People in dreams [part 1] – and 8 things they could represent

If you are interested in understanding your dreams, it is likely that sooner-or-later you will want to know why certain people are in them!

Why is your old school friend in your dream, or a ‘random’ colleague that you hardly know? These things are intriguing – and they are usually there for a reason!

In this article we will explore what they could mean!

This article is part of a two part series.

  • In this first part we will consider 8 possibilities for what people could represent.
  • In the second part, we will look at 6 clues to help us find out what they are.

I will share lots of real examples so you can see how it works in practice!

I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective, and treat my dreams as a conversation with God. But many of the principles I share are general – so I hope everyone will find some useful tips!

The symbolic nature of dreams

Firstly, if you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Dreams as parables and Symbolic language in dreams to give you a foundation.

Secondly, remember that dreams are personal, so the meanings that I suggest may not apply to your specific dream. But please feel free to use my ideas as a springboard to thinking and praying about dreams yourself.

With that in mind, a person in a dream could represent themselves – but quite often they are symbolising someone or something else. For me, 99% of the time, the people in my dreams are symbolic. That means that the dream is probably not actually about the person in my dream, but something going on in my own life.

I know that some people have more literal dreams than I do. But if we start by asking the question, ‘Is this person representing themselves or are they symbolic?’, then we will at least cover all the possibilities.

Example from the life of King David

There is a great illustration in the bible of how God uses stories and parables to speak to us about our own life in 2 Samuel 12:1-14. If you get what happened in that story, you will understand the symbolic nature of people in your dreams.

It comes from the occasion when Nathan (the prophet) challenged King David about his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. God gave Nathan an illustration; a scenario for him to recount.

Nathan told David the story. It was about a wealthy man who took a little ewe lamb from a poor man. David thought that the scenario was about someone else; he was very angry at what the ‘wealthy man’ did. But the story was actually reflecting his own life, and the wealthy man represented David.

I wrote more about that story in my article, ‘Dreams Circumnavigate the Mind‘. Check it out if you missed it, because I give an example about how God did something similar in one of my own dreams.

Picture of crown with text - people I. Dreams - literal or symbolic? the Old Testament example of the prophet Nathan and King David

Keeping an open mind

Dream interpretation can be challenging at times: sometimes people represent one thing, and sometimes another. So how can we approach this without getting frustrated?

The main thing is to jump in and have a go – and practice helps! I have interpreted so many of my own dreams that I have seen people used in lots of different ways.

Over the years I have kept a personal list of what specific people have represented for me in my own dreams. Taking inspiration from this, I am going to share with you my personal mental checklist of possible meanings of people.

It’s a bit like having a toolkit of potential meanings to try.

Once you get the hang of what people could mean, you could start to build your own personal dream dictionary. See Biblical tools: The law of first mention for some tips on doing so. If you do this regularly, as time goes by it will really help speed up the process for you.

THE CHECKLIST

8 potential meanings of people in dreams

Here is my mental checklist of what people could symbolically represent in dreams!

How I recommend using the list:

Start off with one of the following ideas that feels like a possibility – and apply it to the dream. See if it makes sense, and if you can relate it to your life. If so then go with it, and keep a note for future reference. If not, then consider a different meaning. But make sure to ask God for help.

  1. Themselves
  2. Ourselves
  3. Aspects of ourselves
  4. Other people
  5. An organisation or movement
  6. God
  7. Angels and other spirtual beings
  8. Anything and everything!

What could this person represent in my dream?

1: Themselves

The person could literally be representing themselves, and your dream could be about them. We have already talked about this in the introduction, but for the sake of completion, it is the first item on my checklist!

In any dream there is a chance that the people could be literal. This is more common in extrinsic dreams (I will write more about that in part 2), but it is possible in any dream.

Examples:

  • Sometimes when I am doing something in a dream with my husband or family, it really is about something that we are doing together – in real life – and they represent themselves. But usually it isn’t; my husband is usually Jesus and my family could represent something like my church family.
  • This is something that can only be learned by experience, and can be different from one dream to another!

Ask the question: Is this person in my dream actually them?

Picture of lady with text - people in dreams - could be themselves

What could this person represent in my dream?

2: Ourselves

A person in our dream could be a reflection of ourselves, like in the example of King David that I shared above.

It could be any unknown person that vaguely resembles us, or an aspect of our name/character. Or it could be a younger person or child, representing our stage of maturity in the area that the dream is about.

