Dreaming LifeDreaming Life

In childhood our parents and teachers tell us what we can and can't do. Usually this is to teach us good social behavior or keep us from harm. But much of this adult authority is to do with their interests - protecting their property, their needs, their feelings. As adults we may link punishment with unfairness and imposition, or maybe see it as something we deserve more of. Authority figures in dreams may be seen as unjust and repressive, but may appear in our dreams as symbols of security, or of wisdom and guidance.

A child may be punished to teach right and wrong, but occasionally punishment may be given that has nothing to do with the child doing anything 'bad' - but because an adult is venting his frustration or simply being a bully, this can be frightening and confusing for the child.

Dreaming about authority, discipline and being scolded

Inner Discipline

Our attitudes to authority and punishment are complex, so we may use our dreams to unravel how we feel, particularly if we come up against problematic authority figures, moral dilemmas or confusion in our daily lives.

As adults we lack the immediate authority figures of our childhood. Hopefully we have developed a sense of what is right and wrong; we understand the consequences of our actions and are able to exercise our judgement and discretion. Laws and the fear of punishment keep most of us in check where our self-discipline may slip.


Our unconscious takes note of all the rules and injunctions of our early years laid down by parents and teachers; as we grow older we become aware of other authority figures and bodies of law, and we take note of how others respond to these. We develop subtle ways of avoiding punishment and guilt. If we act in a way our unconscious thinks doesn't suit our interests, it will let us know through the symbolism of our dreams by creating a dream authority figure.


Our experiences of and responses to punishment are personal. Punishment at school may have been shameful and humiliating for one, but merely irritating for another. For some, being punished by the ‘establishment' is a positive status symbol. In some societies beating a child for wrongdoing is considered normal whereas in others it may be taboo. So understanding punishment within a dream means coming to terms with how you view it in waking life. Does it make you feel angry, guilty, submissive or humiliated, or does withstanding it give you strength? Did you feel you deserved it? If you were delivering it, look hard at what you were feeling and who you were punishing. Note what the punishment is, how severe it is, and if you feel it is deserved. Also why is it being meted out, and what does it achieve?


If you don't want to be told what to do, or you believe an authority figure is wrong, if your boss tells you to forge a signature or your partner dominates your relationship, you may well feel resentful but unable to assert yourself or redress the balance. If you can't deal with the matter your unconscious may represent the dominant person in your dreams as a teacher or parent. Your powerlessness may reduce you to a small child or animal, or your resentment may manifest as a symbolic rebellion or mutiny.

Authority Figures

An authority figure in our dreams will be determined by our upbringing, social standing, beliefs and cultural background and of course the area of our lives in which we are having difficulties. It may be a priest if religious or moral principles are at stake or a policeman if we are in danger of breaking the law. Some people may dream of a judge, a lawyer, traffic warden, teacher, monarch, even a god. Each represents something different and the dreamer must consider the personal meaning to find out what the authority figure means within their dreams.