What does a shadow figure mean in a dream?

Shadow Energy
Shadow Energy

The Shadow is a major dream archetype. It is usually a dark figure in profile or can be a criminal or aggressive stalking figure that either tries to break in to your residence or is pursuing you in some way. We all have a shadow. These contain aggressive impulses and parts of ourselves that we have rejected for now.

The shadow also contains our “get up and go.” it is vital to the personality. Other parts of the personality need to be in contact with the shadow to place appropriate limits on it. By working with the shadow, the other parts of the personality benefit by getting the energy that is in the shadow that can be put to good use.

The following is a dream I had at a critical time that assured me that I would make it through a conflict:

Dream 305: The Caped Crusader

I saw a dark caped figure moving energetically down a hall towards me who seemed mysterious but not threatening. It had the aire almost of an evangelical figure arriving to save us all. I looked at him with awe as I was leaning down to tie my shoe.


This was a numinous or luminous image of the shadow. A numinous or luminous image fills the observer with awe because of its power and is almost sacred in nature. The Savior-moving energy of this dark almost evangelical hero image was to reassure me that I had lots of energy which I would have to use in the adversarial conflict I was in the middle of.

Even the detail of tying my shoes was important. Shoes protect the feet and allow us to get somewhere faster in safety. The feet are supportive of our body.

Tying my shoe meant that I was getting myself together to protect and support myself to get to where I needed to be in this conflict. While it was a high level conflict, I believe this detail was emphasizing the importance of details. Not tying your shoe could impede your progress. Not overlooking a detail in the huge administrative conflict I was involved in was extremely important.

Notice the details in your dreams at http://www.drstevenfox.com

Published by Steven G. Fox Ph.D.

Psychologist and author of "Dreams: Guide to the Soul" & "Multiple Sclerosis Mission Remission" http://www.drstevenfox.com This first book of mine shows how I developed an intuitive dream interpretation method through clinical psychologist private practice and Jungian theory. The book is titled "Dreams: Guide to the Soul." It is available at http://www.drstevenfox.com I wrote my second book in 2018. The second book describes my miracle MS remission, and is called "Multiple Sclerosis Mission Remission: Healing MS Against All Odds." It is available at amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Multiple-Sclerosis-Mission-Remission-Healing-ebook/dp/B07D7JBZ5L/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1529367853&sr=8-2&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=multiple+sclerosis+Mission+remission

40 thoughts on “What does a shadow figure mean in a dream?

  1. This happend and I dont know if the shadow was trying to talk to me or reveal itself or become me. I nodded off and slept and in this dream a shadowy figure..i also couldn’t see clearly because it was shaky. It walked/glided towards me and as it got closer i became speechless. I repeated to myself in the dream ” i..I i am – i am dr- i am drea-im dreaming-im dreaming-im dreaming” . And it got closer and the more i said that i became more aware and awake. When I woke up i said the same thing several times before i calmed down. I wasn’t in a sweat and it wasn’t paralysis.

    1. It usually is more beneficial to face the shadow and ask it what it wants as the shadow primary purpose is to protect you. You may want to commit yourself prior to sleeping to ask the dreamworld to send you a dream that clarifies what the shadow wants without fear or trepidation.

  2. I had a dream of running into this house where there was this lady and two other little kids I think, there was a tall black figure of a man that I think was chasing me, but I didn’t feel like I was in my body in that dream, it was like I was in someone else’s body, but I ended up locking this room where I hid myself and those people I saw, as I was siting there I could hear this ‘man’ walking right up to the door and started to bang on the door, I was terrified when there was this high ringing noise as the lights flickered. I kept on yelling out to stop and go away but then I woke up. This figure had white eyes that looked straight through me, what could this mean.?

    1. At the first intrapsychic level, it could be your shadow trying to warn you, but you have locked yourself off from either hearing or seeing what the warning is. You also may be afraid of how your shadow may react if you could see things clearly. At the second or interpersonal level, there may be some threatening action by another person. I suspect that the first level may be more true than the second by the way your shadow is looking through you to your soul.

