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Why Do I Dream in Black and White?

Why Do I Dream in Black and White?

Very many people believe that they dream in black and white. In fact, people dream both in color and in black and white. In this article, we are going to examine in detail what it means when we dream in black and white. 

Do you remember your dreams regularly? If you do, you might remember them as being in black and white. Then when you think back to the detail of your dream, you remember that someone was wearing a blue shirt, or that the grass was green. 

There is significance in how you dream and whether you dream in color or not. Our brains can trick us into believing the dream was in black and white when it was not. We are not really sure why this happens, but it does help us to analyze our dreams.

What does it mean to dream in black and white?

Most of us do dream in color normally. This gives added significance to a dream that we experience in black and white. There must be a reason for the sudden switch to black and white. What is our brain trying to tell us?

Black and white are seen by most people as opposites. There is a clear contrast between these colors, and this can hint at the significance of a black and white dream.

Additionally, both black and white can be seen as clean slates. Maybe they are presented to us so that we can fill them. Perhaps they are indicating that it is time for a new beginning.

Black and white are opposites, and sometimes represent conflict. Maybe our brain is trying to make us aware of a problem. It could be that our unconscious mind is attempting to draw the conscious mind’s attention to this problem. 

If you normally dream in color, then by switching to black and white, your brain is trying to alert you to a crisis ahead. Your life may be about to change just as suddenly, and your brain wants you to be ready. Alternatively, it may just be trying to shock you into taking notice.

Dreaming in black and white may just be a confirmation of your outlook on the world when you are awake. This might be confirmed if your dream involves you living in a totally black and white world. This suggests that you have a very rigid outlook with strong views as to what is right and what is wrong.

Your views might be seen as old-fashioned and uncompromising. There is a warning in the black and white dream that you need to relax those views. Sticking to these out-dated attitudes might bring problems to your relationships.

Maybe your dream looks like an old-style black and white film. The scenes in your dream will have characters from your own past. Now the suggestion is that you need to face up to something from earlier in your life and relate it to the present.

Occasionally, you will have a black and white dream where you are the only character in color. This indicates that it is time for you to move on to pastures new. You are being confined by your surroundings and need to grow elsewhere.

When you look at your life after a dream of this sort, consider whether you are outgrowing your friendship group and the acquaintances that form your social circle. Look also at your job. Are you being stifled there? Is there no chance of promotion or advancement to a more senior level? Is this making you depressed? These are all personal circumstances that are highlighted by a dream where you are in color against a black and white backdrop.

You may have experienced other feelings during a dream of this kind. Perhaps you felt emotionally empty, sad, bored, nostalgic and wistful. These feelings might in turn have caused you to undergo periods of stubbornness, indifference or endure a yearning sensation. While you are dreaming, things might feel monotonous and you could easily feel repressed. This is a heady mix of emotions, and you may only feel some of them or all of them. The message seems to be that you are ready for a new start.

Is dreaming in black and white normal?

Some research, reported on the Dreaming and Sleeping website, indicates that very few young people dream in black and white. It is much more common for older people to report having some dreams in just black and white. Dreaming in color is more usual whichever age group is being asked.

One problem is that most people do not remember their dreams, let alone the color of those dreams. When we do remember a dream, often it is just snatches we recall. There is no hard-and-fast rule about how each of us dreams, or the colors we see in those dreams.

Consequently, it is difficult to make general statements about dreaming in color that will fit every situation. Researchers must examine each case separately. Any conclusions can only be generalizations.

It is known to sleep-researchers that there are some people for whom black and white dreams are the norm. It is how they dream every night. The significance of the black and white nature of their dreams is therefore muted. It is the incidence of black and white dreams among those who normally dream in color that is of much greater interest. For a color dreamer, the significance of a black and white dream is much more noteworthy. We will consider this later in the article.

There is nothing abnormal about dreaming in black and white. Plenty of people have dreams in black and white, although it would seem older people are more prone to doing so. We will also examine the reasons why some people’s dreams are in black and white later. 

Before doing that, we feel we must reassure those who do frequently have these dreams that there is nothing wrong with them. Dreaming in black and white is not out of the ordinary, nor is it a sign of any mental disturbance. It may just be that their brains are sending them important messages through the medium of dreams.

It has also been suggested that dreaming in black and white occurs after there has been a traumatic event in their lives. No-one can clearly explain why there should be a link between the two events. Perhaps the human brain finds it easier to cope with trauma when it switches the color off in dreams. 

