Dreaming of crying – meaning and symbolism
Crying is a part of the everyday human experience. Children cry all the time to express their feelings of sadness, anger, disappointment, and frustration.
However, as we become adults, crying gets excluded from our lives. That is, partially, a social phenomenon – we all learn early on that “boys don’t cry” and that it is perceived as a sign of weakness in both sexes. So we buck up, hold our tears back so many times, and pretend we have something in our eyes when we can’t suppress them.
However, as we grow old, we start to cry more often again, possibly due to less need for pretense and coming to terms with specific feelings and events.
Some people are less prone to crying in general. Small studies show that these people are less socially connected and harbor more negative feelings, such as anger and resentment. I’d say that these states can also be temporary – there are phases in life when we can’t shed a tear. Sometimes, being overwhelmed with negative feelings may prevent you from crying.
It is precisely these moments when we could pour our hearts out in our dreams.
What is the exact meaning behind crying in dreams?
The answer is not exactly easy since crying and tears symbolism has had different and often contradictory. However, the interpretations are still fascinating.
Let’s explore crying in dreams in all its duality.
Crying Dream Summary
Crying Dream Symbolism
Crying in your dream can symbolize that you have intense emotions that need to be released. You may not be able to acknowledge or express these emotions in your waking life due to social stigma or a fear of losing control.
If your dream is more about seeing someone else crying than about crying yourself, the symbolism may have more to do with your attitude toward others in your life. Depending on the details of the dream, you might feel powerless to help someone you love who is suffering, or you might feel that someone is manipulating you or overly dependent on you.
Common Crying Dreams
- Dream of yourself crying
- Dreaming of a dead person crying
- Dream of someone crying
- Dream of making someone else cry
- Dream of hearing a baby crying
- Dream of seeing your ex crying
Crying Dream Symbolism
Dreams are well known as a place where emotions or desires that are repressed in waking life can be expressed. Crying in a dream could therefore show that you have repressed the desire to cry in your waking life.
Repression of crying can happen for gender-based reasons, as boys and men are sometimes told that it is not masculine to cry. Alternately, sometimes people are discouraged from crying regardless of their gender simply because their needs are an inconvenience to others around them.
When you repress your own need to cry, though, you might lose your empathy for the tears of others. A dream of crying could therefore symbolize that you need to open up your capacity for feeling, even if it challenges the structure you have set up for your life.
Being out of Control
One reason why someone might repress their need to cry is that they fear they might start crying and never stop. This could be like a famous scene in Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where Alice cries about winding up in an unfamiliar world and nearly drowns in a flood of her own tears, as described in flood dream symbolism.
On the other hand, one reason people sometimes cry is that things in their lives have gotten totally out of control. A dream of crying could therefore symbolize that you have reached your breaking point with some situation in your life. If you aren’t able to talk things out with whoever else is involved, it might end in tears, whether you want it to or not.
Some people may find it humiliating to cry because of social stigma against crying. Compounding that, people sometimes cry because they have been driven to a point of humiliation for other reasons.
A dream of crying could therefore symbolize that you feel humiliated by some situation in your life. Humiliation, however, can call to mind similar words like humility and humanity.
You might be embarrassed for crying, but crying is often a very human response to not being treated with the respect a human deserves. You may need to develop the humility to see that you are holding yourself to an impossible standard.
At its best, crying can serve as a signal that some dynamic in a relationship has gotten way off track, and it can help both parties reconnect as humans.
In waking life, sometimes people cry due to physical pain. Physical pain can also occur during dreams, so crying in a dream could happen in that context.
As described in pain dream symbolism, sometimes physical pain in a dream is caused by physical sensations, like sleeping in an awkward position. A medical condition that causes you pain in your waking life could also potentially interfere in your dreams in this way.
In other cases, your brain could produce sensations of pain just like it produces the imagery of dreams. These situations might be more likely inspired by emotional tension that is difficult for you to acknowledge.
People often cry as a result of genuine pain, whether physical or emotional, and their tears can be a valid and important message to others that something needs to change. If whatever you did made someone else cry, you should probably think twice before doing anything like that again.
However, sometimes even the threat that someone will cry can be used to stop a course of action that really needs to happen. A dream of someone crying could therefore refer to a situation where you feel like someone is emotionally manipulating you.