  3. I was sitting watching tv I dose for a few second but I seen a dark figure and it was suppose to be my older cousin at first and he said my name he never called me by my name then it touch me and I couldn’t move or yell out. This really creep me out

    1. We lose muscle tone during the dream state, to keep us from acting out the dream, which would be dangerous. If we manage to get our eyes open during this period of sleep paralysis, we will see strange things because we are having an awake dream. It often happens between sleep and wakefulness. So do not be creeped out. You probably were having an awake dream in what is called the hypnagogic state.

  4. I was sleeping and dreamt that a masculine shadow figure was hovering above me as I slept and he started pulling something from my chest, like energy or part of my soul. I was terrified, it felt so real and I started screaming. My husband woke me up because I was screaming. That night, before going to sleep I had asked my higher self for help with energy work that I seem to be performing on myself during somatic experiencing sessions. During the sessions my hands move above me in mudras as if moving energy. Specifically I asked what is happening during the sessions. I know the sessions are healing and I leave feeling so peaceful, but this dream was terrifying and I’m having a hard time figuring it out and how it relates, or if it relates to the SE work.

    1. The shadow is vital to healing many times. The shadow frightens us because we reject it, but we need it for self defense and “get up and go.” You asked the question as to what is happening during the somatic experiencing sessions. I believe that your dream answered that the shadow is removing dark energy from your heart. That may be why you feel so good after the sessions.

    2. The shadow helps us to heal. The shadow frightens us and we reject it; However, we need the shadow for self defense and it also is our get-up-and-go. You asked your dream what the effect of the somatic experiencing sessions were. I believe you received the answer that the shadow is removing dark energy from your heart. That is why you feel so good after the sessions probably.

  5. I was sleeping during a thunder storm and I was in and out of consciousness, drifting between the real world and dream world. The thunder sounded like the voice of God and I was terrified. I thought the world was about to end. In the dream state, I saw a shadow figure moving robotically towards me strangely like it was trying to figure out how to use its legs. Then it laid on top of me and I felt protected. It gave me peace. I thought this must be Gods spirit because I can’t handle His voice. But I can’t find anything online about God’s Holy Spirit looking like a solid black figure. The only thing I come up with is shadow people?? Can they be agents for God perhaps, like angels sent to help us receive His messages? I really hope it was God.

    1. We all have a shadow whose primary purpose is to protect us no matter what. I have no trouble with the idea that God may have sent your own shadow to protect and console you.

    2. A major function of the shadow is to protect us no matter what it has to do. I am comfortable with the idea that it may have been God or certainly your own subconscious sending your own shadow to calm you down by protecting you.

  6. I’ve had a few shadow dreams, always in my own bedroom. Last night I “woke up” and heard someone in the living room. It had the voice of my boyfriend and sounded like it was jingling keys, like he was just coming home. My brain knew this was wrong, since my boyfriend is out of town and I had the chain lock on the door there was no way he could have come into the apartment without calling me to unlock it. The bedroom door was open andI couldn’t see anyone but there was a darker shape. I heard it on the right side of the bed talking to me, and then suddenly on my side. I felt a finger touch me, and I had to yell “This is a dream, wake up!” three times before I did. The last time I had a dream with the darker shape it was in the same place and I felt like it was trying to physically pull me out of the bed.

    The fear of these dreams stay with me long after I’ve woken up.

    1. It is important to remember that we reject and fear the shadow, but it is also the part of you that defends you. It sounds like your shadow is being overly defensive. Making sure that your home is burglar safe, like you have done, should reassure your shadow that it can stand down somewhat.

      1. My girlfriend is in the hospital at the moment and I keep dreaming about her; I dreamt about my father being in the hospital and then I suddenly went down to the waiting room. There was a dark figure just staring at everyone in there, at first I felt fear as I got close to it but suddenly I saw starts fighting it..

