This article will attempt to provide insights into how the mind weaves its dreams and how you can go about interpreting them. Then we’ll focus on the possible interpretations dreaming of being chased can have.
We often dream about the issues and concerns we have in our waking life. When we encounter a problem, our mind sends us emotions like anxiety, worry, and fear, motivating us to deal with that problem.
Sometimes, these ‘bad’ emotions can be so overwhelming that instead of dealing with and avoiding what caused them, we avoid the emotions themselves. We think that by not being worried, concerned, or anxious, we can let go of these emotions.
Yet, these emotions persist because the problem persists. They keep making inroads into your consciousness unless you deal with your problem. These ‘negative’ emotions seek expression and resolution. That can only happen when you don’t consciously block them from your consciousness.
If you do, they’ll find other ways to leak out. In dreams, when your conscious mind is dormant, these emotions are brought back to life.
This is why some of our dreams result from our inner conflicts. An emotion gets excited in us, but we immediately suppress it using our conscious mind. Later, the emotion finds expression in our dreams.
For instance, say come across the social media profile of an old friend. It’s been long since you talked to them. While you’re thinking about them, you also remember some of their bad qualities. This makes you re-think whether you should really see them.
Here, you consciously suppressed the wish to meet your friend so you’re likely to meet them in your dream (expression of suppressed emotion).
Note that suppression of an emotion happens not only when you do it consciously, but also when, for any reason, the expression of emotion is obstructed.
For instance, say you were starting to get thoughts of eating chocolate. Then, suddenly, you get a call from someone important. You attend the call and forget all about eating chocolate. The emotion or wish or desire of eating chocolate didn’t get a chance of seeping into your consciousness. It got unintentionally suppressed.
This is why it often appears as if we dream about trivial thoughts we had the previous day. It’s during these trivial moments that our emotions were suppressed. Since our consciousness only caught a glimpse of these emotions, the thoughts associated with them seem trivial.
How dreams express suppressed emotions
Dreams can be pretty straightforward. What is shown to you is its own representation. For example, if you’ve been wanting to meet a friend and see them in your dream, the dream is straightforward. Your friend in the dream represents your friend in real life.
Other times, however, the dream may use symbolism. According to Freud, this happens when your conscious mind distorts the expression of your dream.
Figuring out your dream’s symbolism can be tricky. A good place to begin is to ask yourself, “What does this symbol remind me of? What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”
The mind uses associations to create symbolism. Symbols are subjective and can vary from person to person. For example, flying can mean freedom to one person and success or ‘rising above other people’ to another person. If both of them get flying dreams, those dreams are likely to have different meanings.
Armed with this knowledge, let’s now explore what dreaming of being chased might mean.
Dreaming of being chased is common
Dreaming of being chased is a common dream many people see. While people do see dreams unique to them, they also see a bunch of common dreams. These include dreaming of being chased, dreaming of falling, dreaming of being late, etc.
During most of our evolutionary history, running away from something that’s chasing us was critical for our survival. It’s a mechanism deep-seated in our brains. If the mind wants to convey avoidance to you through symbolism, ‘being chased’ is the best way to do so.
Running away and being chased are readily available associations for avoidance the mind can use. This is even reflected in our language in sentences such as, “Why are you running away from your problems?”
We’re so fascinated by chasing and being chased that many popular films involve long-winded chases. They seem entertaining to most people, who anxiously wait for the outcome of the chase, their eyes glued to the screen.
In dreams about being chased, we’re literally running away from our problems. It means the dream, through symbolism or not, is trying to tell us we’re running away from a pressing concern or issue.
It could be any pressing concern ranging from health to financial to relationship problems.
If there’s a serious and urgent problem you’ve been avoiding lately, the mind sometimes has to give you a ‘being chased’ dream to shake you up. This dream is a common theme of many nightmares so you know the subconscious means business.
Think of nightmares as your subconscious mind grabbing your shoulders and shaking them rapidly to wake you up to the important issue you’ve been avoiding.
Things that chase us in being chased dreams
In the dream, you may see a person you know chasing you. If you have reason to believe that the person could be after you in real life, then the dream is straightforward and devoid of any symbolism.
For example, if person A was abused by person B in the past, person A may see person B chasing them in a dream. The dream means that some part of person A’s mind is still afraid of person B. In the dream, person B represents person B.
Similarly, if you believe you’ve wronged someone, you may see them chasing you in your dream. They represent themselves in the dream. The dream might reflect your guilt that you’re trying to avoid or the fear of being avenged by that person.
In being chased dreams, the dream can also use symbols. The figure chasing you could be a person, animal, monster, ghost or even unknown (you just feel you’re being chased but can’t tell by whom).
The mind doesn’t know how to represent health or financial concerns. If you have financial problems, it can’t show you a dream where you’re being chased by poverty. The mind doesn’t know how to represent poverty as a chasing figure.
So the mind simply deploys any chasing figure it can ‘think’ of. Any frightening, chasing figure from your knowledge base would do.
Here, despite your mind’s best efforts, it can be hard to understand what the dream means. To decode the symbolism, you have to move beyond simple associations and look at emotion.
If the dream symbol generates fear in you, ask yourself what’s currently generating fear in your waking life.
In my article on interpreting dreams, I said that dream interpretation is all a game of emotions. If you focus on your dominant emotions in your dream and in your waking life, you’ll easily extract meaning from your dreams, without getting lost in the maze of dream symbolism.
Pay attention to your response in the dream
In dreams of being chased, pay attention to what you’re doing. Are you simply running away in fright from the dangerous attacker? This could mean you’re helpless in the face of your major life challenge or that you’ve not done anything yet to confront the issue.
Do you try to confront or ward off your attacker? What’s the outcome? Do you win or lose?
If you dream you confront the attacker, but the fight never ends, it could mean you feel stuck in your life problem. You don’t have a solution in sight. If you confront and win, it could be a representation of a recent challenge you overcame in life. If you confront and lose, it could mean you’ve lost hope.
A being chased dream I had
I’d like to narrate a being chased nightmare I saw a long time back but still remember vividly.
I dreamt I was asleep in a room I spent my childhood growing up in. As was common in childhood, some of my cousins had come for a sleepover. We were all sleeping like dead bodies in the room, splattered here and there.
I woke up in the dream and realized that the room was too brightly lit for a morning. It wasn’t sunlight. The bright light was coming from all the lamps that had been switched on for some reason.
I figured I must’ve woken up while it was still night. “But why would anyone leave the lights on?”, I wondered. I saw the door was wide open. “Did somebody come in? Did someone go out? Why would anyone leave the door open at this hour?”
While I was pondering these questions, I saw someone slowly waking up a few feet away from me. I looked carefully at them, trying to recognize them. They woke up, struggled to sit on their knees, and quickly turned their head toward me. No, I wasn’t looking at the face of one of my cousins.
I was looking at the face of a little girl with an ugly, scarred face. She had marks on her face like that of the girl in The Exorcist. I was scared and ran out of the room. The corridor was relatively darker. I stood there, trying to make sense of what I just saw.
I figured it was probably an illusion, so I decided to go back into the room. As soon as I started walking back to the room, the girl appeared in the corridor out of nowhere, still on her knees and staring at me. Then, all of a sudden, she started chasing me, crawling on her knees!
I ran out of the corridor and down the stairs into a different room. I thought I was safe in this new room, but I soon felt her evil presence in the room. The walls of the room were shaking, and she was the one shaking them. I woke up after that.
I can’t deny the influence of some horror movies I’ve seen on the dream, but I was also going through a personal struggle at that time. I was trying to overcome a bad habit or something. The dream shook me so much that I still can’t shake it off.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.