Attack Attacked Attacker
In looking at many dreams in which attack takes place, it is obvious that there are many degrees and forms of attack. So attack or being attacked can represent many things such as feeling attacked or threatened by ones own impulses such as anger or sexuality; feeling surreptitiously attacked by other people and their attitude to you or their remarks; a subtle sense of being attacked by age, or a serious attack by an illness – one speaks of an asthma or virus attack for instance, but also one may be attacked by a poison, or food if one is allergic to it; one might personally attack an issue or a project, and so a dream might depict one attacking something in this sense; confidence may be attacked; it is a common term in sport or business, and so may refer to attitude or energy. This aspect of attack may also refer to ones beliefs, or to other peoples, which may be attacked and threatened; attack is also sometimes a form of defence, so may suggest defensiveness about some issue or aspect of ones life. A positive side to attack is that we often feel attacked by an emerging new insight or positive personal change. We feel it as an attack because it threatens our old way of life, our habitual way of ding things and thinking about things.
It is important to define or be aware of ones response to threat or attack in a dream. Experiments in connection with dreams in which the person runs away from attack, or is very passive, show that if the dreamer visualises changing the situation and faces attackers, their dreams and even waking behaviour changes radically. Passivity in dream situations may depict the innate feeling that we are helpless in dealing with the feelings involved. This usually dates from past experience, perhaps in childhood, where in fact one did not have the strength or maturity to meet what was happening. See Life Changes.
Occasionally attack in dreams shows a desire to be attacked in order to live out forms of self punishment or sadism. In most such cases this desire arises out of a need to remember, and make fully conscious, punishment or sadism that has been practised on the dreamer.
Being attacked: This dream usually arises because in some way you are repressing, in conflict with, or frightened off your own emotions, sexuality or anger. Occasionally the fear is about ones own potential or expanded awareness.
Attacked by animal: Feeling under threat from external events or internal emotions, impulses or ideas; feeling a victim in relationship to others and self; taking a defensive attitude. The repression or fear here is in regard to your own natural urges. Sometimes our dreams put into animal form someone who we feel is expressing anger toward us.
Attacked by shadowy or frightening figure: Our childhood traumas and fears may take this guise in a dream. So in this case the attack is depicting our feelings of fear and pain surrounding those past issues. How we meet such an attack is important. If we run from it, the trauma may remain largely unconscious, and therefore capable of influencing our behaviour negatively. Better to explore it or change it. (For help doing this see Stand in Role under peerdream work.)
Attacked by animal: Introverting one’s own aggression or sexuality; fear of one’s own natural urges; anxiety about aggression in oneself or other people; feeling attacked by an external person.
Being the attacker: This is more positive, as you are not being passive and hurt in your dreams. But you are still in conflict with whatever it is your attacking. Considering that what you attack is probably a part of your own personality, it might be better to meet it in some way. Positive self expression; defending oneself against something one feels threatened by; attempt to destroy some urge or feeling in oneself or others. The word attack is also used in many ways, so might refer to an ‘attack’ of an illness, or ‘heart attack’. Can express the difference between feeling threatened by a work/relationship/sex problem, or feeling challenged by it in a way to stimulate creativity or research.
Bird attacking: Fear of ideas, ideals or opinions; verbal attack by others; fear of the Self – a view of things that may destroy ones present more limited views or opinions.
Sexual attack: This has many aspects, and can at times be a re-playing of previous sexual attacks, or an expression of fear concerning them. But we also create dreams of sexual attack when we are frightened of our own feelings and desires. Grof gives the interesting account of a woman who experienced many images of sexual attack. He says:-
…. whenever a boy friend initiated even the most innocent sexual approach, such as touching. embracing, or kissing, she was overwhelmed with terror. It seemed to her that when such a situation occurred, her lover was actually changing physically and assuming animal features. Repeatedly, she fled from these situations in a state of panic anxiety and never wanted to see her partner again. Episodes of this kind were repeatedly relived …. with details of the physical setting, as well as the physical sensations and emotions involved. From Realms of The Human Unconscious, by S. Grof. Published by Souvenir Press.
Someone else being attacked: Anger or aggression toward another; killing off an aspect of oneself represented by the person in the dream. If the person is someone you are in relationship with, it suggests an attempt, however short, to distance oneself from them emotionally. See: fight; War.
Example: I had this dream at a time when there was a lot of talk and anxiety in newspapers and on television about nuclear war. In the dream a nuclear attack had been announced. I immediately thought of my children who are away in boarding school. I go out into the street to see if I can get to them, but realise it is hopeless. In the street everybody is walking about as if it were a holiday Sunday. I realised there was no time to get to my children so decided to join the people on the street. John C.
John had this dream at a time when there was a lot of media coverage about nuclear attack. It is therefore most likely dealing with his real fears about how he would deal with such an attack if it happened.
Example: Whilst suffering from nervous exhaustion three years ago. I had a recurring nightmare that left me feeling totally worthless and wretched. In it I underwent an indecent attack upon my person by my father. I was about four or five in the dream. It was not the attack in itself that left me with these feelings, but rather the look my mother gave me shortly afterwards – making me feel like a specimen in a jar. In the dream I sensed she had refused to be his wife fully, until he had got us into our own home again. I sense she is blaming me for not being able to continue with this threat, and that once more she will have to suffer my father’s attentions because of me. There is no one to help me so I decide to leave. I pack a small case, which I believe someone gets for me. In reality I did try to leave home at this age but got no further than the bus stop across the road. Maria.
Maria gives no indication of whether she was abused by her father, but the dream is certainly dealing with the sexual politics of her parents.
Example: Several men attacked me and were trying to drag me off somewhere against my will. As the dream progressed, or replayed, I began to realise that it only appeared like an attack because I was resisting the process. In fact the men wanted to show me something that was important to me. They were being quite gentle, but because of my resistance, it felt to me like an aggressive act. My thoughts about this are that this may represent the way I feel about events. Because of underlying anxiety, I feel events and changes, such as losing my job are very threatening and difficult to bear. In fact no harm has come from these events at all. The dream suggests that I am being led somewhere if only I would go along with things. Albie R.
Sometimes it is our response to the action that makes it appear like an attack. So it is worthwhile entering the dream again in imagination and exploring it – try Acting on your dream.
Useful Questions and Hints:
If I take the images away what are my feelings about the attack, and where am I meeting those feelings?
Is there any way I can change this dream? For help doing this see Carrying the Dream Forward.
What are the underlying issues here?