Our dreams often serve as windows into our subconscious minds. But much to the frustration of many of us, dreams are often so shrouded in mystery that it can be hard to figure out exactly what they’re trying to tell us.
If you want to better understand your dreams, one step is to think about the main colors you see. Just as they are in life, colors in your dreams are tied to different emotions. Red is a shade that can be tied to a range of powerful feelings. Let’s take a look at what it might mean in your dreams.
Red: A Color of Many Emotions
When you think about the color red, what emotion comes to mind?
Did you think of anger? Passion? Lust? Courage? Fear? Depending on the context, red can be associated with all of these. If you’re trying to get to the bottom of your red-tinged dream, the number of emotions tied to red can make this easier said than done. Here’s a little about red’s emotional associations and how they came to be.
Anger and Aggression
It’s hard to tell exactly how red became so closely associated with anger and aggression. However, because most cultures across the world have made this association, it may be because of the human tendency to get red in the face while angry.
Whatever the reason, red has been connected to aggression and dominance in sports. Some published studies have indicated that athletes who wear red tend to compete more aggressively and win more competitions.
One memorable case of this was at the 2004 Olympics. Competitors across several combat sports were assigned blue or red jerseys at random. In every sport, the competitors wearing red won more often.
Lust and Sexuality
Red has also long been associated with sexuality — there’s a reason it’s called the red light district and not the green light district! And like the association with anger and aggression, the connection between red and sexuality also holds up to scientific scrutiny.
One 2008 study aimed to investigate the impact of clothing color on sexual attraction. It found that men consistently rated women wearing the color red as more sexually desirable than women wearing blue. This was true even when the men saw pictures of the same woman: one where she wore red and the other where she wore blue.
Excitement and Energy
It’s not quite clear why, but seeing or wearing red has been shown to increase your heart rate, blood pressure, rate of respiration, and even metabolism. When you experience all of these effects at once, your energy is likely to increase, and you might even start to feel excited.
If you’ve ever heard that red increases appetite, that’s because it increases your metabolism, causing you to feel hungrier.
In many cultures, red is closely associated with courage. This is likely because red is the color of blood and the heart. In heraldry (the design of coats of arms and similar symbols), red is also the color of courage and valor.
Sometimes, red is also associated with fear. This is because red is so often used as a color of warning. For instance, if you see a black spider crawling on your arm and then notice a red hourglass on the abdomen, you might get at least a little fearful!
Faith and Devotion
Red can sometimes be associated with strong religious faith. After all, the blood of Christ is an important symbol in Christianity. Cardinals in the Catholic church have worn red since the year 1295, and the color is also closely associated with the Holy Spirit.
In many Eastern cultures, brides wear red on their wedding days. That’s largely because many Eastern cultures view red as a symbol of happiness and good luck.
Power might not be an emotion per se, but it is something that’s closely associated with the color red. This might be because red is an attention-grabbing color that signifies that something is important. Think about the red carpet that gets rolled out at A-list events, or the often-red ties worn by politicians.
What Emotion Does Red Represent in Your Dream?
Figuring out exactly what emotion red stands for in your dream gets a little easier when you consider the context. For example, if you notice your vision turning red, it might be an indicator that anger is beginning to consume your worldview.
On the other hand, if you dream of picking bright red strawberries with your children, the red in your dream can be a sign of familial love.
While red’s emotional associations are powerful, they aren’t the only thing determining what red means in your dreams. Red is also a color rife with symbolic meaning in both the natural world and the human world.
The Symbolic Meaning of Red
For thousands of years, red has served as a danger signal to animals across the world. A great example is the strawberry poison dart frog. It looks like this:
As you can see, the frog’s vivid red body stands out against the green of its habitat, making it impossible for a predator to miss. If a predator makes the mistake of eating one, it will suffer intense convulsions and nervous system dysfunction. It may even die. But if it’s lucky enough to live, it will associate the distinctive red color with danger and avoid eating strawberry poison dart frogs in the future!
Some researchers believe that humans have similarly evolved to associate red with danger. Whether that’s true or not, we do use plenty of red symbols to warn each other of danger (or at least to convey critically important messages). Stop signs and stoplights are both great examples — if you disregard either, you run the risk of driving right into another car.