Maybe we have to look again at the concept of contrast in black and white dreams. This time, though, that contrast will be between a color dream and a black and white one. Any trauma is going to have emotional fallout. By switching to black and white – which is linked with lack of emotion – the brain hopes it can minimize the emotional consequences of the traumatic event.

Dreaming in color – particularly vivid colors – is linked by experts with creativity. The more creative the person, so the more vivid will be the colors in their dreams – also, interestingly, the crazier those dreams will be. Perhaps a less creative person is more likely to dream in black and white. Indeed, it might even be that a creative person suffering a difficult period – like “writer’s block” for example – may endure black and white dreams during that time.

Why do I dream in black and white?

Now that we have examined the more general reasons why someone might dream in black and white, let us turn to more specific causes. These will be much more personal to the individual dreaming in black and white. 

Dreaming in black and white suggests you are avoiding emotional interaction with both the dream and those who feature in the dream. You are merely an observer of the action in the dream. The story woven into the dream is playing out in front of you as if you were viewing a play. You are not involved either physically or emotionally. 

Taking the stance of an observer in your own dream can also indicate that you do not have much opportunity for freedom to show your feelings, talents or suggest ideas in your everyday life. This sense of lack of freedom can be linked to the boredom, monotony and indifference we noted earlier as emotions sometimes felt by black and white dreamers. 

Earlier we also referred to feelings of stubbornness and repression dreamers in black and white can sometimes get. This, perhaps, matches their real-life situation if they feel they no longer control their lives or their careers. The dream is expressing the sadness they feel about their lives, and how depressed they are to find themselves in this situation.

Everything that we see and do in a dream is symbolic. Those who analyze dreams specialize in identifying the symbolism of each aspect of a dream. Dreaming in black and white symbolizes the need for balance in your life and the desirability of a new beginning. 

When we dream in color, but one object or scene in our dream is in black and white, then the symbolism is different. If one of the people in our dream appears in black and white, then it can mean that we need to step back from that person in real life, and reassess our opinion of them. 

What is the symbolic meaning when an object appears in black and white in an otherwise colorful dream? If you are someone who sees everything in life in clear terms of right and wrong or good and evil, this black and white object is a warning. It is telling you that not all situations are as clear-cut as this. 

Black and white also can represent the yin-yang device. This represents the balance of negative and positive aspects of life. In this case, you are being told that the negative aspects of your life will pass, and be replaced by positivity. There is the suggestion that you need to take action to help this change along.

So we can see that there are four main reasons why you might be dreaming in black and white:

1) Lack of emotion. 

As we have said, sometimes although you are dreaming, you view your dream merely as a spectator. Your presence is only as an observer, and you have no active part to play. Your dream will include people, places and objects that are familiar to you, but you are not interacting at all with them.

The important aspect of this type of dream is that you have no emotional connection with any of those people or objects. You observe with no thoughts or feelings. Color in our dreams represents emotion, so lack of color indicates lack of emotion.

This carries over into our normal daily lives. The lack of emotion in a dream shows that we are leading our lives with no emotional input. We might be going through the motions in our family life or career, but with no enthusiasm or meaningful action.

If you are viewing your black and white dream with a feeling of boredom, then you are bored with your life. There is a warning from your subconscious in play here. You are being told to make changes so that you cease to be bored and uninspired by your life or career.

Where you are viewing your dream with a feeling of depression, then the warning is even more urgent. Your subconscious is becoming worried that you will become depressed unless you make changes. Those changes need to be soon and probably far-reaching. As every dream is personal to the dreamer, only you can know what those changes must be and how deep you must make them.

You might be stubbornly resisting getting involved when you are dreaming in this way. Now your subconscious is telling you that it is time to get involved with other people, participate in events with some enthusiasm and take charge of your future.

It has also been suggested that a black and white dream might occur when the subconscious is making an effort to cope with a traumatic event like a death or the break-up of a relationship. The subconscious switching off the color in the dream. This was mentioned earlier.

2) Watching TV in black and white. 

There is growing popularity for the view that older people dream more frequently in black and white because their early experience of TV was in black and white. Color TV was slow in arriving in both the US and Europe. Early versions began in the 1950s, but color broadcasting only became regular and widespread in the 1970s.

Many people now in their 60s and older would have had only black and white TV when they were young. It is thought by some dream interpreters that this early exposure has led to older people dreaming in black and white more often.