Examples:

  • Sometimes I dream of an unknown person with fair hair, and I know that they represent me. I am observing this ‘person’ doing different things, and gaining insight into my life as I do so. My name means ‘fair and trusting’, which I think is one of the reasons God uses a fair-haired person.
  • I also have a friend who looks a bit like me, and we served as church elders together for a number of years. When I dream about her, I know from experience that it is really about me, and is probably about an area of church leadership that I am facing.
  • I sometimes dream about a friend who has a baby. This usually reflects me and a new area of responsibility that I have. For example, my blog is a fairly new area in my life, and can be represented by a baby or toddler. So I might dream about someone I know with a baby/toddler of that age – and I know that it is about me and my blog.
  • The same can be said of dreaming of someone we know that is pregnant. They can represent us and something new we are going to start soon.
  • God uses situations in our lives to speak to us. So if we have just been to a wedding, we might dream about the people who got married, but it could really be about our own life, such as our relationship with God.

Ask the question: Is this person in my dream reflecting me?

Picture of lady looking in mirror with text - people in dreams - could be reflecting ourselves

What could this person represent in my dream?

3: Aspects of ourselves

People in dreams can represent different aspects of our own life and character. By this, I mean that the dream is displaying the different things that are going on below the surface in our life; the things that we are thinking about, or weighing up.

We often say things like:

  • ‘Part of me wants to do it but part of me doesn’t’
  • ‘My heart tells me one thing but my mind tells me another’
  • ‘I have an outgoing side but also a quieter side’.

We all wear different ‘hats’ in different situations, and we have different roles. We have internal struggles and conflicts, particularly when it comes to making decisions.

All of these scenarios can play out in our dreams.

Examples:

  • An outgoing person we know might appear in our dreams to represent the part of us that is like that.
  • A warm, affectionate person could represent our heart, while a thinking type of person might represent our mind, and so on.
  • Young adults or children can represent areas of our life that are less mature (e.g. children playing up), or where we are still growing in experience (e.g. children at school).

We also talk about our ‘higher self’. In Christian terms we might call this our spirit – the part of us that is connected to God’s Spirit and is in tune with Him. This is the part of us that knows the right thing to do – our true path.

  • Sometimes in my dream I seem to be the person who knows the right path – watching another part of myself (represented by another person in the dream) doing silly things. But sometimes I am dreaming from the point of view of my struggles – but someone else in my dream will represent the true perspective and point me in the right direction.

Ask the question: Can I identify the scenario in my dream with some of the decisions or struggles that I am facing in my life?

Picture of a man and lady standing with text.  People in dreams - representing aspects of ourselves

What could this person represent in my dream?

4: Other people

I don’t know why God does this, but in my dreams He sometimes uses one person (or even animals) to represent another person. It would be easier if the actual person appeared in my dreams, but this is rare! In the spirit of dreams being parables, the symbolic person seems to be the norm.

Examples:

  • A man called Barney appeared in my dream to represent someone I know who lives in Barnstaple (it was a wordplay).
  • My cat was used to represent my husband and the things that were going on in his life.
  • A dog will often represent a friend.
  • An unknown person in a dream can represent a real person (e.g. recently a random lady in my dream represented a friend of mine. There were some similarities in appearance and character which I later identified).
  • Our physical brother or sister in a dream could represent a spiritual brother or sister (such as a fellow Christian).
  • Our physical mum or dad could represent a spiritual mum or dad in our life, or a mentor.
  • I recently dreamed about a nurse (sister) who represented my real sister-in-law.

So that’s another option to think about when interpreting the people in our dreams.

Ask the question: Is this person representing someone else who I know?

Picture of a dog in dark glasses with text - people in dreams - other people in disguise

What could this person represent in my dream?

5: An organisation or movement

Sometimes a person in a dream will represent a whole group of people, such as a church, ministry, business or organisation.

Examples:

  • The bible talks about the church being the ‘bride of Christ’, so a church or ministry could be represented by a pastor’s wife, any female leader, or the person who usually acts like a ‘mum’, bringing people together in that place
  • See the real dream example below.
  • People groups / organisations are often represented by a female person. This is because women tend to be generally more relational in character. However any person in our dream could represent a group of people. For example, a man (or lady) in a suit could represent a workplace or business. The clothes that the person is wearing would be the main clue there.

And don’t forget – these days a group could easily be an online group that you belong to! It doesn’t have to be a physical group.

Ask the question: Is this person representing a group of people?

Picture of a group of ladies with text - people in dreams - representing a group or organisation

What could this person represent in my dream?

6: God

Another option to think about is whether a person in a dream could actually be God! I always look for God in my dreams, and have discovered that He often appears in covert ways.

I have written more about this in the article ‘Meeting God in our dreams‘. Check it out – as I give some examples, including a real dream that I had.

Examples:

  • Sometimes in dreams we have someone with us who is helping or accompanying us. Sometimes we have conversations, or they give us advice. This can sometimes be a person that we never quite see, or someone that feels very familiar but we can’t quite place them. I have come to realise that this is in fact God!
  • However, God also shows up in the guise of many other people: our mum, our dad, our brother, friend or husband; our leader, our pastor, our doctor or hairdresser. The list goes on.

