Dreams of being attacked: what is your subconscious telling you?
Dreams of being attacked or attacking someone or something are very common, though they often create a sense unease or even anxiety.
It is worth remembering that dreams are usually played out in highly symbolic ways, so rarely is real violence a concern. However, if you have experienced a traumatic event, attack dreams that repeatedly play out your own experience can be symptomatic of PTSD. This best thing to do in this instance is seek professional help to guide you through it. In a more general sense, dreams of being attacked often relate to fundamental issues of security and confidence. They may be exploring ideas around issues of power, dominance and control. These kinds of dreams are very often about unresolved internal conflict but can also be exploring what it means to do harm or be harmed, usually in a psychological sense.
Dreams about being attacked often relate to feelings of your own vulnerability. While they may be disturbing to experience, attack dreams are often exploring sources of pain or control in order to be released from it. Attack dreams can often represent the way we symbolically attack ourselves. Harsh self-judgement, self-sabotaging behaviours and unrealistic expectations of yourself can all lead to attacking themes in dreams. Recognising this is occurring is the first step towards changing your internal monologue towards a more positive and supportive one. You may also be in a situation in waking life where you are feeling someone has the ability to hurt you in some way. This could come in the form of criticism, lies about you, claiming credit for your work, seeking to damage your good reputation or various other scenarios. Consciously recognising this and learning how to deal with the situation could be why this dream is occurring for you. Sometimes attacking occurs in dreams because you are the one inflicting pain on someone else in life, perhaps without even realising it. Noticing at a conscious level this is happening may one of the meanings of this dream for you.
Attack dreams are also often about issues of control, whether that be self-control or coercion, to outright manipulation by another. Even if you feel you are in complete control of your life, you may still have an attacking dream, because deep down, you could be “waging a war” to stay in control and fear what would happen if you lost it. It may help to consider if there is something in your life you need to get rid of, perhaps a behaviour or belief that you have outgrown. You may be attacking your own fears, doubts or prejudices, so to eliminate them is a good thing.
Attack dreams give us the opportunity to ask where we are being defensive in life. Where you may be hurting yourself or someone else in waking life, or what old patterns of behaviour you may need to break. When you dream of attacking someone or something else, it is important to try and take a step back and think about what it is you are attacking or being attacked by. Remember, you are likely not dreaming of real people but what those people represent to you. If you dream of being attacked by Bob your neighbour, who you see as highly critical, maybe you feel your own critical nature is preventing you from achieving your goals — the voice of self-doubt.
Perhaps it is you doing the attacking. We often attack if we feel threatened, and we are often threatened by things we don’t understand or that make us uncomfortable. But attacking may not be the best solution. If you are dreaming of attacking someone, this may help you to consciously realise what it is in waking life that is deeply bothering you. Perhaps you have encountered political or ideological notions that run contrary to your own and consciously you would rather such people or ideas didn’t bother you anymore. Hostile reactions can have negative consequences. Your dream may be exploring the potential impact of your negative or aggressive feelings. You may not even have been consciously aware of using hurtful words or behaviours, therefore an attacking dream may arise to illustrate that the power you have to inflict harm on others is very real — even if in your dream it is shown as being far more dramatic than in real life! Part of the way dreams work in this context is to elevate the subconscious thoughts we are barely aware of, bringing them into the bright light of conscious awareness. Sometimes a dream will do this by showing shocking images or stirring up deep feelings.
Attack dreams are prime territory for this kind of representation. To understand dreams of being attacked or attacking someone more fully, it can help to consider if weapons are being used. What do these weapons symbolise to you? Try describing the weapon in very simple words. For example, a sword might be described as sharp, precise, old fashioned, used in children’s faerie tales. How does this relate to your own feelings and behaviour? It might be the critical voice in your head, using sharp words, judging you in an old-fashioned manner for behaviour you exhibited as a child that was considered bad. Whereas a tank may be described as impenetrable, firing from a distance, large and strong. This may remind you of an emotionally distant father or boss who didn’t support you but would criticise you and not realise they hurt you. You might still carry this pain with you and every time you get hurt you react to the person as if they were your father, boss etc. This dream can be exploring both a formative, older pain, as well as a more recent one, and drawing connections between them.
Understanding that dreams can work on multiple layers at once can help you to start unravelling the meaning of the dream. Recognising patterns of behaviour in yourself, especially in how you react to emotional triggers in the external world can be the first step in changing how you react and creating a new outcome for yourself. Once you know that an attack dream may, on one level, be about other people’s behaviour towards you, yet on
another about how you internalise that behaviour and become critical of yourself or feel threatened and lose confidence, for example, you can start to break the pattern and be released from the pain of reacting. Attack dreams can teach you to see what triggers you and help you change your response. This in turn will drive new reactions from the environment around you to break cycles of fear, vulnerability and pain. It may not be a person or weapon that is attacking you in your dream but possibly an animal. Perhaps it doesn’t actually attack but you fear it will. Large creatures of prey often feature as attacking animals in dreams. The animal may represent an actual person to you, however they often have deeper symbolic meanings. Being attacked by sharks may relate more to discomfort around emotional issues, compared to a wolf, which may feel like a sexual threat or career concern. Either may relate to financial worries! Wild animals attacking in dreams can also relate to feelings of needing to keep up a certain persona that appears civilised and domestic.
You may fear that your wild inner nature is destructive and harmful and must be hidden, or even denied entirely. This can give rise to living out of balance, as your wild, untamed nature needs a place to exist in a healthy way. If you have been working to keep up appearances, or if you have neglected the wild, spirited nature of your personality, you may dream of attacking animals who are attempting to tear down the controlled image you maintain and free yourself to let go of other people’s concerns about who they think you should be.
You can gain further insight into your attack dream by considering the parts of the body involved in the attack. Blows to the face may symbolise an attack on your identity or how you present yourself to the world. An attack to your back may arise if you fear someone has recently, or is about to be, disloyal and “stab you in the back”. An attack to the head can relate to ideas or plans being challenged or threatened. An attack to the heart is most likely related to emotional pain, being hurt by someone you care about or a great disappointment. An attack to your legs and feet may symbolise that you feel your basic assumptions about life or your ability to independently progress in life are under threat — you may feel you are losing yoursocial or career mobility. Attacks to the hands and arms can relate to feelings of being unable to provide for your own basic needs or the needs of others. It could also symbolise a stifling of your creativity.
On another level, attack dreams can signify a possible health problem. An attacking dream can indicate issues with your immune system, if your body is fighting some kind of infection for example. It may be helpful to review your eating/ exercise/ sleep/ substance use behaviours. Your subconscious is often aware what’s going on with your body before your conscious mind notices, especially in a world where we are all so busy and stressed. If you do have any concerns, seek medical advice. It is always best to “Listen to the whispers of the body before they become screams.”
Dreams of being attacked or attacking someone invites you to stop, reflect and see what needs changing. These dreams offer a chance to feel confident, safe and empowered, but only if you listen to and act upon the messages they provide.
Want to learn more about what your dreams mean? Visit our Dreams archive page.