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In the waking world, few natural phenomena elicit as much terror as a tornado.
Not only do tornadoes bring chaos and destruction, but these wild cyclones also produce situations that seem to defy physics—like their ability to impale a concrete wall with a board as you can see in the photo below.
But what about tornadoes in dreams? Do dream tornadoes mirror their waking life counterparts?
Unfortunately, tornadoes in dreams tend to be considered negative symbols.
4 Negative Interpretations of Tornado Dreams
- Catastrophic Change
- Disordered Thoughts
- Generalized Anxiety
- Addiction to Chaos and Instability
Sounds pretty grim, right?
Well, if you're plagued by recurrent tornado dreams—and many people are—don't worry; there is a silver lining. Read on, find out what that is, and learn why you don't have fear the twisters swirling in your dream landscape.
If I Dream of a Tornado, Will My Dream Come True?
Dreams are usually symbolic representations of the contents of our psyches. They are rarely prophecies of future events. So the first bit of good news is that dreams about tornadoes is that they likely aren't omens of a literal waking-life disaster. In fact, tornado dreams can actually help us avoid catastrophes.
How? By bringing to light what's going on in the unconscious. In the waking world, when times are ripe for producing tornadoes, we prepare. When the sirens sound, we go indoors or seek shelter. We vigilantly protect ourself and loved ones and move out of harm's way.
Similarly, certain mental states produce conditions conducive to finding one's life spiraling out of control. A tornado dream may be a warning alerting the dreamer to those swirling psychic contents, which if left unchecked, may create waking life chaos.
When we're aware of what's going on in our minds, we're aware of our hidden motives, our destructive patterns of behavior, and our predilections for subtle self-sabotage. Getting a handle on the psyche means getting a handle on our lives. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung put it best when he wrote “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Dreams can alert us to what is going on in our minds. Tornado dreams can help make the unconscious conscious, revealing the storms that are brewing in our psyches. If we pay attention to them, we can eliminate problematic patterns of behavior that can create disasters in our waking lives.
1. Tornadoes as Symbols of Catastrophic Change
Tornado dreams can indicate catastrophic change is heading our way if we don't take action to correct the path we're currently on.
The reason the coming change might be catastrophic is because when we ignore, deny, or repress intuitive information prodding us about the changes we need to make in our waking lives, we create situations where voluntary, natural change is not likely.
Most of the time we know when we need to make life changes, but we put them off. This is especially when we know the changes will be painful, such as ending a relationship or quitting a job. And when we put off making necessary changes too long, it takes something life-altering to pull us out of whatever it is we're stuck in.
When waking life tornadoes form, they uproot lives along with the hundred year old oaks they pull out of the ground. They reach down into the very foundations upon which we've built our lives and level everything we thought was solid.
Dreams about tornadoes can symbol that we are, perhaps unconsciously, creating situations that will ultimately uproot us in the same way a tornado would. However, if we pay attention, are honest with ourselves, and take action, we can avoid catastrophe by getting our houses in order before they're leveled to the ground!
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
— Carl Jung
2. Tornadoes as Symbols of a Chaotic Thought Process
Air is symbolically related to thoughts and thoughts are not static; thoughts are precursors to action as well as to emotion. The head and the heart act on each other. What we feel in our hearts colors our minds. And what we see in our minds fills our hearts with emotion.
In dreams, therefore, tornadoes serve double duty.
They symbolize not only thoughts running amok, but also the potentially dangerous emotions resulting from those thought processes. A tornado in a dream can indicate that one is obsessing over a particular subject, spinning the same idea around and around in the mind.
They may also indicate a similar emotional confusion or an inability to stop metaphorically spinning in circles in the waking life. Tornado dreams can symbolize the fact that we've reached a dangerous point where we no longer have control over our thoughts nor can we keep our emotions in check either.
Tornado dreams can signal us to take serious stock of both our emotions and our thoughts because one, the other, or both are so out of control that we are spinning out, creating havoc that will, if left unchecked, end up creating chaos in our waking worlds.
3. Tornadoes in Dreams as Manifestations of Anxiety
Tornadoes in dreams can sometimes be expressions of anxiety, both anxiety over an upcoming event as well as a condition known as generalized anxiety.
We often have anxiety dreams when a major life event is on the horizon. People getting married often dream of wedding disasters. Expecting parents dream of pregnancy problems. College students dream of testing disasters during finals. These types of anxiety dreams are triggered by external waking life events.
However, another form of anxiety dream is the type that is a manifestation of a deep-seated, generalized anxiety, an anxiety not rooted in waking life, but deep within the psyche.
Generalized anxiety is a fear or chronic worry that something is waiting in the wings, something over which one is completely powerless, something that will either ruin the dreamer or rip away all that he loves no matter how much preparation he makes.
Tornado dreams are perfect symbols for expressing generalized anxiety, especially when they are recurrent dream themes. Many people dream of a tornado they see coming for them, one off in the distance, but heading their way.
This type of dream symbolizes the constant, chronic feeling that we feel something awful is looming, something we can see, feel, but are powerless to stop or control. If this sounds familiar, be sure to check the "Dig Deeper" section at the end of this article for resources to help cope with anxiety disorders.
Ironically, sometimes dreams of tornadoes or other anxiety dreams surface when one is enjoying a time of success. This can be because many people fear losing what they gain almost as much as they fear never getting it in the first place.
4. Tornado Dreams and Addiction to Chaos
In waking life, there are people who literally chase storms. Some storm chasers are meteorologists attempting to research tornado to help save lives. Others are simply thrill seekers hoping to experience an actual twister up close and personal.
