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In the waking world, we will all sooner or later find ourselves in a hospital. Whether we're there as patients or just visiting those who are, there is practically no way to avoid a trip to the hospital in our waking lives.
Places that are a common part of the human experience also end up as common dream locales, and hospitals are no exception. But what do hospitals mean in dreams? Are they negative symbols or positive ones?
The answer is both!
As positive symbols, hospitals can indicate:
- Rest and recovery
- Openness to receiving help
But of course, all dream symbols have their shadow side and hospitals are no exception. On the negative side, hospitals in a dream can stand in for:
- Feelings of fear and powerlessness
In addition to looking at the ideas above, we'll also consider the differences between types of hospitals that appear in dreams such as modern, old, or dilapidated. We'll also have a look at other considerations and associations key to interpreting your hospital dream.
Rest and Recovery
One thing that certainly happens in hospitals is we get rest! All of our needs are seen to by others. Our meals are prepared for us, our physical needs are taken care of for us—in all ways, someone else is in charge of taking care of all our needs.
Dreams of hospitals might indicate that you are feeling completely overwhelmed and wish that you were in a setting where all of your needs were taken care of.
Alternatively, if you are up and about in your hospital dream it may indicate that you are in the process of and nearing the completion of a long road toward recovery. You may have taken all the rest you need and are now ready to get back to life after a hiatus.
Healing: It's a Process, Not an Event
Healing is a process; it is not an event.
Healing is not a thing that happens once and for all. Broken bones take time to knit back together, tendons take time to regrow their fibers, wounded spirits take time to regain their wind.
An exceptional example of how healing is an event is giving in a Gospel account of Jesus healing a blind man.
In many healings, the sick are healing instantaneously, but in one account, Jesus first applies spit and mud to a blind man's eyes, then asks the man what he can see. The man says that he sees images, but they aren't clear. Jesus touches the man again and this time the man states that he sees everything clearly.
What this have to do with hospital dreams?
Hospitals in dreams remind us that each of us heal in different ways. They also remind us that our healing may take more than one stay to complete. It is important to remember that healing happens in different ways for each and every one of us.
Never be afraid of healing that takes time. Healing cannot be rushed. Healing happens when it happens. And being healed sometimes doesn't look like what we expect healing to look like.
Hospital Dreams and Receiving Help
Hospital dreams can be beautiful symbols of the power of receiving help when we're ill. They can show the wisdom that of understanding that we recognize that some things are beyond our ability to take care of ourselves, that we are out of our depth with our problems, and we need to seek out a professional if we're going to get well.
Hospital dreams can be telling us that we are at a place now where the best route to healing is surrendering ourselves to the care of others.
Fear and Powerlessness
We all know that person who refuses to go to a doctor, or a hospital. We may even be that person!
Sometimes the reason we dread going to the hospital is not because we're simply stubborn, but because of the dreadful feeling of helplessness that comes when we're they.
Helplessness is part of the hospital experience whether we're patients or visiting loved ones who are. Once we cross the threshold of the hospital, we know we are giving ourselves over completely to another person, a stranger. We're admitting that we are out of our depths and lack the ability to heal ourselves or a person we love.
The act of handing ourselves over completely to another person requires humility and trust and having the tiniest bit of either, ironically puts us in a place of power. Dreams of hospitals can indicate that we are setting aside our fear of the unknown and are choosing to surrender ourselves to it, trusting that doing so is the wisest, best course of action.
However, not all types of powerlessness are bold. Sometimes powerlessness, that is, the voluntary surrendering of ourselves is simply a type of bondage. Dreams of hospitals might be asking us if we're in the hospital to get better or if we're there to stay in bed, helpless and in control of no part of our lives.
If we feel we are not in control of our lives, it is important to consider if we have voluntarily, albeit unconsciously, handed over our power or if we are truly in a place wherein we temporarily have no control.
We'll cover the idea of handing over control of our lives in the section "The Benefits of Staying Sick."
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Hospital Dreams as Symbols of Sickness
One of the most obvious interpretations of a dream about a hospital is that we are suffering from an illness that needs attention.
The illness a hospital dream is calling our attention to need not be physical. The part of ourselves that needs help could be something emotional, mental, or spiritual.
When we dream of a hospital and see ourselves as sick, it's important not to despair. Hospitals are not simply places of illness, they are the places where healing happens. We go to a hospital because we expect help; we expect to find professionals to treat us and make us whole.
