doing in your waking life or that you feel you’ve gotten away with. As is the case with almost all dream interpretation, it’s important to isolate the specific feelings that come up in your dream and figure out where they apply to your waking life so you can start consciously addressing the issue.

On a more positive note, murder dream meanings could also be referring to moving on from an old habit or an outdated way of thinking. In this reading of the dream, the old habit is what is symbolically being killed.

The Bottom Line

Often, grisly in-dream events don’t need to be interpreted as a literal fear of crime (or a desire to commit one). Rather, they can be thought of as symbols that our subconscious uses to help us work through other situations in our life that may be causing us to feel stressed, violated, threatened, or angry. So next time you dream about someone murdering someone else, don’t be freaked — just start analyzing your feelings.

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