How To React To Warning Dreams

People have had warning dreams for centuries, probably ever since there’s been people. It’s part of being human.

Will the fate come to pass? Probably not. We’ve got a terrible track record with dream warnings and other kinds of warnings as well. Dreams communicate with symbolic language. They often don’t make much sense when considered literally.

When is the warning worth acting on?

The warning might simply be anxiety about the future. It may be that it’s worth trying to forestall the end the dream describes.

Realize, though, that acting on a warning always represents an opportunity cost. How much of an opportunity cost varies. 

It’s sad and amazing to think about the trouble people could have avoided if they had only listened to their dreams, their inklings about a terrible future.  

We get all kinds of warnings in our dreams. Warnings about health. Warnings about other people. Warnings about the consequences of actions. You could say one function of dreams is as an early warning system. 

But like a loose warning light on a car that flickers on and off for no reason, some warnings are worth more than others when it comes to paying attention. 

Does the warning make sense?

After you’ve analyzed the dream and figured out the difference between its latent and actual meaning, ask yourself if the warning makes sense.

For example, your dream is about how you don’t really pay attention to your diet. The consequence of that is that you could get heart disease, diabetes, or limit your ability to walk around and enjoy life. It’s happened to millions of people before you. Chances are, it could happen to you too. Such a dream might be well-worth listening to.

If you’re neglecting someone in your life like your child or your spouse or even your pet, your subconscious may illustrate how you are falling short in this area in a dream. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a stitch in time saves nine. Heeding the warning in your dream can save a lot of heartache and other problems in the future. 

In that case, a cost-benefit analysis will tell you the costs of acting on your dream compared to the potential benefits. 

Is the warning illogical? 

Is your subconscious trying to say something but just not doing it very well? Is your subconscious communicating in a way you can’t understand? The warning might appear to be illogical.

In that case, if you’re really mystified in that it seems to be a warning but you’re not sure of what it means, maybe it would make sense to ask for a clarifying dream. Understanding the meaning behind the dream would help you assess the threat better. 

On the other hand, the warning can come clearly in terms that are clear. If you don’t do anything about this situation, everything is going to become terrible.

What you need to do might not be clear. You might need to discuss the situation with others and brainstorm solutions.

Is the dream about your past or the future? 

If the dream is about your past, it can be useful but not in the same way that a dream about the future can be. 

Dreams about the past can simply rehash events. This can help you put lessons from the past in perspective. That can inform decisions about the future but that isn’t necessarily a warning. It’s more of a lesson learned, maybe a reflection of anxiety.

There’s nothing useful about anxiety. It’s limiting.

If the meaning of the dream points more toward the future, then it makes more sense to heed it as a warning. 

Tools to use to act on a warning dream 

Thinking in bets In this, you consider what are the chances that the results (positive or negative) of the dream happen.  

Cost-benefit analysis Figure out if the costs of acting on the warning are too high. You’ll have to assign a value to intangible benefits.


Another old saying: “Hindsight is 20/20.” But many times even if we have perfect certainty that something bad is going to happen, we still might plunge ahead and do it anyway. That’s because the costs of acting are too high.

This is especially true in relationships. Sometimes it’s easier to continue in one that isn’t ideal or that you’ve got dim hopes of improving.

Remember that emotion often gives us reasons for doing what we do. That’s even true for things that are ostensibly logic-based. You might invest your hard-earned money in something for logical reasons, but the products of that are things that you’ll feel emotional about: the ability to travel, the feeling of owning a new car, or new clothes! 

However, if the costs of acting are truly minor,

A nice word to your partner every now and then

Spending time with your child bonding and explaining

Finding ways to cut back on vaping

Drinking less or no alcohol.

Saving a few more dollars for retirement by putting off a purchase you don’t really need…

…you’d be a fool not to heed your warning dream and do something to avoid an undesirable future


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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