Does serious guilt
influence dreams? Whether the guilt is warranted by one’s past grave sinfulness, or due
to scrupulosity, or both? How does one know if a dream is a strictly physical (this may
not be the right word), or whether it is from God, or whether it is some type of demonic
Since I returned to the Church several years ago, I have confessed
many times. The pain of thinking about my past life is overwhelming, even though I know
in my intellect that I have been forgiven. I feel awful inside, as if I don’t really believe
I’ve been forgiven.
My dream last night: I was in a place that to me seemed like hell. Dark
with a reddish tint, loud, and petrifying. I was seeing a family member being tormented,
though I don’t know who it was. I was told by someone with a chilling and stern voice to go
back to bed and just watch and listen to the torment. I woke up feeling afraid and awful,
my heart was beating extremely fast.
Because my dream was related to my family, I will say that my family
members for the most part left the Church and are either unchurched or have gone to a
Protestant megachurch. My father, at 92 still alive and remarried after my mother passed,
is still Catholic but has adopted much of the modernist theology, especially since remarrying.
I often wonder why I seem to be the only one in the family who clung to the faith and continues
to cling, yet I am by far the worst eligible candidate, the biggest sinner.
FYI, the pastor at my parish helped me much back when everything changed
in my life. I stayed close to him with weekly confession for the 6 months after my conversion,
receiving encouragement and advice along with the great benefit of his prayers. He has been
transferred since. While he was here, he offered me an opportunity for continued spiritual
direction. But I never took him up on it. had been through seemingly so much, I was exhausted.
I guess I was afraid of what he might ask me to do. I regret that I ignored such an
reams can have many underlying
causes, and we often cannot discern what any particular cause
of a dream may be. A dream could be a product of diabolical influence,
it could be a product of divine inspiration, or it could be a product of your own personal
psychological experience—or it could result from a combination of any of these possibilities.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to be stymied by this sort of uncertainty because a good
interpretation of a dream does not rely so much on an intellectual explanation as on an
In your dream, the core emotional element is
signified by the command to “just watch and listen to the torment.” In that command, the real
fear that you experienced was in your helplessness
to do anything to stop the torment you were witnessing. It doesn’t matter whether you actually had
a vision of demons tormenting other persons, or whether you had a vison of God showing you this
torment as a spiritual warning, or whether the dream was a graphic image from your
unconscious lamenting the
sad state of your family; all that really matters is that the message of the dream is the truth
of your helplessness.
Thus the dream seems to be telling you that although
you have repented your past sinful
behavior, you have no power to make anyone else of your acquaintance repent his or her sins. This
can be especially painful for you because you hurt many persons in the past because of your own
sins, and, now that you have seen the light about your behavior, you would like to save others from
Sadly, we cannot “save” other persons from doom.
Our first spiritual task is to save ourselves through
contrition and repentance and to
resolve to love only God and to avoid sin. Then, through the example of our living a
holy lifestyle, we can hope to be an example to others. But whether
others heed our example and change their lives is entirely up to their
free will. Sadly again, many persons make the mistake of
believing that their salvation depends on “fixing” or saving others;
consequently, their focus is on the behavior of others
and, in so focusing on others they neglect to look inside themselves to achieve true inner
transformation of their own lives.
Moreover, it seems likely that your
fear of looking inside yourself may have been
the motive for not accepting the offer of continued spiritual direction.
All in all, it seems that your dream is telling you
that it’s necessary to not focus on saving others and instead to bear the pain of looking inside
yourself to face your deepest helplessness.