Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How Can Dreams Filled With Conflict Help Us?

When conflict crops up in dreams: Looking for emotional movement.

You dream of an intense conflict with a loved one. Are you suppressing feelings of anger or resentment toward that person? Not necessarily. Hope’s dream of a fight with her husband pointed towards family conflicts of another kind and directed her inward to her own conflicting feelings about her relationships.

The Dream: I am in a huge heated argument with my husband, who is normally a good man and a great father. At one point I screamed at him, “You need to get help!”

In the next scene, we’re in a room with family and friends and it feels like an intervention. Everyone is trying to talk to him and to console him, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Then the police came by and took him away.

The Discussion: When trying to interpret a dream, you want to choose whichever points of entry strike you first. In this dream, I was struck by the action, specifically the sudden change from a fight to a caring intervention. I asked, “In the intervention part of the dream, are you also involved in consoling and talking to your husband?”

“No. I’m watching. I’m happy they were trying to help.”

“So,” I ventured, “in the first scene you are an active participant, even yelling out, and in the next scene you are an observer. This makes me ask if there is any subject in your recent experience in which you have moved from being very involved to suddenly stepping back?”

“Well, yes. There are a few of those circumstances in my life. One is my father, who I had a disagreement with a year ago. I was thinking of him yesterday. He doesn’t like that I keep in touch with someone, and I absolutely intend on continuing my friendship with that person. My father said if I still communicate with that person, he’s not seeing me anymore. Because I just don’t want the drama, where I used to be very involved in the back and forth, I took a big step back. He doesn’t even see my children now.

¨In another situation, my mom, who is divorced from my dad and used to be a totally self-sufficient person, has drastically changed over these last five years. She has become completely dependent on others. She lived with me for a while. She bounces around in different relationships. She was living with a man for a while. She lived with a friend also. There’s no talking to her. This is the way she wants to live, and my brother is wanting me to try again to convince her to get her own place and more importantly, to get some help. He wants me to step in because I always step in! I was just telling him this week that I will talk to her one more time, but if it doesn’t help, I’m going to back away. It’s the same. I don’t want so much drama in my life. I need to step back.”

Finally, I asked about the police, an important symbol in the dream. “What comes to mind about the police?” Hope responded, “I have friends who are police officers. I find it all very disturbing. I see both sides. There’s good cops and bad cops.”

What We Can Learn

This dream revolves around conflict in relationships. Although Hope argues with her husband in the dream, she quickly discovered that the subjects of conflict are her mother and father. Most especially, this dream shows Hope’s conflict within herself about her relationships, a back-and-forth movement that happens both inside and outside the dream. Inside Hope veers from arguing with her husband to observing the intervention. Outside the dream, she zigzags from her father, who tried to force his opinion about how she has to conduct herself, to her mom, whom Hope and her brother are trying to convince to behave differently.

This seesaw comes in the form of actions, emotions, and perspective. In Hope’s description of the police, she “sees both sides.” This flexible perspective doesn’t bring peace though. She “finds it all very disturbing.”

Hope’s dream reveals the inner conflict and turmoil that come when you start to adjust your relationships with the important people in your life. It inevitably leads to a back-and-forth dynamic with the other person and within yourself, and there will be moments that feel “very disturbing.”

But Hope can take comfort in the emotional movement through her dream. She started by screaming and feeling very angry but afterward was happy that others were helping. This dream shows how backing away from a negative relationship and establishing boundaries can lead to a better emotional space, a life with less drama, and more happiness.

More from Layne Dalfen
More from Psychology Today