As a child, I often dreamed about tornadoes, always the same setting and always the same circumstances: Suddenly I would find myself in my paternal grandparents’ house, invariably alone and running through the rooms in an attempt to shake the large, angry tornado rattling the windows from outside. My blustery adversary had a big, horrible mouth, a gaping vortex within a vortex that portended obvious doom. The tornado never spoke, just gusted at me with escalating menace until the panic woke me up. Not a particularly eventful nightmare, but one bizarre enough to stick with me for over 20 years.
I grew up in the Midwest — in a region I remember people calling “Tornado Alley,” incorrectly as it turns out — saw Twister at the age of 6 and have always loathed wind, so to my adult mind, tornadoes were a logical thing for my sleeping mind to conjure when it wanted to upset me. Autumn Fourkiller, Indigenous mystic and writer behind the Dream Interpretation for Dummies newsletter, shares a similar background. “I’m from Oklahoma, which is pretty much tornado central. I’m from so far east it’s basically Arkansas, the foothills of the Ozarks and all that, but I’ve recently made a big move to an actual city which is somehow even more in Tornado Alley? Genius move on my part,” she tells the Cut. “That said, I consider myself something of a storm aficionado. I don’t chase them, of course, but I do like to watch them and think about them. I’m fun that way.”
Unsurprisingly, tornado dreams are a regular occurrence for Fourkiller. “I dream of tornadoes all the time. There is fear of them in my lineage. There is a threat of them March through October,” she says. “I can safely say that these dreams are about tornadoes. But, if you haven’t lived a life like mine, there is probably something else afoot.”
So, what else could your tornado dream be about, if not actual tornados? According to professional dream analyst and author Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, this particular symbol typically signals inner turbulence.
“Our emotions are the weather of the mind,” Loewenberg told the Cut. “Rain will represent sadness, and tornadoes tend to represent worry and anxiety, spinning out of control.” A tornado dream, Loewenberg says, reminds us of “the destructive force that worry and anxiety causes to the psyche.”
Fourkiller shares a similar take. “To begin with tornado dreams, we must first think of how they arise,” she explains. “It is warm air and cold air meeting in a violent fusion, not fission. From that, we take two opposite ideas within us, those things that are diametrically opposed, if you will, meeting. Of course, inner tumult factors here, too.”
But the dream could have many interpretations. “Tornado dreams can be about plenty of things, especially things that feel like they are uprooting or destructive,” Fourkiller says, adding that “another interpretation would be about big decisions that feel out of alignment, an anxiety that feels all-consuming, and the thought patterns that are particularly repetitive and, well, spinning like a cyclone.” If the dream does not necessarily relate to anything going on in your current waking life, Fourkiller says it could also be symbolic of “something coming in the future.”
Here’s what it means if you’re dreaming about tornadoes.
If you’re dreaming about multiple tornadoes or one great big one …
The scale and quantity of your dream tornadoes will be directly proportionate to the scale and quantity of external stressors, according to Loewenberg. “If there are a lot of little things worrying you, you’ll have little, skinny tornadoes,” she explains. “If there’s a lot weighing you down and it’s anxiety and worry that’s becoming too much, it’s going to be a big, massive storm.”
For her part, Fourkiller ventures to guess you have a lot on your plate. “Whoa! Are you overwhelmed?” she asks. “It seems like it. I don’t think the exact number of tornado matters, but do try to remember the size and shape of them when you are interpreting them for yourself.”
If you’re dreaming about a tornado warning …
So you’re hunkered in the basement waiting for the big one to hit, shielding your neck with the paltry armor of your own hands as sirens scream in the distance: According to Loewenberg, this is a reasonably common dream scenario for people who “tend to worry and brace for impact over something that will probably never even affect them.” A tornado warning dream, then, may be particularly familiar ground for people with anxiety. But, on the plus side, Loewenberg notes that “being in the basement would indicate you’re feeling more prepared for this worrisome thing you’re afraid is going to happen.” Which is probably better than …
If you’re stuck in a car during a tornado …
That may suggest a lack of clarity about the stress-inducing phenomenon at hand. Being trapped in your car during the storm “would indicate you’re feeling unprepared and way more vulnerable and unsure of which way to go with this,” Loewenberg says. Waffling about how best to avoid the coming storm may indicate that you’re currently experiencing “indecision” about whatever’s worrying you, which in turn may only escalate the worry.
If the tornado picks you up and carries you away …
Typically, Loewenberg says, people wake up before the tornado gets them. If you don’t, however — if this funnel cloud sweeps you up and sucks you into the sky — “that is a very big warning sign that your subconscious is sending you, that this worry you’re dealing with … you’re getting carried away with it. You’re letting your thoughts go all over the place, you’re going worst-case scenario to the point that it’s carrying you away from your normal peace of mind or your normal routine.” And keep in mind: Dreams about death tend to be more about real-life changes and endings than they are about actually dying.
Fourkiller adds, “I also think it is a perfect time for the dreamer to think about what is rooting them to the ground and how they can really, for lack of a better term, dig in.”
If you’re trying to save someone or something from the tornado …
Consider the nature of the person or thing you’re trying to get out of harm’s way. Trying to save your child, for example, could reflect worry you’re having over issues they’re experiencing — difficulty in school, a bully — from which you would like to shield them. Anxiety about a relationship could manifest as a dog in a tornado’s path, because dogs signify loyalty and friendship in dreams, Loewenberg says. (See our guide to interpreting dreams about other people for more.)
If you’re hiding from a tornado in your childhood home …
The setting of the dream may help clarify the root of your concerns, Loewenberg notes, and the places people live as children tend to come up a lot. “If it’s your childhood home your dreams tend to take place in with a tornado, that’s a very good indication of one of two things,” she explains. “This anxiety you have probably started presenting when you were living in that childhood home, or there may be something that happened back when you lived there [that you] never fully processed, and it still affects you from time to time today.”
If the tornado has a large mouth …
So your dream tornado has a big mouth that it keeps wordlessly waggling at you! What a strange thing for a tornado to do; what could that mean? Maybe someone in your orbit had a temper, or maybe you were afraid of getting reprimanded, Loewenberg suggests. Dreams about teeth, lips, tongues, etc., tend to tell us about the ways in which we communicate.
If you’re stuck in the path of a tornado and can’t move…
This might be a sign that it’s time to succumb. “You might just need to let something inevitable wash over you, even if it is terrifying and feels impossible to survive,” says Fourkiller. “Harsh, I know! But you are literally standing in the storm. You are stronger than you think already.” When trying to get to the bottom of any dream about a tornado, Fourkiller suggests asking yourself a simple series of questions: “First, do you, like me, live under the threat of tornadoes? If not, what in your life feels uprooting or destructive? Are there thought cycles you have that just keep spinning?”
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