I have come to recognise His presence in my dreams, and you can too. It just takes a little bit of effort to record our dreams and look for God in them!

Ask the question: Could this be God in disguise?

Picture of lady hidden behind a hat with text - people in dreams - could it be God in disguise?

What could this person represent in my dream?

7: Angels and other spiritual beings

Angels don’t all have wings and halos! We know from the bible and from testimonies that people have entertained angels in real life, or met them, and not realised at the time. This is also true in our dreams. Heavenly beings do appear in our dreams to helps us and bring us messages.

Sometimes we know in the dream that it is an angel. There are lots of examples of this in Matthew’s gospel around the time of the birth of Jesus. But sometimes they just appear in the form of a person who is helping us.

Examples:

  • For example, I have a cousin who I have known since childhood. I have been convinced for years that she is one of my ‘guardian angels’ when she appears in my dreams. Her name means ‘light’ which is a good clue. Recently I actually saw her in a dream in angelic form (hovering in the room), so I think I was right!
  • I have also encountered people in dreams who turned out to be ‘the enemy’: i.e. evil or deceptive spirits. We can usually tell this because there is a bad feeling. Either they are an unknown person that feels unpleasant, or they could appear in the form of a movie villain, a thief, or an attacker, to name a few examples.
  • The main thing to discern is whether they are positive or negative, and it is usually fairly obvious.
  • Sometimes I don’t know whether a good person in my dream in an angel sent from God, or the Holy Spirit. I have discovered that it doesn’t actually matter! God uses angels to represent Himself to us.

Ask the question: Could this be a real spiritual being communicating with me?

Picture of man with halo and wings - with text.  People in dreams - angels and other spiritual beings.

What could this person represent in my dream?

8: Anything and everything!

I know this one sounds like an opt-out! But my point is that people in dreams can represent things that aren’t actually people or heavenly beings. They can be things too! The best way to explain this is by giving you a few examples.

Examples:

  • Someone coming to our door called Grace could be God’s grace coming to us.
  • I have a friend with the surname ‘Rich‘. In a dream recently they represented ‘riches‘.
  • I had a colleague who worked in clinical trials. He used to represent times of trial or testing in my dreams.
  • Someone called ‘summer’ could represent a good (‘summer’) season in our life.

The bible uses people in visions in a similar way – to represent things like famine, difficult times, or peace. The horsemen in Zechariah and Revelation are good examples of this. It is exactly the same in our dreams, except they appear as people we know.

People can represent times, seasons, gifts from God, attributes and many other things.

Ask the question: Could this person be representing something different – not a person at all?

Picture of lady looking up with text - people in dreams - could be anything and everything!

Real dream example

I had this dream a few years ago, and it took me a while to work out what the main character represented!

Dream: Visiting Marilyn’s house

I dreamed that I went to my friend Marilyn’s house. She was showing me round a building/house she had in her garden.

She showed me the living room, and a kitchen area at the back. It wasn’t perfect – there were some things that needed updating in the kitchen – but it was very nice nonetheless. I thought it would be a good place to live.

We enjoyed listening to some music together.

Picture of two ladies talking in a house

Symbolism explained

The main question for me was, ‘why is Marilyn in my dream?’ She was someone I only knew vaguely, and I don’t remember dreaming about her before. I thought about the various options of what she could represent, as per this article.

I was stuck for a while, until I suddenly realised that she had the same name as someone else I knew: the wife of the man who founded the family of churches we were thinking of joining.

l realised that this lady in my dream was representing the organisation – i.e. the family of churches – and the house was a pictorial representation of the organisation too.

The interpretation

God was confirming that it would be good for us to be a part of the family of churches we were deciding whether to join. Although I could see it wasn’t totally perfect, it would be a good place for us, and I would enjoy it there.

Subsequently we did join, and it has been a great experience, just like the dream assured me.

Conclusion

We have considered various possibilities of what people might represent in dreams. Here is a summary of all the ideas. I use it as a mental checklist of ideas to work through if I’m stuck on a dream person:

  1. Themselves: They could literally be themselves.
  2. Ourselves: They could be reflecting us like a mirror.
  3. Parts of our own life: They could represent different aspects of our character.
  4. Other people: They could symbolically represent someone else.
  5. An organisation or movement: They could represent a church, ministry, organisation or business.
  6. God: They could be God in disguise.
  7. An angel or other spiritual being: They could be a heavenly being or an evil spirit in disguise.
  8. Anything and everything: They could be a gift, season, or any number of other things!

Remember that dreams are a conversation with God – so keep an open mind about what things might mean, consider the various possibilities, and pray through the dream.

And don’t give up! Practice is the only way to improve!!

In part 2 of ‘people’ in dreams we explore these ideas further, and look at some clues that can help us work out what a person represents. Check it out below!

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