People from all over the world have asked me, Why do I have dreams about strangers? Sometimes strangers in our dreams knock on the door. Other times they break into our house or peer through the windows. We have dreams about strangers being our secret lovers, our best friends, or even our mortal enemies.
Do we make them up? Are they people we have seen, but don’t remember? Will I meet this person in my future?
These are the questions about dream interpretation that I answer almost daily. The answer to the first question is easy. No, we do not make them up; our psyche makes them up. That’s what the psyche does: it creates images of our inner psychic processes. By psychic processes, I mean our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and dreams. A psychic process is anything that happens in our mind at both the conscious and unconscious levels.
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Dreams about Strangers: Reflections of ourselves
The people in our dreams are reflections of our unconscious life – a life that demands to be recognized and lived. By this I mean these strangers in our dreams are actually images for the unknown – the strange – parts of our own personalities.
This is actually true for most of the figures in our dream world. In dreams, our friends and lovers, our adversaries and family members – all of them are aspects of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong here. I say most because sometimes dreams do reveal something about the people we know. We’ll cover that in another post. For now, keep in mind that those dreams are not as common.
As I said, strangers in dreams are inner, psychic figures, not actual figures from so-called real life. I always appreciate these dreams because I know they are truly showing me something about an unseen side of myself.
Dreams about strangers: Shadow aspects of our personalities
The unknown people in our dreams are shadow figures. Generally speaking, when we talk about the shadow in Jungian analysis, we mean something of which we are unconscious. I don’t want to differentiate any further than that here because right now, we’re speaking in generalities. I’ll get into more detail about differentiating the unconscious figures in other articles.
Shadow figures can represent everything we have rejected, denied, or never knew about ourselves. The idea is to get a feel for these unknown figures: what are they doing? How are they acting? Do you admire or despise them?
The more viscerally these dream strangers affect you, the better you should get to know them – otherwise, they will act out in your life autonomously. For example, you’ll say or do the very thing you wish to avoid. This is the nature of the unconscious. People who have no awareness of their unconscious leave a sort of dirty trail behind them, one which everyone sees except them.
Once you get to know the qualities of these unknown dream figures, you have to find a way to integrate that information that into your conscious life. As Jung used to say, “we have to find a way let our shadows live” rather than push them away (obviously he meant without succumbing to deranged behavior).
Dreams about strangers: Meeting our shadow personality in dreams
C.G. Jung writes extensively about the shadow throughout the Collected Works, but if I had to recommend some starter books, I’d go with Man and His Symbols and Volume 7 of the Collected Works, Two Essays in Analytical Psychology. Both of them are approachable. The shadow is that part of our personality that includes everything we have rejected or denied about ourselves. Remember, that what we reject or deny can include both our light and dark sides. Here’s a funny dream about meeting my own shadow.
Revelation of my own shadow in dreams
This strange woman in my dream immediately impressed me, but not in a good way. I felt that she was manipulating me, so I thought to myself: am I really like this somehow? Within 10 days, I heard her voice coming right out of my own mouth! I’ll never forget it.
Long before we discovered Nespresso machines, my husband and I used to have separate coffee pots because of how we each liked our coffee. Every night, I would clean mine out and get it ready for the next morning. I loved getting up to my coffee pot ready to go. My husband, however, left his overnight and got up every morning and did it. For some silly reason, this really bothered me.
One night before I bed I said, “wouldn’t it be nice to wake up every morning to a ready-made coffee pot?” He looked up at me with this, “get out of my business” kind of look and suddenly I heard that annoying woman from dreams! I realized that there was a certain way that I spoke to my husband whenever I wanted him to do something that *I* thought he should do. I literally broke down laughing in that moment, telling my husband the whole story.
Needless to say, I think twice before I offer my unsolicited opinion to ANYONE.
Dreams about strangers: Who are those mysterious new best friends?
Dreams about having close friends who are not people we know in the real world are very special dreams. These inner people are also unrecognized or undeveloped aspects of your own personality – a shadow personality of a different sort than our not-so-pretty sides. Our best friends in dreams are what I call our inner gold.
Believe it or not, our ego is far more resistant to seeing its beauty than to seeing its unsightliness.
Unknown best friends will appear in our dreams as people whose character we admire, people we think are cooler than we are. They are the people that we want to be like. Our best friends in dreams can even appear as celebrities, most especially in the dreams of those who have too low of a self-image.
Now, if you can get a feel for these characters, then you can get feel for what qualities are missing from your psychic economy, so to speak. The feeling of happiness and belonging that we feel with such inner figures is the feeling we would have living in our own skin, if we can only recognize and integrate their qualities as our own. We can also discover our missing qualities in the people we are attracted to, whether they are lovers, friends, or mentors.