        1. I think you were fighting the shadow of illness and how you feel about it. Father in your dream usually represents an action part of your mind. I think the shadow is probably the anger you feel about not being able to help her right now. I think that because you deal with this shadow by fighting it.

  7. I keep having this dream where I’m in this dark place and sometimes it has my loved ones sometimes they are just people. Then this dark tall shadow person with a hat and knife like hands kills people and I’m trying to run away but it always catches me and then I die in my dreams and wake up. It never shows a face. And it’s super tall and skinny. It’s the same dream with different people. What does this mean?

    1. The tall dark person is probably your shadow. I suspect that your subconscious is trying to make a deep impression on you. In real life, it may be saying that the part of you that may be cutting some people up (the shadow figure in the dream which is your shadow) needs to stop. I think this because you die in the dream. When you die in a dream, frequently the dream is saying that the behavior that preceded your dying needs to stop. The dream is literally telling you to “cut it out.” The shadow frightens us, but does so for a reason. The dream is maybe saying that cutting behavior or cutting remarks to others needs to stop. I do not know you so take this interpretation with a grain of salt.

  8. I have this one dream were i’m in this unrecognizable place but with friends and I was hanging out and playing my trumpet but then it starts to turn dark and then we have flashlight and we are walking through this place and I keep on seeing these like beings always following me and other shadowy figures around me. And I feel like they could be violent or do something to me that isn’t going to be good so What does that mean? And if you could answer this one, I always feel someone is watching me and or I feel some kind of presence that feels kind of angry and wants to do something to me. So could you tell me what that means too if possible.

    1. Every being in a dream is usually a different part of your mind at the 1st level of dream interpretation. The shadowy figures around you in the dream sound like different parts of your shadow which usually are more aggressive parts that we use to defend ourselves. At the end of the dream, the dream gives the reason why this is happening. You may have fear that you’re going to be negatively treated in some way by others which has aroused your shadow to get ready for confrontation. It sounds very vague and undefined and anxious. Unless you are in an objectively dangerous situation, it is likely that these fears are overblown. If you are in a dangerous situation, it may represent some worry about your reaction to the threats, which usually makes people anxious.

  9. My recurring dream is very simple. I’m simply walking between 2 shadowy beings, I don’t feel scared, threatened, or anything remotely negative. It’s like we’re just going on a walk, like it’s something normal that we do all the time! In this dream I’m comfortable with these beings, like I know them, almost like they’re family members that have passed on previously. In this dream, all we do is walk or actually glide I should say and all the while, they’re talking to me. I don’t exactly know what they’re saying, but it’s almost like they’re telling me things to guide me through this life, like they themselves are the ones helping me. They both have their hands on my shoulders as we walk/glide, the overall feeling is that I look up to these beings, I have a respect, an understanding and a sense of love for these beings, and they have the same feelings toward me, almost a sense of protection over me. These dreams just started happening fairly recently, ever since I got diagnosed with gallstones. I don’t totally understand it, but I welcome it and I feel safe.

    1. At the first level of dream interpretation, each being represents a part of your mind. In this case, these are Shadow figures. The Shadow’s main function is to preserve and protect you no matter what. They are familiar because they are part of your mind. For instance, they could possibly be parts of you that dealt with past physical conditions or illnesses which is why you would feel you knew them in the past. I suspect they are trying to reach you to help you overcome physical difficulties. There are two of them which means your subconscious is devoting considerable energy to this endeavor. This is said without knowing the full situation so take it with a grain of salt.

  10. My gf had a dream that she was sitting in a living room (not recognizable) and a black figure was sitting across from her. No cape or cloak just like a shadow. He then grabbed her hand and as she went to talk, he put his finger in front of his mouth in a “shh” manner. She got quiet then had another dream running through the woods in fear and this black figure led her into a tree that had a door on it. Then this led to the final of the trilogy. She was once again running from something and there was a “safe room” at the end, I was in this one and trying to get her in safely, I kept waving my hand in a “cmon” manner. The black shadow man told me to go in but wouldn’t let her in. This was all in one night. 3 separate dreams, one figure in all of them seemingly trying to help her but holds her back once she gets to the safe room and tries to get me in there. Just curious as to what this could mean. We have a few theories but not sure.