Crying in dreams as an emotional release
Dreams help us face situations we tend to avoid in real life safely. Also, in our dreams, we tend to run into subjects we avoid during our waking hours.
That is why, if something has been making you sad, and it has been obscured from your view, in reality, it just may happen that you cry over it in your dream. It can be grief over a personal or a material loss or the resurfacing of a past trauma that you haven’t managed to integrate fully.
However, crying in dreams will not make your sadness harder and harsher—quite the opposite.
When interpreting dreams that include crying, I like to emphasize the sense of release – the release from pent-up emotions, which is what crying essentially is. I also believe that these “dream cries” might feel even more releasing than real-world crying with its ups and downs and messiness (no need for tissues in dreams!).
The very act of crying in a dream can bring you a sense of relief in reality. Also, if the dream is abstract, you should notice other symbols appearing in a dream to put the pieces together. That is how a dream that includes crying can help you find out what you are grieving subconsciously and finally bring it to light so it can be integrated, so you could finally let go.
Waking up crying
If you have children or young siblings, you’ve probably sometimes heard them cry out in their sleep and then wake up crying. While his experience is much rarer in adult life, it does occur to some people.
Waking up crying signifies mourning of a particular loss. The suffering is usually hidden during your waking hours – you may not have been even aware of it or simply won’t admit it. This is often true about situations in life when you experience “forbidden” emotions. For example, it can be a loss of a lover you never admitted you cared about. Or, you may have a cousin you haven’t talked about in years and then learned about their passing.
These emotions can erupt in dreams so intensely that it breaks the dream-reality barrier, and you find yourself crying in your bed, for real.
Besides being a possible real release, I’m aware that these types of dreams can be disturbing. You may feel that facing all those emotions suddenly and essentially without your approval is violating, but in the long run – it’s good for you. Accept these dreams and try to bring your feelings into consciousness, accepting them as they are.
Common Crying Dreams
Dreaming of somebody else crying
According to Eve Anderson’s Dream Dictionary, if you dream of someone else crying, that means that that person needs your empathy. It may be someone you’ve had a bad relationship with or somebody you’ve put out of your mind.
Also, if you hear somebody crying from out far in your dream, even without seeing who it is, it may mean someone you know is in distress and needs help.
Dreaming of a dead person crying
An interesting twist in crying dreams is when you dream about somebody else crying when the person is dead in real life.
According to some independent interpreters, dreaming of a deceased person crying means that you miss them and (or) that you have regrets about your relationship – especially their last days.
In my experience, this is correct. A woman I know, who often dreamt of her tragically killed childhood friend crying, knew that this friend of hers needed a lot of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness because of his difficult life. She felt guilty because she wasn’t able to help him and grieved over their innocent days when they were just kids.
While she could not provide him with that during their earthly days, the dreams of him crying and her comforting him at least helped her heal her own wounds regarding their relationship. You could say that his tears were their mutual tears.
If you believe you’ve done that person wrong, asking for forgiveness in your thoughts and saying prayers for the person can really help mend the emotional wound over time.
Dream of someone crying
Dreaming of seeing someone else crying could symbolize that you are aware of the suffering of others around you. How the dream proceeds from there may show whether you feel proud of your ability to help or powerless to make things any better.
Some dreams, however, are just the fulfillment of your wishes, as dream analysis pioneer Sigmund Freud might put it. If you feel good about seeing someone crying in your dream, like if they are crying because they got punished for hurting you, this could certainly reflect a revenge fantasy.
Dream of making someone else cry
The meaning of a dream of making someone else cry can depend on the rest of the story, as would be the case for the meaning of making someone else cry in your waking life.
In a few exceptional cases where someone is objectively harming others, and nothing else is getting through to them, making them cry might be justified. Usually, however, if you make another person cry, you look like a jerk.
Dreaming of intentionally making someone else cry could symbolize that you see yourself as judge, jury, and executioner of all conflicts that cross your path. Even if your moral judgments are not necessarily wrong, the way you go about sharing them might not be likely to get you the results that you want. You may need to become more humble.
Dreaming of accidentally making someone else cry may symbolize that you feel like you struggle to predict how people will react to things. If you have no way to see coming what will happen when you take action, you might be afraid to do anything, especially if you feel really bad about things like making someone cry.
