Why Visitation Dreams Occur (and What They Mean)

Updated June 3, 2022
sleeping woman having visitation dream

Have you ever had a hyper-real dream in which someone, living or dead, comes to see you? If so, it may be a sign that you have experienced a visitation dream, in which the soul of another human or a beloved pet comes to see you in your sleep. In addition to seeing family members and past loved ones, you may also receive visitations in dreams from a spirit guide or guardian angel.

Visitation dreams may occur when you're missing a loved one, particularly in the weeks or months after their death. But, is a loved one really visiting in your dreams, or is it wishful thinking?

What Are Visitation Dreams?

Visitation dreams and their deeper meanings were first studied by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. Jung's unique way of studying people and their dreams is now known as Jungian analytical psychology. It is an approach that takes a person's body, mind, and soul into consideration when trying to uncover the meaning behind their dreams.

Jung's approach was meant to help people make their unconscious thoughts and experiences into conscious ones by helping them analyze their lives, including their dreams and fantasies. As a part of this approach, he defined concepts including little dreams and big dreams.

Unconscious Self and Little Dreams

Carl Jung believed that people were made of both conscious and unconscious selves. Conscious self refers to the elements of a person's life that they are aware of, such as the thoughts and feelings they express and the experiences they have gone through and are actively aware of.

On the other hand, one's unconscious self refers to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that a person remains unaware of. Jung believed that these unconscious elements often manifested themselves in dreams. When a person is experiencing a dream involving just their own unconscious, Jung referred to these as 'little dreams' since they center around just one individual and their unconscious.

Collective Unconscious and Big Dreams

Not only did Jung believe that every person has a unique individual unconscious self, but he also believed that everyone has a collective unconscious self. This self includes thoughts, memories, feelings, and histories of ancestors, a person's religious background, cultural mythology, and other elements that come together to form a person's unique lineage.

This collective unconscious self is one way that Jung explained the existence of visitations in dreams. It is also how he helped others understand their meanings. When a person is experiencing a dream as a collective unconscious, Jung referred to these as 'big dreams' since people are dreaming with more than just their own unconscious.

Characteristics of Visitation Dreams

senior man waking up from visitation dream

While there's no proof that another person's soul is visiting you in your dream, there are some signs that may indicate you are experiencing what Jung would classify as a 'big dream' if you experience visitations in sleep:

  • The dream is incredibly vivid and may feel more real than waking reality.
  • Conversations and circumstances in the dream don't necessarily seem as unusual or symbolic as other dreams; however, the being visiting you will communicate a message of significance.
  • If you wake during the dream, you may experience momentary sleep paralysis in which it seems as if you are unable to move or speak.
  • The dream sticks with you after you awake; you may even recall the details of the dream years or decades later.
  • The being visiting you in the dream will be able to communicate clearly, even if they don't appear to be speaking through their mouth. Communication may be telepathic, verbal, visual, or you may emerge from the dream with a "knowing" about what was being communicated.
  • Encounters in the dreams tend to be fairly brief.
  • The dream may be lucid, and you may be able to control your thoughts, words, and actions in a way you can't during a normal dream.
  • When you wake from the dream, you may notice sensory input that seems out of place, such as aromas, sounds, a chill, other physical sensations, or the sense that there is a presence in the room with you.

What Do Visitation Dreams Mean?

Visitation dreams tend to be more literal than symbolic dreams in which your subconscious communicates with you. Therefore, you usually don't always need to try to interpret the dream symbols in a visitation. Rather, you emerge from the dream with an understanding of its purpose and meaning, which is sometimes clear because of conversations and events in the dream.

There are psychotherapy practices designed around dreams and visitations meant to help individuals gain a better understanding of what their visitation dreams mean and why they are having them.

You're Experiencing Grief

Research has discovered that there are changes to the content of a person's dreams when they are experiencing grief. Studies have found that when a person is grieving the loss of a loved one, or experiencing any other kind of complex grief, they report more dreams involving deceased loved ones, family members, and friends.

Although there is no clear evidence explaining exactly why visitation dreams occur, a large number of people experiencing grief or the loss of a loved one do experience them. So what does it mean when a deceased loved one visits you in a dream? Some possible explanations include:

  • Deceased loved ones or spirit guides/angels may have an important message to impart.
  • A deceased loved one or pet may simply wish to spend a few moments in your presence.
  • Your loneliness or grief may draw a deceased loved one to you.
  • You are constantly thinking about the person, and they show up in your unconscious mind.
  • It may be wishful thinking or a memory.
  • You may be in need of comfort.
  • The soul of a dying person may come to tell you goodbye, or help you through the grieving process.
  • You may meet with an astrally traveling soul.

They Provide a Means to Cope

Visitation dreams may improve your ability to cope. Studies suggest visitation dreams have an impact on the way people cope with the loss of a loved one. One study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) discovered that people experiencing visitation dreams from deceased loved ones experienced increased acceptance of the loved one's death, a greater sense of comfort, increased rates of spirituality, and higher rates of quality of life. This supports the idea that visitation dreams are common among people that are grieving the loss of a loved one, as well as that they are impactful.

They Help You Communicate with the Living

It is also possible to have a visitation dream in which someone who is still alive appears. The dreams will still be identifiable with the characteristics noted above, except the person visiting is still alive. These types of dreams may be soul communication between you and that individual, or you and/or the person in your dream may actually be astrally projecting during dreams, and you're meeting on the astral plane. You can learn to have astral projection dreams, and you can even try arranging a dream meeting someone you know on the astral plane.

The primary purpose of visitation dreams is to offer comfort or share important information. And regardless of whether they are a form of spirit communication, wishful thinking, or simply your subconscious in action, the result is that you get to spend time with someone you love.

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Why Visitation Dreams Occur (and What They Mean)