A hospital dream can encourage us to take the same step in our waking lives, to seek out the proper professionals to help us get well. That professional might be a medical doctor, a therapist, a counselor, or a spiritual director.
Hospital Dreams and the Curious Addiction to Sickness
Sometimes a hospital in a dream might mean that we have an addiction to sickness. Please note that in this capacity, sickness is used as a metaphor and in no way refers to those of us suffering from chronic illnesses of any sort.
In the Gospels, Jesus would asked those who are ill if they want to be healed. At first glance, this may seem an odd question, but the question is more astute than we imagine. The question reflects knowledge of the odd human habit of unconsciously preferring unhealthiness to healthiness, especially once we have become accustomed to surviving life by getting by on unhealthy habits or behaviors.
Caseworkers in transitional housing programs for the homeless who report an odd phenomenon among some of their clients. When transitioning from the street to permanent housing so people will initially sleep on the floor despite having a bed provided for them to sleep in.
Because the floor was the place where they were comfortable. They knew how to sleep on the floor. They knew how to survive in a hard place. What they did not know, or what they had forgotten, was how to sleep in a safe space.
We all do the same thing in our own lives from time to time, exchanging health for sickness simply because living in sickness is the place where we've learned to survive. We know we can survive sickness, because we're alive. What we don't know is if we can live healthy because we've never had the opportunity to do so. Safety, for some of us, does not feel safe.
Hospital dreams might be asking us to examine our lives and ask, with unflinching honestly, if we are unconsciously staying sick because sickness feels safer than health. We must ask ourselves if we are staying in unhealthy patterns simply because they feel like the only ones that you know we can live in and if we're staying where we are simply because we are afraid of the unknown.
An emergency, by definition, is a situation that requires urgent attention because there is an immediate danger of loss of life or property.
In dreams, an emergency room can symbolize a situation in life that has reached the point where action must be taken before things complete spiral out of control.
An interesting thing to note is that within the confines of language, an emergency is something for which we can prepare, whereas a disaster is something we're not able to foresee nor something for which we can prepare.
What does this bit of word trivia have to do with dreams?
Dreams involving emergency rooms indicate that although some situation is occurring in our lives that demands our immediate attention, the situation is something we could have foreseen. The situation is completely within our power to oversee to fix, repair, and resolve. The only way the situation can move outside our realm of control is if we fail to act or ignore that things are at a critical point.
Sometimes dreams are the only heads-up we get about what's going on in our psyches. If dreams about the emergency room have suddenly become part of your nightly lineup, don't ignore them! Take action and get things under control before disaster strikes.
Modern Hospital, Old Hospital, Dilapidated Hospital
Have a look at the hospital in your dream and take in the specifics of it. One great place to start is by looking at the age and condition of the hospital because each type of hospital can give more information as to what your dream is trying to convey.
A modern, state-of-the-art hospital, likely indicates current issues and events. It is also inclined to be a positive symbol because it indicates that any issues, worries, or concerns we have are being actively worked on. It also indicates that we are taking care of—psychic or otherwise—while they are fresh instead of allowing them to fester.
An old hospital can have dual meanings. It can indicate that whatever we are dealing with is something in our past, something that is still in need of healing, something that was, perhaps, too painful to deal with when we were first wounded, but which now that we are stronger we are more able to take on.
Dreams about dilapidated or abandoned hospitals are indications that our old ways of treating illness, whether the illness is physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional, are outdated or are no longer effective. Dreams of broken-down hospitals mean it's time to look for a new place and a new way to deal with our injuries.
Did You Know?
The English word "hospital" comes from the Latin "hospitālis" which is itself derived from the word "hospes" meaning "host, guest." From their inception, hospitals have been associated with the caring of people as one would care for a guest in one's own home.
Hospital Dreams and "Getting Over" Things
When we have hospital dreams, we may make the mistake of believing the dream is an indication of failure. We may believe the dream is telling us that we are not "over" some past injury or trauma.
In life, it is not our job to reach a place where we become automatons who feel nothing about things that have injured us. Not only is this idea unrealistic, but it is also literally impossible.
We are the sum total of all of our experiences. And our experiences are wired into our bodies. Our minds and bodies record thousands of sensations that we are not consciously aware of and those sensations get linked, on a physical level, with our psychic experiences. Anything at any time can, without our awareness, trigger something hidden away that causes us to remember something unpleasant.
