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Understanding Dreams

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Demonology, Fr. Bartunek, Spiritual Warfare

Understanding Dreams


Dear Father John, I have a question and seeking an explanation. If any I'm a recovering addict and have spiritually renewed myself. Gave myself to God and my chains have been broken. Since then I have had two dreams or nightmares (if that's what you call them) but they were both battling and fighting demons. The first dream I awoke feeling scared and a little confused. The second time I awoke feeling I won a battle. I do intense prayers at night and I feel when I do a little extra prayers praying for someone that is battling demons I have these dreams. I am just trying to understand what they mean. If you can help me understand this I would appreciate it. Thank you.

It’s so encouraging to hear about all that God has done and continues to do in your life! I said a prayer of thanksgiving after reading your question.

Understanding dreams is no easy task. Dreams are connected to the subconscious and the unconscious. These are realms of the human psyche that we really do not comprehend completely or accurately. The study of psychology has opened up some levels of understanding of this phenomenon, but it is certainly not exhaustive. If someone is habitually (over an extended period) having disturbing dreams, and repetitive dreams, this could be an indication of psychological factors at play. In this case, it may be useful to consult with a trustworthy, Christian psychologist. I cannot tell from your question if this is your situation.

Demons and Dreams?

aperturbedyoungwomanfastasleepwithdevilonchestsymbolizinghernightmarewellcomev0016638 - for post on understanding dreamsOn the other hand, you seem to be concerned that these two dreams could indicate some kind of demonic activity. Certainly, that is possible as well. And if this kind of thing continues to happen, on a habitual basis over an extended period of time, you may want to meet with a trusted priest or spiritual director to discuss it. If you are interested in understanding this aspect of spiritual warfare, I can recommend the conference portion of my Retreat Guide called Invisible Allies: A Retreat Guide on St. Michael and the Angels. You can find the whole Retreat Guide available for free here:

Keeping First Things First

In general, however, I would recommend not paying too much attention to this kind of thing. What happens when we are sleeping is outside of our control. What happens when we are awake is much more important. To this end, I highly recommend continuing to grow in your knowledge of our rich and beautiful Catholic faith, as well as continuing to develop a profound life of prayer, both personal prayer and sacramental prayer. Adding to that a conscious effort to follow Christ’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) is a sure formula for keeping your own spiritual life focused on what is most important. As you do that, you will continue to grow in communion with God and docility to the Holy Spirit. That will be the key to helping you understand, interpret, and respond properly to any extraordinary spiritual phenomena.

Staying Focused
When it comes to topics that touch on the demonic, it is easy to give too much attention to extraordinary manifestations. Remember, the devil’s number one desire is to get us to sin. And his number one tactic to make that happen isn’t possession, obsession, oppression, or infestation. Rather, it’s simply mundane, everyday temptation. If you continue to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) during your waking hours, then you will be doing your part to stay on track. To help you do so, you may want to take a look at the three books of meditations I have written that form what I call the Complete Christian Collection. You can find them here:

I hope this helps. God bless you! Fr. John Bartunek, LC


Art for this post on “Understanding Dreams”: Modified detail of A perturbed young woman fast asleep with a devil sitting on her chest; symbolizing her nightmare, Jean Pierre Simon, 1810, CCA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at

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  • LT

    I don’t have unsettling dreams like in this example, but have found my own dreams to often be understandable and helpful. Usually they are replays of events or instances of the day (although kind of “scrambled” which gives dreams that weirdness) but the key is that in the dream the instances are accompanied by a particular heightened emotion or dramatic state of mind. What is helpful is that that emotion is reflective of what I had felt during the day but either hadn’t realized, paid attention to, or wanted to face. I wish I could remember my dreams better because they really provide insight into what makes me tick.

  • The Shepherd’s Daughter

    What has worked for me to have a restful sleep is playing a Rosary CD or A Stations of the Cross CD or Gregorian Chants CD, as I turn in for the night. I feel that not only am I filling my mind with positive thoughts, but also to contemplate on what Christ has done because of His love for us. Also, I like to think that the words and music are filling my room and surrounding me like a security blanket. If and when I do have upsetting dreams, I hand it over to the Lord, asking Him to help me sort through it or to give me the strength to just let it go and not allow myself to ponder it too much. He is in control of my life. If He allows something to take place it is for a reason and He will work with me for it to work for the good.

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  • kiannafleur

    I used to have nightmares all the time, and began praying the St. Michael Prayer as I drifted off to sleep. That helped. Then I heard a homily where the priest recommended blessing our homes frequently ourselves, and once a year by a priest. I’ve never had my home blessed by a priest, it’s not part of my family’s tradition, so I don’t really know how to go about having it done. But this priest advised people to go through their homes periodically performing a diy exorcism, namely, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I bind every spirit that is not of the Holy Spirit, and send you to the foot of the Cross.” I had already been periodically saying the St. Michael Prayer in every room wherever I lived — I’ll just add that I began that after living in a place where there was definite, undeniable supernatural activity, which at first I blamed on my then-teen son, but it turned out that one of his classmates had previously lived there, and he and some other friends played with a Ouija board, which invited “something” very unpleasant. Many things, actually. They threw out the Ouija board after it affected the 3 year old sister, but whatever it was was already in. I don’t know if the activity stopped for that family after they moved out, but it remained in the home. I honestly didn’t quite believe until then — at best, I was ambivalent. Years later, I worked with one of the teens, now grown into a mature, dependable young man of sound judgement. I asked about the history, and he verified it, but refused to discuss in detail, saying only, “It’s bad. Really bad. It’s not something to mess with.” He truly looked frightened. By then I’d already been in the practice of calling on St. Michael the Archangel, but my nightmares didn’t cease until I took the priest’s advice to do the exorcism periodically. I also had to clean up my spiritual life. I believe this is why God allowed it, because it’s certainly drawn me closer to Him. Now my dreams are filled with heavenly things, and I awaken in the night communing with the Holy Spirit. I’ve never been so well-rested. But we can’t let down our guard — the devil is wily, so I have to remember that I’m a sinner fighting natural inclinations, which I can do only through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

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  • Christine Dudych

    Father, the link to your “Complete collection” is broken… doesn’t lead to a list of anything. Could you freshen that up? or just tell us what books you’re recommending? Thanks in advance.

    • LizEst

      Thank you for calling this to our attention Sr. Christine! Please try the link again! It was an easy fix. Seems it had picked up the period at the end of the sentence… and that caused the error. God reward you! Oh yes– and Happy (transferred) Solemnity of St. Joseph today!

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