It’s impossible to completely separate your dreams from your everyday life, so the appearance of red in your dreams may very well have some symbolic meaning. Here’s an example dream to illustrate how red works as a symbol.
You’re walking along a path in the forest. Birds are chirping, the sun is filtering through the trees, and there’s a light breeze. Suddenly, everything goes quiet. You see a large, bright red snake slither onto the path right in front of you. It stops, raises up, and looks at you as if it’s about to strike.
Granted, this example is a little on the nose (and clearer than a lot of dreams). You already know that red is a warning color in nature, so a bright red animal is a sign to be cautious at the very least.
That animal is also a snake — a reptile long associated with danger and even evil. Add that to the snake’s posturing toward you, and you have a clear sign of immediate danger.
Symbolically speaking, this dream may indicate that you are already facing (or are about to face) some type of adversity as you move along your life’s path. It also might be a reminder to pay attention to warning signs: when birds in a forest suddenly go completely quiet, it often means there’s a predator around.
Red blood is also highly symbolic in dreams. Blood has historically been considered a symbol of your life force, so if you have a dream where you’re bleeding, it may be a sign that you feel your life force is being depleted in some way. It also might indicate a more general loss of strength or vitality.
Dreaming about blood can also be a sign of transformation. After all, for thousands of years, doctors used bloodletting as a cure or treatment for a number of ailments. That practice has of course been discredited, but the symbolic meaning of shedding old blood still lingers.
How Do You Interpret Red in Your Dream?
Knowing the many symbolic meanings of red can be helpful when it comes to interpreting your dreams. But the real challenge of interpretation is that every person’s dream is highly individualized. There’s no guide or dream translator that can objectively tell you what your dream means.
If you want to figure out what role the color red is playing in your dreams, here are some tips for dream interpretation.
Write Everything Down
As interesting as dreams can be, most of us forget a large percentage of them. If you’re serious about understanding and interpreting your dreams, make a habit of writing them down as soon as you wake up.
If you want to specifically determine the role red was playing in your dream, make a point to write down every red thing you can remember. Context helps, too: a stop sign along a road will probably mean something much different than a stop sign hanging on the wall of your office!
Think About Your Associations
Red has universal meanings, but in a dream, the personal meanings you’ve attached to a color often mean more. For example, let’s say two people have a dream of walking down a street with 10 brown houses and one red house.
For someone who doesn’t have any strong feelings toward red, it might seem like the red house is a warning or a sign of danger. But for someone whose favorite color is red, the red house might mean the complete opposite — it can be a welcoming, reassuring symbol on an unfamiliar street.
If you see a red object in your dream, it’s also important to think about any associations you have with that particular object. If someone dreams about a red snake, they might think it’s a sign of danger. But if snakes are your favorite animal, the red snake can have an entirely different meaning.
Think About How You Felt During the Dream Itself
Gut feelings tend to be right most of the time, and that seems to be especially true in dreams. Let’s go back to the red house dream for a moment. If you immediately felt a sense of foreboding when you came upon the red house, the color red is probably a symbol of fear or danger. But if you felt a rush of joy and excitement, red was probably working as a symbol of love (or just as a positive association).
Look at the Context
If you want to figure out what red means in your dream, it’s natural to want to focus on the color itself. But examining the context will help you get a better idea of the role red is playing. For example, let’s say you have a dream about holding a bowl of strawberries. If the berries are bright red and ripe, they likely stand for something positive. But if some of the berries are rotten, gray, or moldy, red might have more of a negative meaning.
While you consider context, think about whether red was out of place. If your dream featured red tulips or red cars, the color may or may not be significant. But if you see red things that shouldn’t be red — like red grass or red water — the color is something you should absolutely pay attention to.
Understand Your Dreams to Understand Yourself
At first, trying to interpret your dreams can seem a little frustrating. There are no easy answers! But as you start recording and paying attention to your dreams, you’ll get a better sense of what red might mean when it appears. It’s an interesting adventure into your subconscious mind.
Learn more about dreaming in color and discover what different colors mean in dreams.