We do ourselves a terrible disservice when we equate healing with the lack of emotional response to traumatic events. Worse, we re-injure ourselves by beating ourselves up for not "being better" or for not "being over it."
Our job is not to "get over" traumas. Our job is to find a way to live alongside our hurts. Never mistake dreams of hospitals as indications of failure; always look at them as ways to find out how to further healing.
One of the very best ways to interpret our dreams is by considering our own associations with the symbols in them. Dream dictionaries can help us with the broad strokes, but considering our own associations with symbols is the very best way to find out what our dreams are telling us. After all, dreams are letters from ourselves to ourselves!
Along those lines, here are some things to consider when interpreting dreams about hospitals.
Are you a hospital employee?
If you work at a hospital, your dreams might just be your mind's way of discharging the previous day's activities David Lynch style.
Do you associate hospitals with things negative or positive?
While by and large, hospitals are associated with sickness, they are also associated with some of the happiest of all life events such as the birth of children. They are also places where our own lives might have been saved or saw the restoration of someone beloved to us.
Consider your own associations with hospitals when attempting to sort out your dream's meaning, especially when attempting to determine whether your dream is positive or negative.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Making a Hospital Bed
- Unravelling the Mysteries of Sleep: How the Brain 'Sees' Dreams
Brain activity during the dreaming phase of sleep is remarkably similar to brain activity when we're awake and processing new visual images, new research shows.
- Are You Addicted to Unhappiness? | Psychology Today
Help for overcoming the curious addiction to unhappiness.
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.
© 2019 Aisling Ireland
Emily on February 10, 2020:
Hi! I was wondering if you could answer something for me? I recently had a dream of being in a mental hospital, but it was complicated. At the beginning, I was the doctor helping the other patients. But then a few moments later I was one of the patients! What could it mean?? Because it was an incredibly vivid dream that is still sticking in my mind. I'm a bit psychic (mainly just an empath), but not enough to fully lucid dream, so I'm trying to learn as best I can! Thanks for the help!!
Patricia on January 20, 2020:
Dealing with a minor but very annoying health problem right now (Labyrinthitis.) Had a dream last night that I was living in a modern hospital. The rooms were not traditional hospital rooms they were rooms used for other purposes of living.
It seemed that I had just moved there and was unfamiliar with the huge, convoluted place. At one point a little girl asked me to help her find a certain room. No matter how hard we looked, we couldn't find it.
I finally asked an authoritative looking doctor for directions. He pointed to a hallway that joined the hospital to a whole other hospital building that ran parallel to the one I was in.
Right before I woke up, I asked him "Opposite world?"
Thulile on January 20, 2020:
I deam about hospital in that hospital i was with an old lady but she was caming to take her madication but around us the were parient who were laying on the dlow sick lot of old ladyies when we try to get out of the hospital we couldnt beacouse we didnt find the door
Aliyah on October 27, 2019:
I had a dream I was stuck In an abandoned hospital. I never learned what they wanted, just that I wasn’t there for the same reasons as everyone else. We were all assigned in rooms, pairing in groups of fours. I was a guy in my dream (even though I’m a girl) so I met a girl I really liked. We were having troubles surviving, if people we didn’t know weren’t trying to kill us, people who were like us (trying to survive) were trying to kill us.
We learned the people trying to control us leave during the night, no one was there. We found this out when a firefighter came. We heard him on the phone outside, he was there to kill anyone who was inside. We all had a group chats on our phones, I was the leader evidently. I texted “Once he comes inside, escape through the windows.” But he continued to walk around the building so I texted, “Wait till he’s inside.” But someone didn’t get it in time, they jumped through the window and the guy alerted whoever he was talking to. All of us began jumping out in panic. I grabbed a bag the firefighter put down once I got to the bottom and fled with some of the friends I had made. We all ran till we were blocks away from the hospital, we were too tired to continue. There had to be 15 of us, all in the same area. I told everyone to shut off their data, a weak attempt to make it so no one could locate us. But pretty soon that girl I fell in love with came running towards us. She starting talking about how we left her behind and how she was being hunted and almost didn’t make it out. We tried to apologize but she didn’t seem convinced, like other people when I told them to shut off their data.
Pretty soon this aircraft came above us. It was pulling us up into it. Once inside we were trapped in a glass box with water, the girl was standing with the other strangers of the aircraft. That’s where my memory of the dream ends. During my dream I could feel my body tense each time the suspense raised, I could feel the dread. It was odd, there had to be something behind the dream.