Bears contain multitudes: Highly intelligent, they form hierarchies within their ursine societies and sometimes share resources, despite their reputed preference for solitude. They are also very cute (from a distance), shambling around the forest on stout, shaggy legs. This wealth of characteristics may help explain why dreams about bears “tend to have several meanings,” according to Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst and author. One of the most common ones, she tells the Cut, involves a simple play on words.
“Subconsciously, there’s a bear in your dream to represent some situation … in your life that is very difficult to bear, or someone [who] is unbearable,” Loewenberg explains. Similarly to dreams about snakes or dreams about alligators, this interpretation of a bear comes with an element of anger or frustration, signaling a hostile presence in your everyday life. If you have a dream about a bear menacing you somehow, Loewenberg recommends you think about who or what currently makes you feel threatened. (And please see also: our guide to interpreting dreams about practically anyone.)
Autumn Fourkiller, Indigenous mystic and writer behind the Dream Interpretation for Dummies newsletter, points out that dreams about bears are incredibly rare. “I was actually pretty surprised when you asked about bears in dreams,” she told me. “For me, at least, I don’t see them a lot, and people rarely (if ever) ask me about them.”
You can also determine the meaning of a bear in your dreams by doing some word association. “What is the nature of the bear, what quality of a bear stands out to you?” Loewenberg asks. “Is the first thing you think of that they hibernate? Is it retreating? Is there an aspect of yourself that needs to retreat or be put on pause, so to speak? Or is it the foraging hunter part of it, do you need to go into predator mode?” Fourkiller adds to the list: “Do you have any preexisting relationships with bears? If not, what do you feel the need to protect? What are your energy levels like right now? Have you been feeling an influx of anger? Where is it stemming from?” Parsing your personal impressions of bears may help you pinpoint what the bear is there to tell you.
Here’s what it means if you’re dreaming about bears.
If you dream there’s a bear outside your home …
This scenario — a bear roaming around outside your house, making you afraid to leave — is very common, Loewenberg says. “What that tells me is that the bear represents someone within the household,” she explains. “In that case, you need to ask yourself: Is it me, or is it someone in my household who is being very difficult to bear right now?”
Fourkiller also advises you to turn your attention indoors in this case. She says, “For a bear [to be] outside the home, I would say that this is pointing toward something one needs to protect inside the home, or a threat you feel is patrolling the outskirts of family life.”
If the bear in your dream is friendly …
If you see a bear in your dream but it turns out to be a cordial and accommodating bear, then it’s possible it “would represent an aspect of the dreamer’s own personality that they were originally afraid to utilize,” Loewenberg says. “Like standing up for yourself, going out there and being a predator and going out there on the hunt and getting what you want — these are qualities we all have within us but some of us are afraid to use them, or don’t think we have that ability … [but] when put to use [these qualities] can be very beneficial to you.” So if you dream about an affable bear, it might be your subconscious prodding you to “face that part of yourself and … not be afraid of it.”
If the bear in your dream talks to you …
If you dream about conversing with a bear, Loewenberg recommends paying attention to what you and the bear talk about. “Whatever you’re being told in a dream or whatever you’re saying in a dream is something you’re really telling yourself … When there’s a conversation in your dream, look at that conversation, no matter who or what you’re talking to, as a conversation you’re having with yourself right now about something in your real life.”
Fourkiller suggests taking this dream as an opportunity to connect with the great outdoors. “If a bear in your dreams talks to you — and perhaps these are just my Native senses tingling here — but I suggest reconnecting with nature in whatever ways you can,” she says, adding, “It is good for the spirit!”
If you’re trying to wake up a bear …
If your dream finds you ignoring popular advice — don’t poke the bear — and instead attempting to wake up a hibernating specimen, Loewenberg says it might “indicate that the dreamer is trying to revive some element of their own life or personality, something that had been lying dormant, neglected or not used. That reflects their need to bring something back, revive it, and use it again right now.”
If you dream you are a bear …
Loewenberg says that when people do occasionally dream about becoming specific animals, it tends to suggest that they are “changing in some way in real life.” So if your dream self became a bear, she encourages you to consider what bears bring up for you. “I would ask that person, if I didn’t know what a bear was, how would you describe a bear to me?” she prompts. “What is the nature of a bear, what do bears do, what are they known for? And so that person might say, ‘They’re aggressive.’ So how are you becoming like that bear, lately, in your life? Do you feel angry all the time? Have you grown a temper?”
Adds Fourkiller, “I agree that if one dreams they are a bear, they should confront their Big Emotions head-on, instead of fearing that they might overwhelm you.”
If you dream you’re hunting a bear …
This scenario, Loewenberg says, may not be as common as the others, but if it comes up for you, pay attention to the act of hunting. It “would represent something you, the dreamer, are trying to bring into your own life,” she explains. “Are you hunting for a partner, are you hunting for a better job? What are you hunting in your life that you need to track down or have victory over bringing into your life? And that’s what the bear would represent.”
If you’re caring for a sick or injured bear …
If you dream, for example, about trying to free a bear from a trap, it “would indicate that there’s either someone very close to you,” or a part of yourself, you feel is “being held back, that needs to roam, that needs to go out on the hunt, that needs to be freed,” Loewenberg says. Ask yourself: Are you being trapped, or do you simply feel caged in? If so, she says, “You need to free yourself in some way.”
The takeaway: Fourkiller agrees with Loewenberg in that she believes dreams about bears could convey several deeper meanings. Most generally, Fourkiller says this type of dream could relate to three themes in your waking life:
- Protection: “For the bear to represent protection, one would be in a position where they feel they need to protect themself, someone close to them, or even their ideas or creative energies.”
- Primal nature: “This is the rarest of the interpretations I’ve listed. One would feel a deep anger or ‘primal’ emotion, so whatever situation could occur therein.”
- Hibernation: “For hibernation, well, that seems to speak for itself, doesn’t it? Are you feeling burnt out? Tired? Exhausted? Chances are your dream bear is speaking toward that.”
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