Dream Interpreter: Life, death, & a pit of lava

The Journal’s dream interpreter analyzes a dream about parents and a difficult decision

Meryl Sleep tackles a dreamer’s tough choice about their family.

I’m Meryl Sleep, Queen’s resident dream interpreter. I analyze dreams in an effort to decode the symbols in each Queen’s student’s subconscious. Today’s dream involves parents and difficult decision-making.


This is a recurring dream: my parents are standing on individual podiums over a pit of lava in a dark cave and some masked, shadowy figure tells me I have to choose one to live. Whoever I don’t choose dies in the lava.

I always wake up before I have to choose, but it causes me immense stress. My parents aren’t divorced and have never talked about splitting up. They’re the happiest married couple I’ve ever met. I haven’t had this dream since I was in high school, but I used to get it all the time.

Dear Dreamer,

Recurring dreams are important because they represent unresolved emotions or issues being faced in real life. The longer these issues remain unaddressed, the more often the dreamer will experience the same dream content.

This type of dream can be frustrating because they’re reminders of the difficult emotional work that needs to be done—the subconscious will always hold you accountable to things you’re avoiding.

A number of symbols are present within this dream: your parents, a shadowy figure, and an important choice.

The dream is centered on the process of making a major decision. Since you’re stressed about the seriousness of the decision in the dream, you’ve probably experienced similar stress about the choices you were making in real life. In the dream, your decision involves the safety of your parents. However, it likely had nothing to do with them in reality.

Parents symbolize comfort and stability because they form the foundations of your home and security. Facing the impending death of a parent in a dream often suggests the dreamer is facing a situation or decision that involves a certain level of risk.

In this case, it seems the decision that needs making would put your home life or your family relationships in jeopardy. Consider the decisions you were in the process of making when this dream occurred. Were they life-altering in nature?

A shadowy figure is often representative of an unknown person—someone who has a negative influence on your waking life. This person seems to be the instigator of your stress because they’re asking you to make a decision between some difficult options. Did you feel forced into making the decision?

The dark environment of the dream also suggests that aspects of the decision were unclear to you. Perhaps you felt like you were in the dark about the possible outcomes of the decision.

Although taking risks is always a scary endeavor, these situations are inevitable. People take risks in nearly every aspect of their lives—in their jobs, relationships, and at school.

When faced with a stressful decision that puts your current, likely comfortable, situation at risk, it’s important to share your concerns with a supportive individual who can help you work through it. Uncertainty is guaranteed, but that doesn’t mean you have to weather it alone.

As this dream hasn’t made an appearance in your subconscious since high school, this is likely an outdated conundrum. However, it’s important to keep track of any dreams that seem significant because they’ll help you understand how your brain processes information and responds to difficult situations.

Sweet dreams!

Meryl Sleep

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