You dream of being chased, or attacked, or startled. You open your mouth to scream and nothing comes out. It's happened to almost everyone. And when you can't scream in a dream, it's actually a sign that you're having trouble expressing yourself when you're awake, according to the dream dictionary on GotoHoroscope.com. "You are feeling all kinds of emotions welling up inside [of] you in your waking life, and [people] are urging you not to express them," the dream dictionary explained.
If you have dreams in which you can't scream on the regular, it's worth taking a look at what you're not saying during your waking life. Dreams usually aren't literal — you're probably not going to be chased and find yourself unable to scream IRL. Dreams are metaphors, and they're your brain's way of processing information while you're asleep.
"[A] theory about dreaming holds that dreams embody the memory consolidation processes, learning and unlearning which occur during the different stages of sleep, especially slow wave and REM sleep," Dr. Dennis Rosen wrote for Psychology Today. "As new information is integrated into memory, the strengthening of synaptic connections and the effacement of others leads to the generation of imagery which manifests as dreams."
If you are emotionally blocked, you might not even be consciously aware that you're not expressing yourself. But when you're asleep, your brain is processing this information and storing it in your memory. If you haven't dealt with your emotions IRL, it could be why you can't scream in a dream no matter how hard you try.
There are tons of Reddit threads and other message boards about not being able to scream in dreams, which means a lot of people are keeping their emotions bottled up. When you can't yell or scream during a dream, "You are having a hard time vocalizing your opinion, standing up for yourself, or calling for help in waking life. Maybe you feel like no one hears you when you do," Reddit user ohbodes noted.
The website The Curious Dreamer reported that being unable to call for help in a dream means you feel helpless in your waking life. It might be a sign that things like pride, shyness, or self-sabotage are keeping you from asking for help when you need it most. Dreaming that you've lost your voice and can't talk or scream means that you feel that you don't have control over your life, you feel ignored, or you're afraid to stand up for yourself.
If you can't realistically express your suppressed emotions, GotoHoroscope.com suggests getting those feelings out in another way. For example, scream into a pillow or go someplace where screaming is encouraged, like a concert. "You really just need to scream and let it all out so that you can stop having dreams where you cannot scream," the website said. You can also turn up the tunes and scream in your car like Christina Applegate's character on Dead to Me.
If you consistently have dreams where you can't find your voice, consider evaluating your life to identify situations in which you've felt powerless, people you're not expressing yourself to, and areas of your life that feel out of your control. And if you find yourself overwhelmed in the process, don't be afraid to ask for help from a friend or even a therapist. Once you start acknowledging your emotions and fully expressing yourself, the dreams should stop.