Interpreting this dream further may require looking at where the struggle to predict is coming from. It could come from you not being as attuned to social cues as you should be, but learning to improve your social skills at least might be something you have control over.
A harder scenario might be one where the other person is unpredictable, where something is okay with them one day and not the next, and their grievances seem to come out of nowhere. This situation in your dream could symbolize that you are in a relationship where you just can’t win.
Dream of hearing a baby crying
Dreaming about hearing a baby crying could symbolize that you feel like others are dependent on you. Regardless of their chronological age, you may feel like you have to totally attune yourself to their needs just like you would for a baby.
Especially if the needy person in your life is too old for this, you might feel resentful. Your resentment, however, may come at least in part from your own unmet emotional needs. A dream of hearing a baby crying could also symbolize that you feel the need for the sort of unfiltered emotional release that babies somehow get away with.
If you are considering becoming a parent, however, a dream of hearing a baby crying could reflect that you are preparing yourself for this challenge. See also baby boy dream symbolism and baby girl dream symbolism.
Dream of seeing your ex crying
Seeing your ex crying in a dream could symbolize that you are still processing the upheaval of your breakup. Whether you want your ex to be crying because you think they should feel guilty for having hurt you, or you feel guilty that your ex might be crying because you know you hurt them, the emotional dust has probably not yet settled. See also ex dream symbolism.
Other interpretations – positive and negative crying dreams
As you probably know, dream interpretations, especially old and ancient ones, can be contradictory. Dreams of crying are a perfect example of that.
As you see, modern psychology doesn’t interpret crying dreams as bad, but not extremely positive either.
However, in the more traditional dream interpretation realm, dreams of crying were perceived as either foreboding or very favorable.
First, let’s explore the idea that tears in dreams are a good sign. This stance can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt, where tears were related to fertility – and fertility was historically the most coveted thing. Flooding of the river Nile was a key event that made the Egyptian fields fertile. According to the Egyptian legend, the Nile flooded thanks to the tears of the goddess Isis, who cried while searching for her murdered husband.
Much later, tears were associated with fecundity in psychoanalytic theory – because of the association with water fertility and (believe it or not) sperm.
Those are all the reasons why many classic and modern oracles believe that dreaming of crying is a positive sign – of economic prosperity and social success. You’ll be able to resume your projects and create something valuable out of them. Also, your desires could be satisfied, naturally resulting in happiness and joy.
However, since the focus of these interpretations is on the tears rather than on the crying itself, note that tears have to be visible in a dream for these positive aspects to be fulfilled.
In the book Dictionary of Dreams – Every Meaning Interpreted, based on older, classic dream interpretations and writings of Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson, and Gustavus Hindman Miller, crying dreams essentially appear as a bad omen.
The Dictionary of Dreams puts forward that crying is a “forerunner of illusory pleasures” that will inevitably turn dark and gloomy. Also, the negative effect on business engagements and domestic affairs is possible. To dream of crying in hell “denotes the powerlessness of friends to extricate you from the snares of enemies.”
Personally, nobody ever came to me with a dream of crying in hell, but back in the day, when that doomed place was more dominant in the collective unconscious, it is possible that it was more present in the dream realm as well.
However, when considering these negative interpretations, note that in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, there was much less focus on the importance of an emotional release – emotions were considered in a rather utilitarian way. Hence, the significance of crying dreams I’ve mentioned previously was a bit neglected, along with the importance of emotional venting.
On the other hand, the significance of releasing and expressing oneself through tears was probably recognized in ancient wisdom. The knowledge of the cleansing power of tears was expressed through myths, legends, and stories and found its way into dream interpretation as well.
Dreams that include crying can be valuable tools in getting to know yourself. They may reveal hidden grievances, regrets, and forgotten essential figures in your life. Crying is a form of emotional release – even in dreams. It can help you pinpoint, heal and move on from your real-life trauma.
Interestingly, a dream display of tears has been known as a sign of fertility and prosperity since ancient times.
The most important thing about the recurring crying dreams is to focus on the deeper content – who are the people involved, objects, and other significant symbols. They can tell you more about where the grief you feel in your dream is coming from, or who of all the people in your life, living or deceased, needs your empathy and understanding.
Do you have dreams that include crying? How often? Do you cry in real life and in your dreams, or is one of these realms excluded? If you have anything interesting to share or add, please do so in the comments.