In a study first reported in Thaindian News and repeated on the website Dream Studies Portal, over-55s dreamed in black and white for about 25% of the time. What is interesting is that this was among those who only watched black and white TV in childhood. Over-55s who watched color TV and films in childhood only dreamed in black and white 7.3% of the time. The comparable figure in those under 25 was 4.4%. 

This might explain why older folk tend to dream in black and white more frequently. Their dreams are being influenced by early memories.

3) Being an analytical character. 

Are you an over-thinker? Do you analyze every aspect of your life? This tendency to be analytical in life can recur in your dream world. 

When your subconscious mind presents your dreams to you in black and white, it will have a good reason. Having dreams in full and vivid color can bring about an analytical overload to over-thinkers. Your subconscious is trying to protect you from mental harm.

Your subconscious is using your dreams to send you messages. By sending those messages in black and white, it hopes the impact will be greater. That way you do not have to analyze the colors, just the action in the dream and your reaction.

For an analytical thinker, a black and white dream gives them a chance to look at a problem dispassionately. They can look at every aspect of the problem, taking each element in turn and studying it, then considering all the options for a solution. There is time to choose the best one, and have the solution ready when you wake.

4) You are emotionally and empathically exhausted. 

Are you inclined to be over-emotional in your day-to-day life? Do you see yourself as extremely empathic? If you do, then maybe your black and white dream is giving you a break from those pressures.

When you spend a lot of time caring for other people’s feelings and emotions, trying to understand how they are coping and behaving, then you will tire. Anyone who is a carer will know how mentally tiring it can be. Multiply that by many, and you will see how exhausting being empathic can be.

There is a calmness about a black and white dream that will help you manage your emotions. You are being given a time for reflection before waking to your frenetic life.

What does the color white symbolize in dreams?

Dreaming of white objects or animals in a dream should be taken as a positive experience. It is usual to interpret such sightings in a dream as good luck. You are being rewarded for the actions you have taken that are going to have positive outcomes for you, and for others. 

White signifies purity. In a dream, it represents the purity of your actions and confirmation that the consequences of your actions will be positive. You have made good, selfless decisions and this has been recognized. Things like water, ice and air all match this idea of spiritual purity.

White also indicates new beginnings. If your dream brings you images of white walls, or a white board, then positive change is on the way. Your subconscious is telling you that any changes you make will be successful.

White objects appearing in a colorful dream can make you feel positive. When this happens, you must trust yourself. The decisions you are making and will make are the right ones. Your future path will be clear and all your decisions will be for the best.

What does the color black symbolize in dreams?

Black when it appears in dreams is often scary. Black buildings, black animals and birds, people dressed in black. These are all the stuff of nightmares.

It is harder to interpret the meaning of black aspects of your dream, because it represents your repressed ego. That includes all those aspects of your character and your past that you wish to keep hidden. When we see black in a dream, we are seeing parts of ourselves, but those parts that we do not like very much.

The alternative self that we keep hidden can be frightening. More so, because we know what is there. All our insecurities, addictions, guilt, shame and past misdemeanors coalesce into one horrifying creation.

The appearance of black in this context in a dream can mean a desire to reconnect with your shadow self. Perhaps you have been thinking about picking up a bad habit from your younger days? Possibly something has happened that has brought back shame from years ago to your thoughts? 

What is the message that our subconscious is sending us by placing black in our dreams? Most likely, it is that you now need to embrace this hidden self. Cast the light of understanding on these horrors, and they will seem much less severe. By hiding them, they have become a greater problem.

Accept that there are aspects of your past life and character that make you unhappy and insecure. You can achieve your full potential by facing up to them and casting them aside. The result will be a new you minus the baggage of your past.


Dreaming in black and white is much less common than dreaming in color. Older people may dream in black and white more frequently. Dreaming in black and white is perfectly normal and nothing to be worried about.

Black and white dreams have symbolic meanings. They can show that you are suffering from an emotional detachment in your everyday life. Also that you are finding little satisfaction or fulfilment in your life. Your career may be stagnant and your relationships stale.

Black and white dreams indicate the need to change. You are being shown that any changes you make will be positive, successful moves on your part. Do not be afraid of change, but you must initiate any changes yourself.

If you are a highly emotional person, then a black and white dream is creating a calm break for you. The dream is giving you a chance to recover and recharge. Take the hint and bring some calm into your everyday life.