    1. These 3 dreams are 3 stages of a big dream, it sounds like to me. Her shadow is definitely trying to communicate with her to get her to do what she doesn’t want to do and which the shadow believes is necessary for her to grow. They shadow frequently is the therapeutic part of your subconscious that makes you do things you don’t want to do or are denying.

      In the 1st stage, this shadow is indicating that what he wants is to show her what she needs to do and not only talk about it. In other words, the shadow wants more than talk. He wants action.

      In the 2nd stage of dreams, the shadow shows what the problem is. The problem is that she runs from her problems. A tree is a symbol of integration. Being on the inside of a tree is the dreams indication that the person needs to do much inner work to integrate. That is why the shadow leads her to the inside of a tree, because she is too dependent on others and needs to rely more on her own internal integration of thoughts, feelings and actions.

      The 3rd stage to dreams indicates further what the shadow and her dream wants her to do to to function better. She wants to join you as a solution to her problems which could be seen as wanting to be too emotionally dependent upon you. The shadow is holding you back from doing too much emotionally for her that she should be doing for herself. She needs to find safe space within herself instead of running to a loved one’s safe room. This is said without me knowing you or the situation and probably needs considerable modification.

  11. I recently had a dream where I was in my house and only half of my house had its lights on. The other half was dark, so I got up from my couch and walked down the hallway towards the dark end.

    Normally I never ever get scared or anything, but this time I was terrified. I looked through the dark and nothing was wrong, so I started walking back towards the lighted rooms. Then I heard footsteps behind me, so i turned around.

    When I turned around, I could see this black shadowy figure. Then he ran towards me–I could hear him running. He ran straight thru me. It scared me awake. I was freezing and sweating at the same time. I’ve tried to figure out what this dream means, but I have no idea. I’m so afraid to go back to sleep now or even be in the dark. Please can you tell me what this means?

    1. A house can represent the dreamer because it is a structure out of which one’s life is framed. Lights usually indicate consciousness. Darkness is associated with the subconscious.

      You go back to investigate your subconscious and feel frightened. I believe you felt frightened because one risks encountering The Shadow in the subconscious. We usually reject everything about the shadow and want to have nothing to do with it.

      We think of the Shadow as containing negative and aggressive parts, but that is not always the case. The shadow also contains parts of us that we have never used. Sometimes the shadow is trying to point out that there’s a part of it that you may wish to use, that you’ve never used before. This answer is hypothetical, because I do not know you. There is a way of getting an answer from your subconscious described below.

      I believe this dream is probably saying that there is an issue that will eventually catch up to you, if you don’t deal with the issue now. The dream isn’t giving you enough information to determine what that issue is now. Sometimes a series of Dreams will show what the issue is if you follow your dreams and they are correctly interpreted.

      If it were my dream, I would ask my dreams the question of how or what issue to deal with in my subconscious. Dreams often give the best answers to such difficult questions in my experience. I describe how to do this in my book at http://www.drstevenfox.com

      If the feelings of anxiety, feeling frightened, and not being able to sleep do not go away, I would recommend that you seek professional help.

  12. im not sure how to go about this but I would like an opinion… ive seen this black cloaked figure twice. once in a dream he stood in my bedroom hallway and said he could take everything from me . and another a few weeks later he stood closer at the foot of my bed and I cried out for help from my dad who passed away a year and half ago and jerking my whole body as if he wasn’t going to let me wake back up

    1. You cried out for help from your father from this shadow figure who threatened to take everything from you. The classic role of a positive father is encouragement and practical advice about what you need to do to be successful in life, what actions you should take.
      I would relate this shadow to fear that the action part of yourself will have difficulty accomplishing the things that you want to accomplish. The dream points to a close and helpful relationship with your father. It sounds like losing your father may have felt like losing a part of yourself.
      This interpretation represents my best guess without knowing you. To be more specific, I would need more content information.