Anytime you feel an uncanny attraction to someone, whether in the dream world or external world, recognize that some undeveloped or unseen quality in yourself wants to be realized in your life.
Dreams about strangers: Inner enemies
Dream interpretation: Dreams about strangers and home invasion
Dreams about people breaking into our house and overpowering us are very common. The symbol of the house in your dream represents the whole situation of your life, both your conscious and unconscious life.
To dream of someone breaking into your home is to see the kind of forces that autonomously break into your mind, for example obsessive thoughts or fears.
When you have these dreams about strangers breaking into your home, take a careful look at dream figures. Are they helpful or harmful? Try to see them in light of your conscious situation.
Let’s take a look at how to interpret the dream I just shared with you.
The dreamer’s situation
This is the dream of a 43 year-old woman who was about one year into analysis. She suffered from anxiety and depression fueled by self doubt and self loathing. In addition to that, she experienced night terrors – attacks in the middle of the night with horrible thoughts about her own worthlessness.
The family dynamic in which she had grown up was one of abuse and estrangement. In particular, the women in her family were cold and uncaring. As the black sheep of the family, she received all of their negative projections: she was always the bad one, the odd one, the bitchy one. She was always left out of family holiday celebrations and vacations.
Women who have grown up around cold, bitchy women tend suffer in their relationships with women. They draw into their lives, women who are just like their family members: jealous, petty women who betray and mistreat them in various ways. I am very sad to say that women betraying each other is the source of many a woman’s suffering.
Dreams about strangers and home invasions: the symbols
By the time of this dream, the woman was realizing that she had a group of women friends who put enormous pressure on her, constantly calling her friendship into question, burdening her with their obligations, talking behind her back, and constantly making snide comments to her. In short, the women she called friends were exactly like the women in her family.
In particular, the dream focuses on the two women who have her in chains. This image is her problem not only with the women in her life, but in particular, also her problem with the feminine in herself. Her doubts and insecurities about being in the world are bound to these two women in the dream.
When she realizes that she knows martial arts, she used it against these women in her dreams. Martial arts was a symbol for psychic self-defense. Not only did she beat up those horrible women, she also wrapped them in the chains and beat them into a pulp.
Similar to dreams about death, this is symbolic image for overcoming a powerful complex in her psyche. She broke up all of the energy that had been bound in that complex. Anytime we so something like this, all of that freed up energy flows back into us.
And notice what happens when after she did this? The mysterious black man’s behavior changes, and then an old friend enters. He was a source of power for the dreamer, but he would not be in her service until she took care of those nasty inner voices. Again, this is an image for a powerful shift in her consciousness. Her night terrors began to subside, and naturally, she broke the chains of unhealthy relationships with women.
Dreams about strangers: Drinking at a bar with a stranger
This is another a common image in women’s dreams: drinking at a bar with a stranger. If you are a man, you can work out how to apply it to your own dreams.
What I like about a bar is that while it’s a public place, when you can sit with another person, deeply engaged in conversation. A bar can actually be quite intimate.
So, the image suggests the possibility of an intimate, but public connection. Now you have to figure out what this could mean for you. He is an unknown factor in yourself.
Now, let’s look at drinking. Wine, as well as any type of alcohol, represents the fiery aspect of water. By that I mean, alcohol is symbolic of the spirit of emotion – a fiery passion in life. In these dreams, you share the spirit of life with this man.
In a woman, a male figure in a dream often represents her ability to step into the world and take her place in it. So, what was he like? Could you get a feel for him. Was he an artist or a business man? Those are just loose examples. When she’s connected with that quality in herself, then she can stand on her own in the world. She feels a spirited passion for her life and her work in it that is unrelated to any external relationship. She is solely herself and fulfilled.
This was the dream of an artistic woman who had lost contact with her muse.
This inner figure is really the soulmate for whom a woman seeks. It’s an inner union. It’s the symbolic marriage to prince charming at the end of the fairy tale.
Any woman connected to that inner other is virtually unbreakable. That doesn’t mean that she does not experience suffering – only that suffering does not break her; and therefore, she is unafraid of it.
However, too many women get caught up in thinking their soulmate is someone out there. Not that there aren’t many soulmates out there – but the one is within.
If you cannot see this man in your dream could indicate that you haven’t made a solid connection to that place in yourself yet. However, the dream is a good sign that you’ve at least made contact. Maybe you are considering taking some action in the world. If so, this would be a good sign that you headed in the right direction.
