The dark funnel is aiming straight for you. There’s nowhere to hide and time is running out. Your ears pop and the force of the wind steals your breath. You watch as your favorite willow tree is ripped out, roots and all, to join your car and a rusty awning in the swirling debris.
You duck and cover, but you can’t count on gravity tonight. Just as your body lifts from the earth, you wake up safe in your bed, in body, if not in mind. It’ll be hours before you can shake the feeling of impending doom.
In this article, we’ll look at possible interpretations behind dreams about tornadoes and tips on how to stop having them.
Not everyone finds meaning in dreams. Dreams can slip out of your grasp the moment you wake up. And some people rarely recall dreaming at all.
Everyone dreams, but dreams are an intensely personal experience. A tornado may mean one thing to you and quite another to someone else. Since tornadoes are typically frightening and destructive, they could symbolize:
- emotional struggle, anxiety
- feeling overwhelmed, fearing change
- an out-of-control situation
- something in your life that’s being destroyed
- upheaval, major change
- something big and powerful
- a dramatic end to something in your life paving way for a new beginning
Watching a tornado from afar may signify something different from a tornado raging around you. And if you’ve ever lived through a tornado in your waking life, dreaming about them could be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A tornado is a powerful and detrimental force. If your dreams involve family members caught in a tornado, you may be worried about someone close to you. Think about who showed up in your dream and what might be concerning you about them in real life.
Fire, like a tornado, is often destructive and can be a manifestation of anxiety. But flickering candles, crackling fireplaces, and campfires are usually pleasant experiences. Fire may represent a wide range of emotions from rage to passion.
What’s on fire? Are the tornado and the fire working together, or are they separate entities? Do they both seem destructive? Or does fire act as a pleasant balance to the destructive tornado?
The answers to these questions may provide some insight into why you had such a dream.
There simply is no consensus from the scientific community on what specific objects or events in a dream mean. Some researchers theorize that you can learn more by pondering how you responded within the dream and the emotions it provoked.
When you first wake up from a dream, residual emotions may give you some idea of its meaning. Investigating those emotions may be helpful. Otherwise, trying to analyze specific details can leave you lost in the weeds.
Dr. Alex Dimitriu is double board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine. Dimitriu told Healthline that most unpleasant dreams improve with understanding rather than fear and avoidance.
“The same is true of psychotherapy,” Dimitriu said. “The act of shedding light on one’s fears is often curative of them. For anyone having frightful dreams, it helps to write them down in a journal, try to interpret them to make better sense of them, and communicate these ideas with friends and loved ones. Understanding is oftentimes most of the cure.”
While exploring your dreams may be beneficial, there’s no cause for concern if you can’t find meaning in them. But if your dreams are causing problems in your waking life, you can take steps to promote better sleep and potentially better dreams.
If you’re really troubled by recurring dreams or nightmares, it could mean that you’re under too much stress. It may be helpful to open a discussion with your doctor or a therapist. Some research suggests that dream interpretation discussions can help people gain insight and may be effective in therapy.
They’re creative, illogical, and sometimes as vivid as real life. They’re like mini-plays our brains create and perform, usually during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.
Because dreams are so elusive, there’s no good way to study how they work. No one knows for certain why we dream. There are some common theories, such as:
- fight-or-flight training, threat simulation
- mental rehearsal, preparing for something coming up in your life
- memory consolidation
- making sense of emotions
- sparking creativity
- expressing fears and anxieties
- jumbles of images and thoughts from waking hours
It’s possible that dreams serve more than one purpose.
A powerful tornado in your dreams could symbolize feeling overwhelmed or out of control. Or it could stand for something else entirely, like power or transformation. It could also be a fleeting image leftover from a movie or a news story from earlier in the day.
Delving into the emotional aftermath of the dream may help uncover what it means for you. Science has yet to define the true purpose of dreams or the significance of specific details.
If you have upsetting dreams or nightmares, a doctor can help with sleep problems as well as stress and anxiety management.