Dreams are always chock-full of symbolism, and nowhere is that more evident than when creepy alligators show up. If you fall asleep and dream about an ancient-looking reptile lurking in a murky pool, your brain might be trying to send you a message.
Symbolism is the language of the unconscious, after all, says clinical psychologist Nathan Brandon, PsyD. “The unconscious mind uses symbols to express emotions, desires, and other feelings that are not otherwise acknowledged in your waking life,” he tells Bustle. So what does it mean when you dream about alligators? The symbol — in this case, an alligator — might represent how you feel about the people, places, and situations in your life.
Since dreams are unique to the individual, you’ll have to figure out what your alligator dream means by doing a little interpreting. Brandon suggests writing down the details of your nighttime adventure the moment you wake up and considering how they apply to your life. It’ll also help to assess how you felt when you encountered the reptile, says Jackie Tassiello, ATR-BC, LCAT, ATCS, a licensed board-certified art therapist who helps clients investigate their dreams.
“How you feel is essential to understanding the subjective meaning this dream has for you,” she tells Bustle. “If you pick apart your dream through symbol and feeling, you're going to get somewhere.” Here, a few interpretations of alligator dreams to help get you started.
What It Means If You See An Alligator In Your Dream
If you dream about seeing an alligator hanging out in a pond, Brandon says it could represent a feeling of insecurity in your waking life. Knowing that an alligator is lurking nearby is enough to set anyone on edge, so consider what might be causing you a similar type of stress. Is there something that needs to be addressed?
Spotting an alligator half-submerged in water could also represent a hidden desire that’s starting to surface, Brandon says. Because it’s a threatening reptile we’re talking about, this “desire” might be one you’ve deemed too dangerous or risky to acknowledge, or perhaps it’s something that makes you feel intimidated.
According to Tassiello, an alligator hanging out on the periphery of a dream could also symbolize someone or something you distrust. To figure it out, look at it in combination with the other symbols in your dream, like the water. “Water tends to represent emotion, so perhaps ‘going deep’ with your feelings isn't safe for you right now,” she says.
What It Means If You’re Swimming With Alligators
Say you’re swimming in your dream and suddenly spot an alligator in the water with you. Do you start thrashing around, as most people would? “Swimming with alligators could mean you feel threatened by something and you don't know how to react,” Brandon tells Bustle. This type of dream could also mean you’re going to get through a tough situation “against all odds,” and perhaps without any support or help.
For another take on it, Brandon explains that the gator may symbolize people whose value systems differ from your own. “Alligators can represent something that makes you feel as if your way of thinking and feeling is not welcome,” he says.
You might also want to consider what type of water you were swimming in, as well as the weather, if any other animals were nearby, and any emotions you had. “All of the symbols will lead you to deeper understanding,” Tassiello says. “Even if it's related to a potentially unsafe, threatening, or overwhelming situation in your waking life, you'll gain more information from creating a more nuanced narrative.”
What It Means If You Get Attacked By An Alligator
Your alligator dream could also be a full-on nightmare that involves getting attacked by the animal. According to Brandon, this might mean you’re dealing with a situation that’s working against you or dragging you down, just like an alligator would.
It might also be a sign that you need to get away from a toxic situation, says clinical psychologist Dr. Holly Schiff. “If you are being bitten by an alligator, your brain may be trying to tell you to free yourself from whoever or whatever is causing you pain and distress, as it is literally and figuratively beginning to consume you.”
That said, not all alligator dreams are necessarily scary or negative. If the alligator in your dream strikes suddenly, it could mean you’re waiting for the right moment to seize an opportunity. “An alligator might be telling you to harness your power, your insight, or your instincts,” says Tassiello. “Or that you need to have tough skin.”
Again, since the symbol of an alligator can change depending on your personal associations with it, Tassiello recommends considering how this type of dream applies to your unique problems, questions, relationships, and goals. After some digging and interpreting, you might just find your answer.
Edwards, C. L., Ruby, P. M., Malinowski, J. E., Bennett, P. D., & Blagrove, M. T. (2013). Dreaming and insight. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 979. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00979.
Nathan Brandon, PsyD, clinical psychologist
Jackie Tassiello, MPS, ATR-BC, LCAT, ATCS, licensed board-certified art therapist
Dr. Holly Schiff, clinical psychologist