Sometimes in our lives we behave as thrill seekers metaphorically chasing tornadoes. We keep ourselves enmeshed in all manner of drama, dysfunctional relationships, make irresponsible decisions and then live out the chaotic consequences of those choices.
Because when we stay focused on the outer world, keeping ourselves embroiled in havoc, we don't have to focus on what's really going on inside ourselves. We don't see our brokenness much less seek help for it. We're so caught up reacting to the daily dramas unfolding before us that we have no time for reflection, rest, or healing.
Tornado dreams can serve a valuable function by calling our attention to any predisposition we may have towards addiction to chaos. Oftentimes we aren't consciously aware that we engage in such behavior until someone—or some dream—calls our attention to it. Instead, we delude ourselves into thinking that we simply have complex lives over which we have no control.
While we may think chasing storms is a great coping mechanism, it is important to remember that as comfortably distracting as that activity may feel, it often leads to destruction. Putting ourselves in harm's way will, sooner or later, allow harm to do exact what it does—injure our lives, perhaps beyond repair.
Waterspouts in Dreams
While tornado dreams typically involve thoughts and thought processes and the emotions linked to thoughts, waterspouts tell a slightly different story.
Water is a symbol of emotion and since tornadoes typically elicit fear, waterspouts in dreams often symbolize a fear of emotion. The fear can be one of showing emotion or of being overtaken by emotions.
Sometimes we feel things so intensely that we fear what might happen if we express ourselves to others. We may fear that we will lose control, become destructive, or even that we may leave ourselves vulnerable if others see what we keep hidden inside.
Anyone can experience a fear of emotions, even those of us who are typically not emotionally reserved. If we experience a loss, such as the death of a loved one, or if we undergo an intense time in our lives, we can feel grief so intense that we try to bury it deep down, fearing that we will be completely overtaken by the pain if we allow it any kind of acknowledgement.
Waterspouts in dreams are perfect metaphors for fear of emotions for both the normally emotionally reserved as well as for those who are generally emotionally expressive.
Fire Tornado in a Bubble
Unlike earthquakes, which arrive in the form of completely unpredictable, devastating jolts, tornadoes rarely sneak into communities with no forewarning. Sirens blare. Residents take cover. Unless we're completely isolated, there is practically no way to miss the cues that a tornado is in our area.
Where dreams are concerned, the tornadoes are not themselves the destructive force but rather that which is behind them—chaotic thoughts, unbridled emotions, lack of self-control, life situations spiraling out of control—these are the forces threatening us.
We do well to think of tornado dreams as the sirens and warnings we get when waking life tornadoes are forming in our area. If we heed their warnings, we have the hope that we can get a handle on the situations forming and possibly pull ourselves off a destructive path.
The 5 Deadliest Tornadoes in US History
5. Gainesville, GA
April 6, 1936
Georgia's deadliest tornado was actually a combination of two tornadoes meeting up during a storm cell that spawned 17 tornadoes throughout the South.
4. Tupelo, MS
April 5, 1936
Baby Elvis Presley was among the survivors of the F5 tornado that leveled the residential section of Tupelo, Mississippi.
3. St. Louis, MO
May 27, 1896
Another tornado that likely left behind a significantly higher death toll than officially recorded due to the number of people who died on the river whose bodies were never recovered.
2. Natchez, MS
May 6, 1840
The Natchez tornado is the only tornado on the list which, according to accounts and the amount of damage done, may have been an F6 tornado--a tornado so strong it exists only in theory.
1. Tri-State (MO/IL/IN)
March 18, 1925
The deadliest tornado in US history traveled 219 miles across 3 states and lasted for three and a half hours.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) | Mental Health America
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. Find resources here that can help you cope.
- Get Help With Anxiety Disorders
Learn about anxiety disorders, including symptoms, risk factors, treatment options and answers to your questions.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Madailein Aisling Ireland
Jennifer from Lost...In Video Games and Stories on December 07, 2012:
Hello, again! I never really thought about tornadoes being a sign of well...something. In the past, I have had numerous dreams of tornadoes plague me but I never really understood their significance. I believe half of those dreams may have had something to do with my stressful childhood and the rest just being anxiety over upcoming tests and change in general. I'm glad that you've written these kinds of hubs. I would definitely read these over and over again as interpretations of dreams are something I am fascinated with. Thumbs up!
Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on December 07, 2012:
Thank you for that wonderful reply. I look forward to being in touch.
Madailein Aisling Ireland (author) from Seattle, WA on December 07, 2012:
Thank you so much! My interest in dreams goes back to childhood as well. My dreams were highly symbolic. But of course, I had no idea what symbolic meant--all I knew was that really wacky things happened that made practically no sense when I was asleep and I thought it was hilarious! I would bore people to tears going on about my dreams, laughing myself silly while they yawned.
Then, when I started working as a inpatient mental health counselor, I became fascinated with Carl Jung's work, especially his work with schizophrenics. I began experience amazing synchronicities and have been a devotee for the past twenty years.
I try to write from a space that demonstrates how his process works with the goal of helping readers understand that there is no single, one size fits all interpretation, to see that symbols have many sides and angles and trapezoids. :-) I see dreams as invaluable tools for personal awareness and for helping overcome personal traumas when they are carefully explored.
What you have written on your profile is absolutely beautiful. I am honored you enjoyed my article and I am so pleased to meet you. It makes my heart happy every time I encounter someone putting their faith into action and working for those many often forget. I will be following your hubs!
Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on December 07, 2012:
Hi EsmeSanBona, this is a very well-done, well-written hub. Your presentation, organization, and images are excellent. It's also very informative. I really enjoyed it. I've been intrigued with dream analysis since I was a child. I occasionally explore dreams with clients in therapy sessions. Voted way up, useful, and interesting, and will share.