What Does It Mean When You Dream About Heaven?

Maybe you've dreamt of forgetting your lines on stage or arriving without pants to an important meeting — both commonly associated with stress (via The New York Times). However, it can be hard to translate the emotion behind certain dreams or, depending on their absurdity, decide whether to prescribe meaning to them at all. 

As referenced in Scientific American, the science of dreaming, or the practice of interpreting our dreams, was pioneered by Sigmund Freud in the 1800s. After the death of his father, Freud experienced increasingly intense dreams, inspiring him to publish "The Interpretation of Dreams" in 1899 and establish the field of psychoanalysis (via NPR).

It's been well over a century since Freud published his theory on the connection between our dreams and waking lives, and, as evidenced by more modern studies, the scientific community is still grappling with what these nocturnal narratives might mean (via Scientific American). 

Dreams about heaven, specifically, can feature images commonly associated with our personal religious beliefs. For instance, images of angels, God, or even pearly gates may appear if you are a Christian.

According to Time, one possible theory about dreams is that they act as a "data dump," allowing us to process experiences, thoughts, and news that we pick up throughout the day. For instance, a conversation with a friend about the afterlife may lead to a dream about exactly that: death. 

Dream guides like Miller's Guild, for instance, assign mainly positive meaning to dreams about heaven. But are they all good?

Dreams about entering heaven are typically positive

In many religions, as defined by Britannica, "heaven is ... understood as the reward for a life well lived." Canonically, heaven opens its doors to those who are deserving. As such, dreams that feature being welcomed into the afterlife represent a happy anticipation of the future. 

"Dreams are a conversation with the self about the self, but on a much deeper, subconscious level," says professional dream analyst Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, via CNET. So, being allowed into heaven could represent a positive self-image.

It could be that you've made a jump in your professional life or have found happiness in a promising new relationship. Whatever the case, your future is tinged with optimism. Dream Interpretation argues that approaching the afterlife during sleep is "fortunate," signaling peace in your future. 

In a similar vein, dreams featuring an invitation into heaven are generally thought to mean that a major life event is soon to come but is not quite upon you yet (via The Pleasant Dream). If you see those famous pearly gates or an entryway of sorts in your dream, this could mean exactly what you'd think: a doorway is opening in your real life. You're on the verge of something: realization or maybe even redemption.

It's also common to visit heaven in your dreams if you've lost a loved one. "It is a symbolic dream and conveys the message that we are missing the deceased person in our life," said Dr. Nereida Gonzalez, per GreatistDreams let us see that special someone again, which may help us process their death. Plus, dreams like this can also occur if you have unfinished business with this person, meaning you're searching for closure that wasn't possible in life. 

Being turned away from heaven in a dream could mean anxiety

Alternatively, you might be turned away from heaven in some dreams — standing on the verge of entry only to be denied access. This could mean a couple of things. A negative emotion or circumstance is preventing you from fully living your life. 

For instance, a propensity towards jealousy or low self-esteem could mean that you're unable to fully embrace who you are (via My Dream Symbolism). Heaven, the height of tranquility and happiness, can symbolize self-acceptance. Being unable to enter may mean that you're not there yet and that you need to work on yourself to achieve a sense of peace.

Another take on being rejected from heaven in a dream is the threat simulation theory of dreaming. It proposes that dreams work as a way to "simulate threatening events," something that helped us stay alive during the early days of humanity (via National Library of Medicine). 

However, rather than contending with wild animals or natural disasters during sleep nowadays — though a nightmare about a bear attack isn't unheard of — our modern anxiety dreams typically deal with current threats. That includes dreams about work and relationships. Being turned away from heaven in our dreams may mean we have doubts about our merit and maybe we fear an upcoming judgment.

If you struggle with anxiety, it's sure to pop up in your dreams in one form or another (via CNET). Take care to address this when you wake up, perhaps by journaling your dreams. "It's not a huge, dramatic effect but it certainly seems like paying attention to your dreams can have positive effects," Harvard University psychologist Deirdre Barrett told Time.