What Do Dreams About Ghosts Mean? The Possibilities Are Pretty Spooky

Dreaming is possibly one of the most mysterious and mystical aspects of the natural human experience. Isn't it strange to think that every night, we slip into a seemingly alternate reality built entirely by our minds, during which we can experience the deepest emotions, ranging anywhere from intense passion to sweat-inducing fear? The inherent mystery of our dream worlds (and scientists' inability to explain virtually anything about why we have them) naturally lends itself to the paranormal — so questioning things like whether ghosts can contact you through your dreams is totally valid. It's thought that perhaps dreams allow a little opening in our consciousness for the mystical realm to slip through — offering us a time to experience enhanced clairvoyance, divine inspiration, and even messages from the dead. Scientists truthfully know so little about dreams or why everyone has them, so, creepy as it may be, it's worth it to open your mind to the possibility that maybe spirits can visit people in dreams to deliver messages, warnings, and beyond.

Dreams that involve contact with a ghost or spirit are also known as "visitation dreams," and they're actually quite common. Clinical psychologist and author of the study titled Visitation Dreams in Grieving Individuals: A Phenomenological Inquiry into the Relationship Between Dreams and the Grieving, Jennifer Shorter, defines visitation dreams as "striking emotionally intense dreams in which a recently deceased loved one returns to provide guidance, reassurance, and/or warning." But how do we know that a dream about a dead loved one is actually ghostly encounter and not just a manifestation of our subconscious? "[V]isitation dreams are typically clear, vivid, intense and are experienced as real visits when the dreamer awakens. The dreamer is always changed by the experience," explained Patrick McNamara, PhD, an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine. So apparently if an apparition is actually contacting you in your sleep, you'll know, as it'll feel distinctly different than your average dream.

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One of the fascinating things about dreams in general is how little scientists have been able to concretely explain about them. And according to many psychics and paranormal experts, when it comes to visitation dreams, we shouldn't expect science to explain it away any sooner, either — as dreams are considered one of the most effective ways for the spirit realm to connect to the living. "One of the most common ways for spirit to visit and communicate with us is through dreams," wrote Sensing Angels on its site. "While sleeping, your conscious mind has quietened and you have less resistance through your own thoughts, blockages and beliefs — you’re relaxed and open." This makes sense, if you think about it. During a dream state, we've left our conscious, rational mind behind and are more open to symbolism or fantastical events — and possibly more open to the spiritual, too. "It is actually easier for spiritual entities of all kinds (e.g., deceased loved ones, guides, angels) to communicate with us while we are sleeping," explains Anne Reith, PhD and founder of The Institute for Mediumship, Psychic, Astrological, and Reiki Training. So if a spirit has a message for you, maybe it's aware that you're more likely to be receptive to it in a dream than you would be in a waking state. I mean, if you saw a ghost IRL, wouldn't you kind of freak out rather than peacefully accept its message?

Apparently, though, it isn't just loved ones who can visit you during a dream state. "Any Spirit can get in touch with you while you sleep," explained psychic medium Amanda Linette Meder. "This includes people that you know who have crossed over, other deceased people that you have yet to meet but want to get your attention, deceased family members and friends of people you currently know on Earth, Spirit Guides and Angels."

And while many reports of visitation dreams are overwhelmingly positive, there are certainly times when they could be more sinister. So-called "earthbound spirits" are allegedly ghosts who have remained behind due to an attachment or fear of passing on. These are typically the ghosts that are attributed to hauntings — and they can sometimes make their way into people's dreams.

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"A dreamer will know what type of spirit has arrived in their dream world by the way they feel in the presence of the spirit," explained Om Times. "If the dreamer feels filled with a comfort, a luminous light, no anxiety, and a feeling of peace they are in the presence of a higher vibrational spirit who has crossed and returned. If the dreamer feels low, some anxiety, uncomfortable, fear, cautious, with a sense of dark or dim light hovering then the dreamer has encountered an earthbound spirit." But not to fear — if you encounter what you believe to be a spirit in a dream and you aren't getting the best vibes, try to summon love, not fear, and send them off by letting them know they're not invited to enter your space. "As long as the dreamer remains in control, has no fear, and does not give their power or energy away to the earthbound spirit no attachment will take place."

Dreams have been revered in cultures around the world as spiritual experiences for ages. Ancient Greeks and Romans allegedly saw dreams as divine guidance and as "direct messages from the Gods forewarning them about future events," while ancient Chinese and Mexican civilizations apparently believed dreams allowed them to communicate with their ancestors. If reports about visitation dreams and ghosts contacting people in their sleep are true, then these traditional beliefs may be rooted in truth — and if you ever experience one for yourself, then perhaps you'll know for sure.