    1. The shadow is the part of our personality that everyone needs to protect us. It will do anything to protect the dreamer, which is why other parts of the dreamer’s personality need to moderate the Shadow’s response to threats.

      One wants to remember that the shadow contains parts of us that we have not used as well as aggressive parts. If I decided not to become a priest, there is a priest in my shadow that I may want to use at some point later in my life.
      Dreams very much use stereotypes which is why Shadows are black in dreams. Plus the fact, shadows are indeed black. Plus the fact, the darkness indicates the subconscious. But one does not want to confuse the color of the Shadow as having any racial inferences.

      In fact, when you have a black person in a dream, I believe that indicates that it is a very Soulful part of the person. That is because images from the collective subconscious come from any thought any man in history has ever had. The older and deeper the thought, the more likely it is archetypal and ingrained in the collective unconscious. Black people in dreams are very Soulful parts of the subconscious because man began in Africa in tribes where the first archetypal images, where the deepest archetypal images, where the most soulful images, were created because they were the very first archetypal images. For instance, we even call it “soul music.”

      Black people in dreams indicate spirituality in dreams. A higher sense of soul is being summoned usually.

  13. I noticed this is an oldish post but I wanted to share my experience as well. About 5 years ago I had a similar dream and this dream has stuck with me since. I can remember the entire thing like it just happened.

    In this dream I was laying in bed and I felt a presence. I was afraid and eventually got up when a shadowy figure appeared. The shadow figure had no real detail to it, If I had to describe it, it looked like the shadowy figure from the TV show Fringe. Anyways when it appeared in front of me all I could feel was fear but after a couple seconds that fear turned into anger and rage. I then started to attack this shadow with my bare hands relentlessly. It was like attacking the air, i wasnt actually hitting anything solid as you would expect but I kept at it until eventually it just disappeared. I got back into bed and that is when I woke up.

    1. We all deal with the shadow, and we totally reject it because we want nothing to do with it. When I have had dreams like the one you described, it was during a time of maximum stress. It makes sense that the shadow would appear in dreams during times of stress when we are probably grappling with our reactions and actions. Strange as it may sound, the shadow is very necessary and protects us under a survival basis. We struggle with it to make sure it doesn’t get out of control. It usually only goes out of control if the other parts of the personality are not in contact with it.
      In the Bible, it is talked about how different people wrestled with an angel at night. I would suggest that your experience is very similar to what the Bible is describing, people grappling with their shadow in dreams at night.

  14. One night I was asleep I had a dream of a dark shadow entered my house while I was walking through, the figure tried to hide it self from me seeing it, and when I confronted it, and saw that it could have been evil I tried to verbally call on the name of Jesus I couldn’t physically call his name but with in my heart my heart was yet calling Jesus and the figure went away what was that figure?

    1. When you are dreaming you lose muscle tone and are functionally paralyzed. If you somehow get your eyes open during this stage, you will have an awake dream known as a hypnagogic state. What you saw was what we call the shadow figure in dreams. What you experienced was the loss of muscle tone and is called sleep paralysis.

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    1. Thank you. And I have to say I love your beautiful blog here on WordPress at http://cindyknoke.com/ I especially like your motto “I blog therefore I am.” You travel to the most interesting places.

      Dreams are such a gift. When I have made mistakes, it was usually because I did not act on the dream’s advice. The shadow is almost always critical to listen to, but it is the hardest part of dreams to listen to because we generally do not trust the shadow (for good reasons usually).

      1. I just had a dream that I was being grabbed and in my dream I picked my child up and went to the front room and I was grabbed again I yelled out at what was grabbing me and said I was leaving then a I could see a black figure in the door way I looked at it and it ran at me I woke up so scared and couldn’t go back to sleep what could this mean can anyone help

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