What Does It Mean If You’re Dreaming About Being Chased?

Dreams about being chased may mean you’re running from something you should face. Photo: Igor Ustynskyy/Getty Images

The thrill of the chase tends not to be very thrilling when it happens in your dreams. Indeed, dreams about being chased can bring up fear, stress, and night sweats as you struggle to outmaneuver whatever ominous entity is on your tail. Interpreting dream symbols is a subjective process, and the meaning of any detail your sleeping brain presents will depend on your personal associations with that item; still, according to Jane Teresa Anderson, a dream analyst and the author of Bird of Paradise: Taming the Unconscious to Bring Your Dreams to Fruition, dreams about being chased could indicate that you’ve recently been avoiding something unpleasant in waking life.

“The question to ask yourself is: Do I feel like I’m running away from something that’s chasing me, or trying to hide from something I don’t want to face?” Anderson tells the Cut. That something could be a deadline, financial issues, health concerns, or a relationship — anything that makes you feel like bolting when it springs to mind. If you’re having these dreams, however, Anderson cautions that continuing to duck your demons may only make the situation worse.

“When we run from our fears, they get bigger and bigger and bigger in our imagination,” she says, “but when we turn around and face our fears, we actually see them for what they are and we can figure out how to cope with them and find solutions.” Consider dreams of being chased an opportunity to end the cycle.

Here’s what it may mean if you’re dreaming about being chased.

If you dream you’re being chased down a dead-end street …
If you dream you’re running and running from something until you run into a wall, Anderson explains that your brain might be nudging you to please deal with the stressful situation already. “If you’re being chased down a dead-end street,” she says, “you can say, ‘Well, whatever it is that I’m frightened of … it’s not getting me anywhere, it’s only getting me to a dead end.” You should consider trying to address the situation head-on, she suggests.

If you dream you’re being chased by a person …
Say your dream finds you being chased by a person — whether they’re a stranger or someone you know, “ask yourself what’s the personality of that person — how do they approach life?” Anderson suggests. “You might say it’s someone who’s always really critical,” because the people we see in our dreams often represent parts of ourselves, Anderson explains, the presence of a judgmental person trailing you in your dreams could mean you’re fleeing your own overcritical impulses. Determining what this person represents to you may help you to determine which aspects of your own personality you have been suppressing or denying.

If you dream you’re being chased by an animal …
The same logic would apply: Consider your personal associations with the animal and apply that to your life over the past few days. While cautioning against taking a “dream dictionary” approach to unpacking this type of symbolism, Anderson says that “in general, if you dream of animals, you often dreaming of your own animal instincts.” So ask yourself: What’s the instinct of this particular animal? If the animal in your dream is a bear, for example, what does thinking about bears bring up for you? If the instinct that jumps to mind is a bear hug, then consider what has been making you feel smothered lately. “It might be an overenthusiastic partner, it might be an overwhelming job that wants to suck the breath out of you,” Anderson says. Alternatively, it might be “your own instinct … to get so involved in things that you suffocate.” Dreaming about trying to escape an alligator, meanwhile, could suggest you’re avoiding a certain someone’s sharp, biting criticism — or that same tendency in yourself.

If you dream you’re being chased through a building …
In dreams, buildings “quite often represents your own inner world,” according to Anderson. An unfamiliar building might be a stand-in for the parts of yourself that feel unfamiliar to you — elements of your personality that you may have pushed down or disavowed. If that’s the case, Anderson suggests you address those aspects of yourself the same way you would after a dream about being chased down a dead-end street: confronting them directly.

If you dream you’re being chased outside…
Pay attention to the landscape, Anderson recommends, and consider its most salient characteristics. “Question the landscape knowing that the landscape is also an aspect of yourself, and just ask, If this landscape had a personality, what would it be?” Say, for example, you dream about being chased through a desert: What does the word desert connote inside your mind? If that instinctual association is dry and desolate, perhaps you fear being boring and empty yourself.

Relatedly, pay attention to the weather in your dreams about being chased through the great outdoors, because dream weather may reference your emotional state.

If you’re being chased by a car …
Assess the overall energy of the situation, Anderson suggests: “What does the car look like, what’s the model of the car, who’s driving it?” Take stock of the scene as a whole imparts, and “ask yourself: ‘Where in my life do I feel like I’m running from that?’”

“If it’s a really old falling apart car that’s chasing you, but it’s still doing a really good job of scaring you, then it may be you running from your fear of being old and falling apart,” Anderson says. “If it’s a totally powerful, macho kind of car and you’re running from it, you might be running from your fear of being very powerful in your life. If it’s a car that’s totally top-end, millions-of-dollars worth of car, then you may be running from your fear of having too much money.” (And then losing it all?)

If you’re being chased on water …
Dreaming about a high-speed swim chase or a boat chase might hold some clues about your emotional state. Anderson says that “if you’re being chased in water,” it may help to think about if you currently feel yourself “drowning in your emotions to some extent.” If you can pinpoint what’s causing you to feel so overwhelmed, you might be able to take steps toward managing it.

What Does It Mean If You’re Dreaming About Being Chased?