That you and he are sharing this moment in a public place is another good indication that your connection will establish your seat “out there – in life”.
The Unknown Lover in dreams
The encounter with the unknown lover is a common theme in women. What I have seen most often, both in myself and in the women I have worked with is that this kind of dream encounter is about becoming one within yourself. Sometimes we long for a partner who will fulfill what’s missing and think that “becoming one” is finding that soul-mate who makes us whole. But the real prince charming is within.
The dream image tells you that what you long for, what you are missing, is within you. This is why you have always known him and why you miss it. Even in fairy tales you see the prince and heroine get together after she realizes something about herself or takes some kind of action.
When we can realize those qualities he represents in ourselves, then we find that thing about which we are most passionate. It’s the thing in life that makes us feel most at home just being yourself.
To get a clue about those qualities, notice the attraction you feel for certain types of men. Or recall a time when you fell in love at first sight, only later to find out that man was nothing like you’d imagined. The qualities you thought that saw in him were really your own.
There are cases of dream lovers where we should be cautious. Here is the dream of a married woman in her mid-thirties, who often fantasized about leaving her husband.
Dreams about Strangers: Mysterious Lovers Interpretation
I will probably dedicate an entire post to our dreams about lovers, but for now let’s look at the instance of what is often called the Demon Lover. I’ll be talking about it in terms of a woman, but men can also have demon lovers.
As you can see from the dream above, this inner figure wants to whisk this woman away to an isolated space, in a “far away park” of some kind. The dream language says that he is seductive and captivating. In other words, he draws her into herself and away from the real world.
I said in the beginning that this woman had fantasies of leaving her husband for some other man: her imagined ideal man. This kind of dream is an image for her seductive fantasy life – a fantasy that makes her believe that her real soul mate is still out there somewhere, waiting for her to find him. I know this is a familiar fantasy for a lot of women because I see it all of the time. This is the woman who longs to be rescued, seen, scooped up and taken away.
If you know the story of Bluebeard, he is the archetypal process we are talking about here. In the story, a woman falls in love with a wealthy stranger who marries her and takes her away to his castle. Once trapped in this far away place, she realizes this man has murdered all of his previous wives.
She makes it out of her situation in the end, but barely. The dream I shared here is a modern version of that same psychological dynamic in a woman. It will destroy any woman who falls into it.
As I said above, the soulful lover whom many a women seek is within her. Turn inward and discover who that is for yourself.
Dreams about strangers knocking in my door
Anytime I dream of someone knocking at my door, I think about all of the myths and stories of the Unknown Visitor(s). Just a few examples are Jupiter and Mercury who visit Philemon and Baucis, Khidr, Elijah, and St. Nicholas, just to name a few. You can look up any of those names to read their stories.
All of the stories are similar: a divine figure, dressed as beggar knocks on doors and asks for help. Most of the people do not give it – some out of fear, others out of selfishness. The people who do end up helping the divine stranger are always poor in materialistic terms, but rich in spirit. In the end, they find out who the stranger is and they are always greatly rewarded with gold and other treasures, and some of them, even with immortality.
Whenever the divine makes an appearance in these stories, there is usually something dreadfully wrong with the world. People have lost hope. Their life force no longer flows into anything because they no longer have any meaning in their lives – something like the situation T.S. Eliot describes in his poem the Wasteland.
I will never forget one of my dreams about someone knocking on my door:
I knew the tragedy of what I done even when I awoke. It took me some time before I realized that I was actually doing this in my life: closing the door on gifts from the Universe. It was a painful realization for me. I felt horrible.
I see this again and again in my clients. They fail to recognize the significance of their dreams or of amazing synchronicities in their lives. If you do the same thing, it is at your own loss.
Whenever a person dreams about an Unknown Visitor, he or she should open the door and see who it is. Even if you closed the door in the dream, or, were afraid to open it – there’s still a message to the dream: something wants to come into your life.
I was recently asked by a young woman what it meant that she had a recurring dream of screaming every time a stranger knocked on her door.
That she screamed whenever someone knocked seemed to indicate a resistance to whoever or whatever wants to come in. If this kind of imagery sounds familiar to you, then I would ask you to reflect on how you might be stuck in your life. What are you afraid to do? How much does fear play into your life decisions?
Always remember that every dream is an image for something that wants to come in. It is an aspect of yourself. Open the door and invite it in. He or she may be bearing gifts that will change your life.
Even if it’s something scary as hell, it is better to know about it than to be unconscious of it. Let it come in.
Want to learn more about working with dreams or Jungian Psychology?
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